When Should You Bring Your Pet Into A Veterinarian – Immediately?

By Dr. Sonia Sandhu, Veterinarian

Here are 10 signs that you should take your pet to the veterinarian.

  1. Difficulty Breathing – If your pet is struggling to breathe, there is not enough air being taken in to supplement their body with oxygen. This is ALWAYS an emergency as a depleted oxygen state can quickly escalate and become a life threatening condition. Your pet requires immediate medical care if you notice any of the following symptoms at home:
    • Increased respiratory rate (above 40 breaths per minute when your pet is sleeping or resting)
    • There is an increased effort to breathe
    • Breathing in a shallow manner
    • Their gums are pale pink or blue – you can assess the gum color in their mouth
    • Wheezing or increased breathing sounds
  2. Allergic Reaction – These reactions are most commonly seen as insect bites, vaccines, and medications. The most common signs are development of hives, facial swelling, neck swelling, and in extreme cases, difficulty breathing can also be seen.
  3. Inability To Urinate – If your pet is straining to urinate without producing a normal urine stream, vocalizing, or going in and out of the litter frequently, it is possible that they have a urinary obstruction. A urinary obstruction is life threatening as it causes severe electrolyte changes, causing toxins to build in the blood, which can lead to death. In such a case, your pet should NOT wait as it may be required to unobstructed the urethra and simultaneously address the accumulation of toxins.
  4. Excessive Bleeding – Apply pressure with gauze or a towel to the area that is actively bleeding. If the bleeding does not stop with-in 4-5 minutes, continue to place pressure on the injury and transport your pet to a veterinarian immediately.
  5. Distended Abdomen – Bloat, also known as GDV (Gastric dilation and volvulus) is a life threatening and time sensitive condition in which gas distends the stomach, which has twisted on its axis, reducing or cutting off circulation to the stomach which can result in death of the tissue and shock. Signs commonly seen in this condition include repeatedly trying to vomit or “hacking,” a large distended abdomen, and discomfort/inability to settle/restlessness.
  6. Toxin Exposure – If you are concerned that your pet may have ingested a possible toxin, do not wait until they start to become clinical or develop sickness. Have them assessed by a veterinarian as soon as possible! There are antidotes only for a handful of toxins, and most toxins cannot be removed from the body after they are absorbed. Most common toxin exposures include:
    • Foods: chocolate, grapes, raisins, xylitol (chewing gum), onions and garlic
    • Over the counter drugs
    • Human prescription drugs
    • Rodent Bait
    • Prescription Veterinary drugs
    • Household products – cleaning sprays, paint, etc.
    • Insecticides
    • Plants – lillies, azalea, daffodils, tulips, fertilizers, compost, herbicides
  7. Inability To Walk/ Stand – If your pet has acutely lost their mobility, dragging their limbs to walk or vocalizing pain – they should be seen by a veterinarian immediately. Often times, this can be a sign of complete or partial paralysis secondary to neurologic conditions such as disc disease, strokes, injury to the spinal cord and others. Such an issue is time-sensitive as length of time it takes to seek treatment can play a role in long term prognosis.
  8. Vomiting Or Diarrhea With Blood – If there is a significant amount of blood noted in the stool or vomit – this is an emergency. This may indicate that your pet is experiencing HGE (Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis) which can lead to severe dehydration and secondary shock – which can be lethal. Your pet will likely require IV fluids to recover.
  9. Seizures – If your pet is actively seizing, keep them safe by protecting their head and avoiding injury at home. If the seizure lasts longer than three minutes, or if your pet is having cluster seizures (several seizures in a 24 hour period) – your pet should be seen immediately. Seizure activity lasting longer than a few minutes is known as status epilepticus and can result in irreversible neurologic changes or death if it is not treated immediately.
  10. Heat Stroke – If your pet has been exposed to prolonged high temperatures, they may display signs including excessive panting, difficulty breathing, collapse, vomiting, diarrhea and seizures. Take 2-3 minutes to hose your pet down outside before bringing your pet to your veterinarian. This can be life saving for your pet. Heat stroke can be extremely lethal – do not wait to have your pet assessed if you are concerned about your pet overheating!

As a pet owner, if you are unsure if your pet should come to the ER – please call us at 301-776-7744 so we are able to direct you appropriately!

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