Smart look and thongueWhen a pet suddenly behaves differently or seems under the weather, it is hard not to panic and assume that it is a pet emergency. Thinking back, there may have been a time or two when you panicked over a one-time vomiting incident, and it turned out to be a hairball. But, then again, vomiting can also be a warning symptom of a more serious illness or poisoning situation.

It’s difficult when our fur friends cannot communicate with us directly. Knowing a pet companion may be experiencing an illness, and yet also wondering how on earth to tell when this occurs, can be unsettling. Some symptoms, after all, are not as overt as a physical injury.

But, there are some signs that should signal a trip to the pet ER. Familiarizing yourself to some of these can help clear the confusion – and even save a life!

Warning Signs of a Pet Emergency

Although we will outline situations and symptoms that should be considered an immediate emergency, it’s important to have your pet seen when you feel he or she is acting off.

However, the following situations should receive emergency care and attention:

  • Your pet has ingested a poisonous substance
  • Bleeding that has not subsided in over 5 minutes, or bleeding from the mouth, rectum, ears, nose, and/or eyes
  • Difficulty breathing, choking, or gagging
  • Noticeable pain, including severe limping or favoring one side
  • Seizure
  • Being hit by car, even if there are no noticeable injuries
  • Falling from a great height
  • Bitten or attacked by animal (wild or domestic)
  • Heat stroke or stress
  • Unconsciousness
  • Not eating or drinking for more than 24 hours
  • Straining or inability to urinate or defecate
  • Injury to the eye
  • Snake bites
  • Birthing emergencies

These situations can present a matter of life or death for your pet. Keeping your pet’s medical records, this list of contacts, and his or her carrier in one convenient location can save you time in the event your pet should need immediate care.

Do you have a pet first aid kit? If not, purchase or make one for the home. The American Red Cross developed a useful app that can be downloaded to your smart phone which covers basic pet first aid techniques (check it out!).  

Many of these scenarios seem like obvious emergency situations, but what about those more subtle cues that something might be wrong?

Perhaps your pet has experienced a significant decline in energy or has been sleeping more. Or, maybe you have noticed some slight changes to routine or behavior, such as not wanting to be cuddled or held.

In this case, follow your instincts and make an appointment for a physical examination. Your responsiveness and perception may help prevent a condition or illness from becoming an emergency.