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When to Take Your Dog or Cat to the Emergency Vet

While it might be surprising, it isn't always obvious that your cat or dog needs emergency care. Here, our Seattle vets list some signs of when to visit an emergency vet. 

How do I know if my pet needs emergency care?

A situation in which emergency veterinary care is needed can happen at any time - day or night - and you'll need to be prepared. 

However, even the most vigilant pet parent may find it challenging to know when their cat, dog, or other pet requires emergency care. That's why it's helpful to know some of the signs and symptoms that indicate an emergency health issue is happening to your pet. If you still aren't sure, contact your vet or local emergency veterinary clinic for advice. 

Signs That Your Animal is Experiencing a Health Emergency

A pet emergency may come in the form of injuries, sudden onset of illness or disease, ingestion of a foreign object, or an accident that causes trauma to your pet's body. Here are some of the most common signs that it's time to seek emergency veterinary care:

  • Seizures
  • Dilated pupils
  • Swollen, bloated, or painful abdomen 
  • Lameness or inability to walk
  • Severe injury (broken bones, gashes, car accidents) 
  • Uncontrolled bleeding
  • Loss of balance
  • Inability to urinate or defecate
  • Inflammation or injury to the eye
  • Unable to deliver kittens or puppies
  • Sudden blindness, stumbling, or staggering
  • Extreme coughing, difficulty breathing, or choking
  • Ingestion of poisonous plants, bones, substances, or foods 
  • Obvious pain 
  • Vomiting or blood in diarrhea 
  • Unconsciousness 

Basic First Aid for Animals 

Please note that giving your pet basic first aid is not intended to replace qualified, professional veterinary care. It is solely to help stabilize your pet for a trip to your emergency vet. 

If you are unsure of what you should do in your pet's specific emergency, contact us or your local veterinary clinic for advice. 

Stop the Bleeding

Your veterinarian may advise you to muzzle your pet before beginning. Place clean gauze over the injury and apply pressure with your hand for several minutes to help stop the bleeding and allow the blood to coagulate. Making a tourniquet from gauze and securing it with an elastic band can help stop severe bleeding in the leg. Bring your pet to a veterinarian right away. 

Coping With Seizures

Do not try to restrain your pet. Attempt to remove any objects that can cause harm to your pet. After the seizure is over, keep your pet warm while you phone your vet. 

Dealing With Fractures

Muzzle your pet. Lay your pet on a flat surface that can be used as a stretcher to transport them to the vet. If possible, secure your animal to the stretcher, avoiding putting pressure on the injured area.

If Your Pet Is Choking

Your pet may bite out of fear, so be cautious. Check your pet's mouth for foreign objects and remove them if possible. Take care not to accidentally push the object deeper into your animal's throat. If this is too difficult, don't waste time trying. Take your pet to the veterinarian's office or an emergency veterinary clinic right away for treatment.

Steps to Take in an Emergency

In a pet emergency, the first step is to remain calm and assess the situation. Check for any obvious signs of injury or distress, such as bleeding, difficulty breathing, or loss of consciousness. Next, contact your veterinarian or an emergency pet clinic for guidance on how to proceed. They may instruct you to bring your pet in immediately or provide first aid instructions over the phone.

If your pet exhibits severe symptoms such as seizures, difficulty standing, or extreme lethargy, seek medical attention immediately. Try to keep your pet comfortable and avoid causing additional stress or injury. Remember to stay calm and focused during this stressful time so that you can provide the best care for your beloved companion.

Be Prepared For a Veterinary Emergency

Below, we'll list how you can be prepared for a veterinary emergency.

What You Should Know in Advance

You never know when an emergency might strike, but being prepared for a pet emergency may help you to provide your animal with the best possible care quickly. Our Seattle vets suggest keeping the following at hand in case of an emergency:

  • The phone number for your vet's office
  • The phone number for the closest emergency vet clinic (ER for pets)
  • The phone number for the Animal Poison Control Center
  • How to muzzle your dog when he's in pain so he doesn't bite others
  • Directions to tan emergency veterinary clinic 
  • Knowledge of basic pet CPR
  • Knowledge of how to stop bleeding

Financial Responsibilities

How much does an emergency vet cost? Due to the amount of diagnostic testing, monitoring, and treatment required, emergency veterinary care can be expensive. It is a pet owner's responsibility to ensure that they can financially care for your pet in a time of crisis.

Prepare for unforeseeable circumstances by putting money aside specifically for emergencies, or by signing up for a pet insurance plan. Putting off veterinary care in order to avoid emergency fees could put your pet's life at risk. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your pet experiencing a medical emergency? Contact our Seattle vets right away or go to an emergency animal clinic nearby for care.

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