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Pet Emergency: 10 Common Reasons Your Pet May Need to Visit the ER

By April 20, 2018Pet Emergency
Pet Emergency: Common Reasons Your Pet May Need to Visit the ER

If something doesn’t seem quite right with your pet, how do you know if it’s a real pet emergency? It’s always better to be safe than sorry, so if you’re in any doubt, call your vet immediately. The following is a guide to help you. If you see any of the symptoms described below, conclude that it’s a pet emergency and take your pet to the vet ASAP.


1) Vomiting and/or Diarrhea

Dogs – It’s a pet emergency if your dog has a chronic condition (e.g., diabetes) or if the following symptoms occur: blood in the vomit/diarrhea, pain, the vomiting/diarrhea persists longer than twenty-four hours, your pet is lethargic after twenty-four hours.

Cats – Every cat occasionally vomits up a hairball/food. It’s not normal if your cat vomits several times, can’t keep water down, there’s blood or unusual material in the vomit/diarrhea, has swallowed something bad (e.g., string/rubber bands).


2) Urination Problems/Cystitis

Signs: not urinating; difficulty passing urine; urinating or trying to urinate frequently; urinating outside the litter box (cats); blood in the urine. Symptoms may indicate a life-threatening blockage.


3) Poisoning

Certain foods and substances are poisonous to dogs and cats, including chocolate; grapes/raisins; human medications; rat and slug poisons. Many plants are also toxic to dogs and cats. With immediate treatment, recovery is possible. However, once the poison is digested and absorbed, the situation becomes a life-threatening pet emergency.


4) Trauma

Bites, falls, gunshot wounds, and road traffic accidents. Your pet could have internal damage, even if he seems ok. Signs of a ruptured lung or internal bleeding can be slow to surface. A wound can be deeper than it appears and an infection can develop.


5) Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV)

GDV (a dog’s stomach becomes twisted) commonly affects large dog breeds. Early indication: a restless dog trying to vomit after a large meal. As GDV progresses, the abdomen bloats. The dog continues trying to vomit, but usually only brings up a white froth. Odds of recovery decrease the longer treatment is delayed.


6) Neurological Problems

A neurological pet emergency can manifest itself in various ways: coma; disorientation; incoordination; severe lethargy; unresponsiveness; walking in circles.


7) Collapse

If your pet suddenly collapses and is unable to rise, possible causes include: anemia; hemorrhage; heart disease; vascular disease; musculoskeletal problems; neurological disease; respiratory disease; toxicity; adverse drug reaction. Many of these are life-threatening.


8) Stings/Bites/Allergic Reactions

Signs: face swelling and hives (look at the belly). Severe allergic reactions lead to breathing difficulty (swelling of the airway), extensive bodily swelling, diarrhea, and shock.


9) Breathing Difficulties

Symptoms: choking; coughing; weak, raspy, or shallow breathing; open-mouth breathing (cats); wheezing. Causes: allergic reactions; asthma; foreign bodies in the throat; heart disease; lung disease. Potentially life-threatening.


10) Eye Problems

Eye problems can deteriorate quickly and result in blindness or loss of the eye. Signs: discharge; excessive tearing; redness; squinting/closed eye; swelling; constant pawing at the eye.



A pet emergency means you should seek veterinary advice and treatment immediately. CVETS is Columbia, SC’s state-of-the-art regional center for pet emergencies. Bring your distressed pet to us; your pet’s life may depend on it.