How do you determine whether your pet’s problem is an emergency? Our Animal Internal Medicine and Specialty Services team is not only available around the clock to answer your questions about your pet’s possible emergency, but we also offer 24-hour urgent care. Take a look at our website before an emergency occurs, to familiarize yourself with our urgent care process, and read the following descriptions of common emergencies that may help you determine how best to help your pet in a crisis.
- My pet is vomiting and has diarrhea — Is your pet able to hold down any food? Is your pet interested in food? A “no” answer to either of these questions often means your pet needs urgent care. Repeated vomiting and diarrhea are a veterinary emergency, since your pet may become dehydrated, and may have a serious problem underlying those symptoms.
- My pet was exposed to, and may have eaten, poison — Toxin exposure or ingestion are veterinary emergencies. Contact us anytime your pet may have eaten a medication other than their own prescriptions. Some human foods, such as chocolate and xylitol, are toxic to dogs. We recommend you also call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center for help deciding if your pet needs emergency treatment.
- My pet may have been hit by a car, or bitten, and is bleeding — Your pet may seem fine, but trauma is an emergency, because some traumatic injuries, such as being hit by a car or a long fall, are not apparent at first, but can result in serious internal injuries. Bite wounds also are an emergency, despite little blood, since your pet’s fur can hide the extent of the injuries. If a wound continues to bleed, apply pressure. Be cautious when handling a wounded pet—your dog or cat may bite reflexively when in pain. Tell us if your pet is bleeding from their mouth or nose. Do not give your pet over-the-counter pain medications. Our first priority when you arrive will be pain relief.
- My pet is having trouble breathing — Loud or unusual breath sounds can signal a serious emergency for your pet. Cats do not pant like dogs, so a cat who is open-mouth breathing is extremely stressed, or having a respiratory crisis. Blue, pale, or gray gums can mean your pet is not getting enough oxygen, and may collapse or faint. A pet who collapses should be brought to our hospital as soon as possible to determine the cause.
- My pet is having a seizure —A seizure that lasts five minutes, or multiple seizures one after the other, are veterinary emergencies. A pet who has more than three seizures in 24 hours needs hospitalization. During your pet’s seizure, speak to them calmly and soothingly, keeping your hands away from their mouth, because their uncontrolled muscle contractions and disorientation could cause them to accidentally bite.
- My pet is having trouble giving birth — Trouble giving birth is a veterinary emergency, and you should call us if your pet has 30 to 60 minutes of strong contractions without a birth, or is experiencing severe pain. If more than four hours of labor pass between births, you should bring your pet to our urgent care hospital. We recommend that you take your pregnant pet to your primary care veterinarian at 45 days of pregnancy for X-rays to count the fetuses, so you know how many puppies or kittens to expect.
- My pet is straining to urinate — A pet who is having trouble urinating can indicate a urinary tract infection, inflammation, or a blockage with urinary stones, and is an emergency. If urine outflow is completely blocked, the urinary bladder can rupture, while an infection can cause severe discomfort. We can offer your pet relief for all these conditions at our pet emergency facility.
- My pet suddenly can’t walk normally or seems paralyzed — Sudden abnormal walking or paralysis may be from trauma or a spinal cord problem, such as a ruptured disc, and is a veterinary emergency. Calm your pet, cover them with a blanket to discourage movement, and consider a muzzle, since the pain may cause them to snap. Call us before transporting your pet, and we will give directions on using a firm board to keep their back and neck straight.
- My pet is acting strangely — A behavior change may signal pain or an underlying disease in your pet. Some actions, such as yelping, may be clear indications of pain, but others, such as hiding, are more subtle. Confusion or staring blankly can signal a neurological problem. Reluctance to jump may be a sign of back pain. Call us for advice when you see behavior changes or suspect pain in your pet.
As the only 24-hour pet emergency service in the Bay area, Animal Internal Medicine and Specialty Services is available to help you any time a question arises about a possible pet emergency, and whether your pet needs to be seen right away. We believe in erring on the side of caution when it comes to your pet’s health and well-being, so never hesitate to call.