Avery Creek Pet Hospital

(828) 651 8868
565 Long Shoals Road, STE 105
Arden, NC 28704

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emergency pet care

How to Identify Emergency Pet Care

When does my pet need to be seen? 

Much like children, our pets can get into trouble that can require prompt medical attention. But when should you take your pet to the vet ASAP? When is it a pet care emergency and when should you wait it out?

Here are 8 warning signs that you should take your pet to the vet:


1. Odd Eating Habits

odd eating habits cat dog

Dogs may skip a meal or two, but two days without eating means something more serious could be affecting your pet. If your dog’s normal diet has changed into more of a pantry-raiding, garbage eating fiasco, you’ll want to take them in for a vet check. Also, if your pet is known to get into trash, toys or items they aren’t supposed to, call your vet immediately. If your overweight cat goes more than 2 days without eating, it can be deadly. Because a cat’s body taps into its fat supply for energy when fasting, the liver is then responsible for metabolizing all that fat, leading to liver problems. If your cat goes more than a day without eating, contact your vet.

It’s good to also take notice of how much water your pet drinks. If it seems your pet is drinking an unusually large amount of water, or your pet is urinating more frequently, you’ll want to consider coming in to check for a medical explanation.


2. Gastrointestinal Distress

gastrointestinal distress dog 2

Vomiting and diarrhea are fairly common in dogs and cats, but it can signal bigger issues. Dogs often vomit items that don’t sit well in their tummies, or as a result of coughing. When dogs vomit bile, which looks like yellow mucous, it means that the vomit is coming from the stomach or intestines. When dogs vomit white foam, it is a sign of indigestion or upset stomach, such as eating or drinking too fast or eating something they shouldn’t. 

Cats often vomit hairballs or items that don’t agree with their stomachs. While cat vomit is common, too much hair can cause an intestinal obstruction. If your cat can’t seem to keep food down, contact your vet right away.

Repeated vomiting and diarrhea can cause dehydration. Retching repeatedly without producing anything can also be a sign of distress. If you notice anything that looks like blood or coffee grounds in your pet’s vomit, get your pet to the vet as soon as possible. 

If your pet has been vomiting or has had diarrhea for more than 24 hours, call your vet for guidance. They may recommend withholding food until symptoms wane, or they may advise you to come in and have your pet examined.

Other signs of gastrointestinal distress include swollen or hard abdomens. In dogs, a distended abdomen can be a sign of trapped air, which can cause your dog’s stomach to twist over on itself. It can also be a sign of heart disease or internal bleeding. These are medical emergencies and your pet needs to be seen right away.  If your pet appears to be lethargic or weak, be sure to have your vet evaluate them.


3. Abnormal Elimination

abnormal eliminationcat cat dog

When your pet exhibits unusual urination and bowel movements, it can often be a sign of physical distress. 

For cats, difficulty urinating, bloody urine, cloudy urine and frequent urination are signs of potential urinary blockage due to crystals becoming lodged in their urethra. Some of these blockages require surgical removal, and not getting medical attention quickly can be life threatening. While urinary blockages occur more frequently in male cats, they are also life-threatening issues for male dogs. If you notice your dog is not producing urine, contact your vet quickly.

For dogs, bowel movements are often a good indicator of health. Diarrhea, straining, blood or mucus for more than 2 days should be evaluated by your vet. Dog stool should also be free of worms. If your dog scoots its rear, it could be a sign of health problems.


4. Eye Problems

eye problems dog

Dogs in particular tell us a lot through their eyes. Cloudy or red eyes and excessive discharge can mean infection. Eye problems in dogs can escalate quickly, and can result in blindness or the loss of the eye. If your pet is bleeding from its eyes, or you can see irritation or injury to an eye, be sure to contact your vet immediately.

Seeing your vet quickly can mean the difference between a minor issue and a major issue.


5. Seizures

seizures dog

Dog seizures require vet attention immediately. Uncontrollable shaking or tremors, loss of consciousness and loss of bowel or urinary control are signs that your dog may be experiencing a seizure. This could be a symptom of epilepsy, but it could also be a sign of toxic exposure, hypoglycemia in puppies, or tumors in older dogs. If your dog is diagnosed with epilepsy, seizures will not necessarily constitute a medical emergency. It is important that you discuss this with your vet.


6. Neurological Distress

neurological distress cat

Changes in mental status signal that medical attention may be needed. Neurological problems can include disorientation, incoordination, lethargy or unresponsiveness. If you notice that your pet is bumping into things more frequently, or collapses and can’t stand up, it can be a sign of a neurological problem or physical problem, such as a ruptured disc. Prompt medical attention can ensure a better outcome for your pet.


7. Difficulty Breathing

difficulty breathing dog

Wheezing, choking and raspy, weak breathing can be signs of a pet emergency. It is possible something is stuck in your pet’s throat.  Breathing issues can be a symptom of major health problems. Immediate action is necessary, since it could be an allergic reaction, heart or pulmonary disease.

Other signs of difficulty breathing can include blue gums, foamy pink discharge while coughing, constantly panting or stretching the head forward while breathing.


8. Whining or Intense Changes in Behavior

whining cat

Dogs are often alert and bright, so if your dog is exhibiting symptoms of pain or unsociability, it could be a sign of a serious health problem. Sometimes a pet owner may not witness a traumatic event. Intense changes in behavior, such as limping or just not acting right, can signal that you need to have your pet checked by your vet as soon as possible. Other behavior changes can include acting aloof, being especially clingy, anxiousness or restlessness.

For cats, excessive meowing can be a sign of pain or medical problems. If your cat has been fed, petted and entertained, yet still meows loudly and often, consult your vet.


When in doubt, call your vet

If your pet is acting abnormally, it is always better to call your vet for guidance. Your vet can advise you on home treatments or give you follow-up actions to ensure your pet stays healthy and happy.