Your pet cannot tell you when they are experiencing symptoms that indicate a veterinary emergency. You have to rely on the signs they show to make the decision to rush them to the veterinarian; however, these signs are not always obvious. Our team at Belmont Animal Hospital provides signs to watch for that indicate your pet needs immediate attention, so you will be prepared in a crisis.

#1: Your pet loses consciousness or collapses

If your pet loses consciousness, they are likely affected by a neurological or cardiac issue. Causes include seizures, head trauma, abnormal heart rhythms, and abnormal heart function. If your pet collapses but does not lose consciousness, they could be affected by several issues, including:

  • Dehydration
  • Shock
  • Heat stroke 
  • Endocrine issues 
  • Poisoning 
  • Muscular abnormalities

#2: Your pet cannot breathe effectively

Conditions including asthma, allergic reactions, pneumonia, and heart conditions can result in a pet’s inability to breathe effectively. Signs to watch for include flared nostrils, open-mouthed breathing, excessive panting, exaggerated abdominal movement during inhalation and exhalation, and possibly blue-tinted mucous membranes. Keep your pet as still and calm as possible to ensure their respiratory capacity is not further compromised.

#3: Your pet is bleeding excessively

A wound that stops bleeding after five minutes should be evaluated by a veterinary professional but is not considered a true emergency. When prolonged bleeding occurs, your pet’s life is in danger. In this situation, you should apply pressure to the wound using a clean bandage or cloth. A tourniquet can be fashioned using a belt if the wound is on your pet’s limb. Tighten the belt between the wound and your pet’s body to help slow or stop the bleeding. To prevent problems related to a lack of blood flow, loosen the tourniquet every few minutes, and never leave a tourniquet on for longer than ten minutes. Continue to keep pressure on the wound as you take your pet to the hospital.

#4: You know or suspect your pet ingested a poisonous substance

Numerous household items, such as antifreeze, rodent poisoning, and prescription medications, can be poisonous to your pet. Common foods also can cause serious issues for your pet. These include xylitol, chocolate, grapes and raisins, and onions and garlic. If you know or suspect your pet has ingested a substance that could harm them, immediately call Belmont Animal Hospital or Animal Poison Control. Additionally, if your pet’s Home Again microchip registration is current, you can take advantage of free 24-hour emergency support and poison control. Be prepared to provide your pet’s age, weight, and breed, as well as what and how much they ingested. Having the product label nearby also may be helpful. 

#5: Your pet has severe diarrhea or vomiting

If your pet vomits once or has one bout of diarrhea and otherwise seems happy and healthy, you can monitor their health status over the next several hours. However, if they also are exhibiting signs indicating pain, an enlarged abdomen, or fever, or if blood is found in their vomit or feces, they should be seen by a veterinary professional as soon as possible. If your dog is a puppy or a geriatric dog, the condition is more concerning because they are at higher risk for dehydration.

#6: Your pet cannot urinate

If your pet is unable to pass urine, the condition is extremely painful and can result in serious issues, such as kidney failure or bladder rupture. If your pet is vocalizing while attempting to urinate, posturing to urinate frequently, or making multiple trips to the litter box or not leaving the litter box, they need immediate veterinary care.

#7: Your pet is unable to bear weight on a limb

If your pet refuses to put weight on a limb, they could be suffering from a fractured bone, a torn ligament, or an injured tendon. These injuries are painful, and veterinary care is indicated, including medication to help alleviate your pet’s distress and further diagnostic tests to determine the cause.

#8: Your pet will not open their eye or has excessive tearing

An eye injury can progress quickly and needs to be addressed promptly. Foreign bodies can puncture the cornea resulting in rupture, or corneal scratches can become infected, resulting in “melting” ulcers. These conditions can cause your pet to lose their eyesight, and, in some cases, their eye.

#9: Your dog is retching repeatedly

If your dog is retching, but they are not producing vomit, they could have an intestinal blockage or be suffering from bloat (gastric dilation-volvulus). These conditions can result in intestinal compromise and death and are considered veterinary emergencies. 

#10: Your pet has a seizure

If your pet is seizuring, time the episode, and keep them away from sharp corners until the seizure is over. Knowing how long the seizure lasted will help your veterinarian know what steps to take next. Call your veterinarian once the episode has passed, as your pet will need diagnostic tests to determine the cause.

If you suspect your pet is experiencing a veterinary emergency, please do not hesitate to contact our team at Belmont Animal Hospital. We will let you know whether a visit to our hospital, or to one of our nearby emergency partners, will provide the fastest care.