Jan 30 2017

Is It an Emergency? | Winslow Animal Hospital Dog & Cat

Is it an emergency?

Whether it’s a teacher asking a first grader who says they have to go to the bathroom or pet-parent assessing their pet’s new symptoms, the question “is it an emergency?” is one that we really don’t want to get wrong.

There are some events that are clearly emergency situations. If a pet is hit by a car, for example, few would hesitate to take that animal to the vet. Other times, it can be hard to be sure. Pets often hide their symptoms or mask the severity of them.  If you are unsure, call us at 856-875-1323 so we can help you determine if your pet needs to be seen immediately.

If your pet does have an emergency that you are actively bringing them in for, call us if you are able. When we know you are coming, we can prepare for your arrival by having a doctor and any medical equipment that is needed in place and ready to provide care for your pet, as well as having our client service team on the lookout for you, ready to provide assistance the moment you arrive.  Some rare situations may require you to go directly to a 24-hour emergency facility. A phone call will give us the opportunity to work together for the best outcome for your pet.


Toxin Exposure

If you know your pet has been exposed to some toxin, such as eating chocolate or anti-freeze, call the ASPCA Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435. (A $65 consultation fee may be applied to your credit card.)

Difficulty Breathing

Symptoms of labored breathing (sometimes this is subtle, with your pet’s chest moving faster and more pronounced while breathing),  making alarming noises, or puffing of the lips can show difficulty breathing. Difficulty breathing is very serious! Low oxygen levels can lead to respiratory arrest and death if not treated. It is also frightening and unpleasant for a pet to experience difficulty breathing.

note: some dogs experience a “reverse sneeze,” in which they take air in and out through their nose in response to some form of irritation of the nasal passage. The sound can be upsetting for a pet-parent who thinks their pet may be experiencing a serious emergency. If you’re not sure, you can always call us at 856-875-1323.


Restlessness is when your pet cannot get comfortable. It may include excessive painting, inability to lie down to rest, or even unsuccessful attempts to vomit.


Gastric dilation and volvulus syndrome (GDV) or bloat is a disease in which a dog’s stomach dilates and then twists around its short axis. This is a very serious emergency! Symptoms can include anxious behavior, depression, abdominal pain, collapse, excessive drooling, and vomiting or dry heaving. There may also be labored breathing and rapid heart beat involved.


Seizures can come in clusters and become progressive. They may result from ingesting a toxic substance or medication. If your pet is having a seizure for the first time and is not currently under the care of a veterinarian for a seizure disorder, please seek veterinary attention immediately.

Collapse or Weakness

These symptoms can indicate a wide array of dangerous illnesses.  Your pet may be experiencing internal bleeding, anaphylactic shock, toxicity from something they ingested, a problem with the endocrine system, even some types of organ failure. Some short-legged breeds with long backs, such as Corgis and Dachshunds, are more likely to experience injury of the spinal cord, which may cause partial or full paralysis of the hind end. If your pet collapses or seems weak as though they may collapse, this is an emergency!

Major Trauma

If your pet is injured, (car accidents, dogfights, falls, etc.) there may be more damage than you are able to see from the outside. Internal damage may cause hemorrhaging, and pets often hide their symptoms. It’s important they receive veterinary care.

Vomiting or Diarrhea; Swallowing an Object

Vomiting once or a single loose bowl movement is probably not cause for concern. Your pet may simply need a few hours of resting the stomach and some bland food. If there is repeated vomiting or diarrhea, this can lead to dangerous dehydration, or it may even be a symptom of other major problems such as an obstruction of the GI tract. If you know your pet has swallowed an object, call right away! Household objects may be toxic or cause life-threatening obstructions. Cats are often drawn to strings or ribbons, and these objects can cause lacerations of the GI tract that are very dangerous.


Blizzard recovering after the removal of 3 feet of ribbon he had swallowed.


The string that was removed after Blizzard swallowed it, causing an emergency!


Struggling to Urinate

If bladder stones block the urinary tract, your pet will have difficulty urinating. This is a very urgent condition.

Not Eating or Drinking

Pets can go through changes in appetite that may increase or decrease how much they eat and drink. However, major changes, such as going 24 hours without eating or drinking, may indicate a more serious underlying condition. Pay attention to your pet’s habits.

Severe Pain

Severe pain is always an emergency. Don’t let your pet suffer! Be on the lookout for restlessness, hiding behaviors, vocalizing, limping, or any signs that some part of their body might be painful.

Be Prepared

Emergencies don’t usually come with a warning in advance, and seconds count! Be prepared! Keep emergency phone numbers stored in your cell phone for quick access. In addition, it is wise to keep a pet first aid kit handy or even download the Red Cross Pet First Aid app.

LifeLearn Admin | Pet Health, What's New at Winslow Animal Hospital!

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