Doctor Y's Animal Hospital
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Recognizing when to take your dog or cat to the veterinary office, especially during the weekends or overnight, can be a challenging decision to make. Here are some crucial warning signs that should help pet owners decide to seek emergency veterinary care:
✓ SERIOUS ACCIDENT
Even though pet is not crying, whining, or wincing does not mean that they are not in pain. If at anytime a pet experiences blunt force trauma (for example being hit by car, bit by another animal, or falling from high places) it is essential that they see a veterinarian immediately. Subtle but life-threatening conditions can occur that may not be obvious to the owner. Additionally, injuries like small puncture wounds may not be apparent until sometime later.
✓ BROKEN BONE
Dogs and cats have similar pain receptors as a human being’s, therefore, when they break a bone it is extraordinarily painful. That said, some pets will not limp or cry when they have a broken bone. Something as little as licking a limb can indicate a fracture, which is why we recommend X-Rays for any known trauma, lameness, or excessive licking.
✓ DIFFICULT PREGNANCY
✓ VOMITING OR DIARRHEA
Continuous vomiting or diarrhea can result in severe dehydration and decline. Most gastrointestinal cases like vomiting and diarrhea can be treated conservatively, but sometimes hospitalization is required. It is never normal for a pet to vomit or even have soft stool for longer than one day. It is also not normal for a pet to have intermittent vomiting and/or diarrhea/soft stool.
✓ MULTIPLE SEIZURES
A single seizure is not likely to be life threatening, but with a sudden onset and the potential for clustering or multiple seizures to occur it is often best to seek medical attention in these cases. Seizures can be caused by several underlying issues including, electrolyte imbalance, metabolic conditions, toxin ingestion, a brain mass, or epilepsy. Seeking veterinary advice is important in order to stop the pet from seizing, to understand the underlying cause for the condition, and to potentially treat or provide further seizures from occurring in the future.
✓ DIFFICULTY BREATHING
Difficulty breathing, also referred to as dyspnea, is a medical emergency. Your pet can display clinical signs such as wheezing, choking sounds or open mouthed breathing. The causes for dyspnea can be related to a foreign body lodged in the throat, a severe allergic reaction, a lung condition or heart disease. Evaluating your pet’s gums is an important way to access for adequate oxygenation. The gums should be pink and moist and when pressed should temporarily change white then within a second or two go back to pink – this is referred to as a capillary refill time. If your pet’s gums are pale, white, blue or grey this should indicate an emergency. It would be a good idea to check your pet’s gums before an emergency occurs in order to know what is normal for your pet.
✓ SEVERE BLEEDING
If you come home to blood on the floor bring your pet in immediately. If you can find the source of the bleeding, we recommend immediate pressure to the site and take your pet to the veterinarian ASAP as bleeding can be a result of traumatic injury or toxins such as rat poison or prescription drugs. Any bleeding can be life-threatening.
✓ LACK OF APPETITE
Inappetence or a lack of appetite over the course of 24 hours may not indicate a serious concern, but after the 24 hour period a pet owner should consider seeking veterinary care. A pet may indicate a debilitating illness or condition to their owner by refusing food. This can also lead to serious dehydration and lethargy. In cats, anorexia can lead to a life-threatening condition called hepatic lipidosis. A cat’s body functions differently during periods of starvation compared to a dog or human body in which fat stores are processed to be utilized as energy. In the cat body the fat stores are not converted in the same manner, but instead they are released to the liver and accumulate causing a fatty and low functioning liver. If this is left untreated it can result in a non-functioning liver and possible death.
✓ COLLAPSE OR LETHARGY
If your pet has an episode of collapse this is a major problem and requires immediate medical attention. The potential underlying causes for collapse can be related to internal bleeding, anaphylactic shock related to a toxin or allergic response, a serious heart condition, dehydration, hypoglycemia, or metabolic disturbances such as a condition cause Addison’s disease. There are various levels of lethargy that may be represented by prolonged periods of sleeping, disinterest in playing with toys or interacting with owners, a lessened desire to go for walks, or hiding in unusual places. If these clinical signs last for more than 24-48 hours a veterinary visit is recommended.
✓ EYE EMERGENCIES
Eye problems should not be ignored because they escalate to have more serious consequences compared to other areas of the body. A small amount of ocular discharge is not alarming but when the eye appears extremely red, is bulging out of the socket, has excessive tearing or swelling then a veterinary visit is highly encouraged. A red eye can indicate a viral or bacterial infection, trauma, corneal hemorrhage or conditions such as hypertension and glaucoma. If left untreated a loss of vision can be a serious consequence.
✓ LEG PARALYSIS
If you pet has sudden difficulty or is unable to use one or more of his or her legs this then this is generally a medical emergency. This can indicate a herniation in a portion of the spinal cord, which is often extremely painful. Diagnosing and treating this condition as soon as possible can greatly improve the prognosis and outcome. Often dogs with longer bodies, such as Dachshunds and Corgis are predisposed to this particular condition. Paralysis can also indicate a neurologic condition leading to changes in your pet’s mentation. It is important to observe for incoordination, lethargy, rapid eye movement (referred to as nystagmus), or a lack of alertness or response to sounds/verbal cues. If you sense a sudden change in your pet’s mental status seeking immediate veterinary attention is recommended.
✓ DRINKING / URINATING
The inability to urinate is considered a medical emergency because it can indicate a urinary blockage exists. Pet owners may often observe increased drinking or urination in their pets. This can be caused by several conditions including a urinary tract infection, urinary stones or an endocrine disorder such as diabetes or hypo/hyperthyroidism. A urinary tract infection or urinary stones may not be life-threatening, but if left untreated can result in serious complications. It is best to seek veterinary care as soon as possible.