5 Tips That Will Save Your Pet In An Emergency

By Dr. Steven Wolchinksy, Managing Veterinarian

When a pet medical emergency occurs, pet parents may find it difficult to make rational decisions, especially if something happens in the middle of the night. Unfortunately, accidents do happen and because time is always of the essence in these situations, it’s crucial to have a plan in place before an emergency occurs. After all, you don’t want to find yourself asking advice from Google or Siri in a moment of crisis. Here are 5 tips to follow that may save your pet in an emergency.

1. Locate a 24-hour Emergency Hospital Near Your Home

Talk to your veterinarian about an emergency protocol. Does your vet provide 24-hour service or do they work with an emergency care facility in the area? Some practices have multiple veterinarians on staff who rotate on-call services after hours. Check to see if your primary care vet has partners who might answer an emergency call. It’s also a smart idea to keep the name, number and address of your local emergency care facility tacked to the refrigerator or stored in your cell phone for easy access.

2. Be Aware of the Signs

Pets may need emergency care because of severe trauma—caused by an accident or fall—choking, heatstroke, an insect sting, household poisoning or other life-threatening situation. If you suspect your pet is undergoing an emergency, consider their visible symptoms. If your pet is experiencing any of the following symptoms, they should be treated immediately:

  • Pale gums
  • Rapid breathing
  • Weak or rapid pulse
  • Change in body temperature
  • Difficulty standing or apparent paralysis
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Excessive vomiting or diarrhea
  • Inability to urinate or defecate

In some instances it’s fair to think that an incident is treatable without a visit to a vet or emergency care facility, but it’s better to be on the safe side and take your pet to be examined as soon as possible. The exam fee is a small price to pay for the peace of mind you will get after the visit.

3. Transport Your Pet with Care

If your pet is in an emergency situation, it’s important to transport them safely to the closest emergency care facility. But beware; pets who are severely injured may act aggressively toward their pet parents, so it’s important to first protect yourself from injury.

For dogs: Approach your dog slowly and calmly; kneel down and say their name. If the dog shows aggression, call for help. If they’re passive, fashion a makeshift stretcher made out of some rigid material such as an appropriate sized, sturdy piece of wood and gently lift them onto it. Take care to support their neck and back in case they’ve suffered any spinal injuries.

For cats: Gently place a blanket or towel over the cat’s head to prevent biting; then slowly lift the cat and place them in an open-topped carrier or box. Take care to support the cat’s head and avoid twisting their neck in case they’ve suffered a spinal injury.

Once you feel confident and safe transporting your pet, immediately bring them to an emergency care facility. Be sure to call the emergency center when you’re on your way so they can prepare for your arrival. Explain what has happened and follow the specific advice given.

4. Be Familiar with At Home First Aid Treatments

Most emergencies require immediate veterinary care, but first aid methods may help you stabilize your pet for transportation.

  • If your pet is suffering from external bleeding due to trauma, try elevating and applying pressure to the wound.
  • If your pet is choking, place your fingers in his mouth to see if you can remove the blockage. Only insert your fingers into your pet’s mouth if you believe you can remove the item safely without being bitten.
  • If you’re unable to remove the foreign object, perform a modified Heimlich maneuver by giving a sharp rap to their chest, which should dislodge the object.

It’s also a great idea to create a first aid kit for your pet. Carefully putting together a well-provisioned first aid kit will make you more equipped to deal with a medical emergency. Have this kit in the house and fully stocked with supplies at all times, next to the first aid kit for your family. Check out our first aid checklist for how to stock your kit.

Although a good knowledge of first aid is helpful, pet parents should never give any sort of medication, especially over the counter pain relievers, without the advice of a veterinarian. Also, never perform any at home remedies found online. The safest option for your pet is to take them to a veterinary professional for examination as soon as possible.

5. If Your Pet Eats Something Poisonous

If you suspect your pet has ingested a toxic substance, immediately call your veterinarian or the Animal Poison Control Center’s 24-hour hotline at (888) 426-4435. Trained toxicologists will consider the age and health of your pet, what and how much they ate, and then make a recommendation – such as whether to induce vomiting – based on their assessment. A $65 consultation fee may be applied to your credit card.

Your pets are your cherished companions, that’s why it’s important to have a plan in place should an unexpected emergency occur. If you have any questions about emergency plans or services, feel free to contact us here at Rocky Gorge Animal Hospital.

Rocky Gorge Animal Hospital in Laurel, Maryland is proud to offer 24/7/365 veterinary care to the Washington DC area, including Montgomery, Howard, Anne Arundel and Prince George’s counties. We even offer emergency pre-registration for non-clients, which provides us with the necessary background and medical records for your pet, so if something should happen we can save valuable time by having all of the proper information on hand.

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