Identifying a Pet Medical Emergency
It’s unfortunate, but medical emergencies do happen. As difficult and unnerving as it is to see your pet suffering an emergency episode, it is important to remain calm, assess the situation and make the proper decision.
Also, it is crucial for all pet owners to have a plan for their pet in case of emergency. Find out where the nearest 24hour emergency is located and keep the name, number and address handy. Also, talk to your veterinarian about emergency protocol. Do they have after hour on-call services? If not, is there another vet they can recommend?
Another consideration is being able to discern what constitutes a medical emergency that requires immediate attention. Below is a list to help you determine if you need to seek a veterinarian right away.
- Severe bleeding or bleeding that doesn’t stop withing five minutes
- Choking, difficulty breathing or nonstop coughing and gagging
- Bleeding from the nose, mouth, rectum, coughing up blood, or blood in urine
- Inability to urinate or pass feces, or obvious pain associated with urinating or passing stool
- Injuries to pet’s eye(s)
- You suspect or know your pet has ingested something poisonous (antifreeze, xylitol, chocolate, pesticide, etc.)
- Seizures and/or staggering
- Fractured bones, severe lameness, or inability to move legs
- Obvious signs of pain or extreme anxiety
- Heat stress or heatstroke
- Severe vomiting or diarrhea or a combination of both–more than two episodes in a 24 hour period, or either of these combined with obvious illness or any of the other problems listed here
- Refusal to drink for 24 hours or more
- Pale gums
- Rapid breathing
- Weak or rapid pulse
The more information you can provide your vet, the faster they can assess and treat. For example, if your pet has ingested poison, bring it or the container with you to the vet. If your pet has diarrhea and/or vomiting, try to bring in a sample. Note changes in behavior, eating and/or drinking.
First Aid Treatments to Perform At Home
Most emergencies require immediate veterinary care, but first aid methods may help you stabilize your pet for transportation.
- If your pet is suffering from external bleeding due to trauma, try elevating and applying pressure to the wound.
- If your pet is choking, place your fingers in his mouth to see if you can remove the blockage.
- If you’re unable to remove the foreign object, perform a modified Heimlich maneuver by giving a sharp rap to his chest, which should dislodge the object.
Performing CPR on Your Pet
CPR may be necessary if your pet remains unconscious after you have removed the choking object. First check to see if he’s breathing. If not, place him on his side and perform artificial respiration by extending his head and neck, holding his jaws closed and blowing into his nostrils once every three seconds. (Ensure no air escapes between your mouth and the pet’s nose.) If you don’t feel a heartbeat, incorporate cardiac massage while administering artificial respiration—three quick, firm chest compressions for every respiration—until your dog resumes breathing on his own.
What To Do If Your Pet Eats Something Poisonous
If you suspect your pet has ingested a toxic substance, please call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center’s 24-hour hotline at (888) 426-4435. Trained toxicologists will consider the age and health of your pet, what and how much he ate, and then make a recommendation—such as whether to induce vomiting—based on their assessment. A $65 consultation fee may be applied to your credit card.