It's ten in the evening and your dog is not acting right or your cat has vomited 4 times over the past hour. What should you do? Do you really to take your pet to the emergency vet? You need to go to sleep so you can get to work in the morning and not be exhausted. But you are nervous going to bed with your friend so sick. So what do you do?
Here are some guidelines of when you really need to take your pet to the emergency vet and not wait until your daytime veterinarian is open. Please keep in mind these are not all the possible emergencies. In if doubt about your pet's health please call the veterinarian!
** Your cat (especially male cat and this applies to male dogs!) is in and out of the litter box, straining to urinate, and maybe crying when urinating or not producing urine. Your cat may have a urinary obstruction and this is a life threatening emergency!
** Your dog (especially a large to giant breed dog) has been retching, gagging, not eating, or vomiting. And especially if their abdomen is starting to get larger/distended, please take your dog to the vet immediately. Your dog may have bloated and this can be life threatening!
**Your cat or dog is not using a limb, may have swelling in the limb, and is painful when you handle the limb. If the pet does not improve after a short period (1-2 hours) then they should not wait to be seen. If there is an obvious dislocation or fracture, they should be seen immediately.
** Your pet is bleeding and the bleeding is not stopping. Maybe they cut a foot, tongue, or ear. Often these can bleed a lot, but should be treated to help stop the bleeding.
**If your dog or cat is vomiting continually, especially if they cannot even keep water down. Pets can dehydrate and have electrolyte imbalances very quickly from vomiting. So if they are continuing to vomit, then they need to be seen.
** Your pet has pale/white gums. This can indicate a life threatening anemia and should not wait to be seen.
** Your cat or dog ingested something toxic like sugarless gum, OTC or prescription medications not prescribed for them, or a higher dose then prescribed, a foreign object, toxic plants, rat bait, or more. Your pet should be seen so if needed vomiting can be induced or treatment started. It is easier to treat a toxicity early on, rather then waiting.
** Your pet has sustained serious trauma such as being hit by a car, falling from a tree, or other serious trauma. While your pet may externally seem normal, with trauma they can suffer life threatening internal trauma and should be seen immediately.
**Your pet has been attacked by a dog, especially if it is a small dog/cat attacked by a larger dog. Again, they can suffer more damage that may be life threatening that is not readily apparent.
And there are many more cases of when you need to take your pet to the emergency veterinarian. If you are not certain, it is better to be safe with your pet's health.
Just please remember-do NOT give your pet any over the counter medications without the advice of a veterinarian! Giving over the counter medications can limit the medications we can now use for your pet, as well as sometimes making your pet sicker.
We hope your pet stays healthy, but remember if you are concerned, there are several great emergency veterinarians in the area to help out!
Boo Donoho, DVM