Caitlin UltimoHealth / Symptoms & Solutions

What Is a True Pet Emergency for Dogs?

It can be very stressful when your dog is not acting like himself. In some situations, you might be concerned that you have a sick dog on your hands who needs emergency pet care.

Learning how to detect a true pet emergency can help all pet parents remain calm in situations when their dogs are not acting normally. It especially is helpful to differentiate between a pet emergency that requires immediate medical attention and a medical issue that can wait for a scheduled trip to the veterinarian. So how do you know tell if your sick or possibly injured dog requires immediate emergency veterinary care? Let’s find out!

What is a True Pet Emergency?

The definition of a pet emergency is a serious, unexpected and often dangerous situation requiring immediate medical action. If your pet experiences a true medical emergency, he needs immediate veterinary evaluation.

Signs of a True Pet Emergency

Signs of a true pet emergency include:

  • Excessive vomiting. If your dog only vomits once or twice and seems stable, not in distress, you genrally can wait for the morning to see a vet. However, your dog needs emergency pet care if he is uncomfortable, appears bloated, is gagging or is vomiting often.
  • Any respiratory distress. If your dog is having difficulty breathing, also known as respiratory trouble, this constitutes a pet emergency. Blue and/or pale gums and tongue, a stretched neck, heavy breathing, gasping or continuous coughing all indicate your dog is struggling to breathe.
  • Extreme lethargy and/or collapse. If your dog collapsed or is significantly lethargic, he needs immediate veterinary evaluation
  • Multiple seizures. One seizure with a quick recovery generally is not an emergency and can wait for a scheduled vet appointment. However, if your dog has multiple seizures in a row, he must be evaluated promptly by your veterinarian.
  • Severe abdominal pain. Signs that your dog may be experiencing severe abdominal pain include pacing, excessive panting in a cool area, an arched appearance with his rear in the air and general discomfort.
  • Serious pain. Any situation in which your dog appears to be in severe pain is a pet emergency. General visible discomfort, hiding, crying when touched or moved, inability to walk or move, excessive panting in cooler areas and non-weight-bearing on a particular limb all reveal that your dog may be experiencing severe pain.
  • Inability to urinate. If your dog seems uncomfortable and keeps posturing to urinate with no urine being produced, have your veterinarian evaluate him at once.
  • Toxicities. If you think your dog ingested rat poison, cleaning products, medications or other toxic substances, take him to the vet directly.
  • Paralysis. Please take your pet to the emergency hospital if he is unable to walk or is dragging any limbs.
  • Accidents/Trauma. If your dog was hit by a car, involved in a fight or experienced a traumatic event, he should be taken to the emergency hospital.
  • Squinting and excessive redness of the eye. If you see your dog squinting or his eye appears red, seek emergency pet care right away.
  • Heatstroke. If your dog lives in a warmer climate and shows signs of difficulty breathing, panting, excessive drooling and feels warmer than usual, please see a veterinarian right away.

Signs of a Non-emergency.

Many times, dogs act differently or have a condition that is not a legitimate pet emergency and can wait to be seen at a scheduled veterinary appointment. Always have your pup assessed for any conditions or behaviors that are not normal for him. These include:

  • Subtle pain. Pain that does not appear to be excessive can wait for a scheduled appointment. Some issues of subtle pain include favoring a limb, a small scratch or slow rising and walking.
  • Ear infections. Scratching at the ear and shaking the head can indicate an ear infection. Talk to your vet about prescription ear care treatments for pets.
  • Diarrhea. Diarrhea without vomiting generally is not a pet emergency and can wait for a scheduled appointment.
  • Skin infections.
  • Constipation
  • A short period of inappetence. If your dog skips a meal or does not want a treat, while showing no other clinical signs, you can wait and see if his appetite returns. If more than a day goes by and your dog is not eating, take him to the vet.

Note: These are general guidelines to follow. As a rule, trust your gut about your dog; if he does not have one of the conditions listed above and you still think something is wrong, do not hesitate to have him evaluated by a veterinarian. And never hesitate to contact a veterinarian if you have any questions.

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