Pet Emergencies: What Should You Know?

By Sherry L. Granader. 

No one looks forward to an emergency, whether it concerns your two or four-legged family members. But ignoring the obvious – emergencies happen to everyone at one time or another – doesn’t make it go away.

Your vet is, of course, the best source of information and advice for your pet. But maybe you’re too far away or your vet is closed on weekends, holidays and evenings. What other options will give you quick and expert information in the case of a pet emergency? dog laying down on porch

Some say that hindsight is 20/20; so foresight must be a pretty close second! Keep reading to learn about how to recognize an emergency, who to contact in case of an emergency and online resources that could help you in those moments of crisis with your pet.

IS it an Emergency? offers the following problems as definitive situations where you should seek immediate vet or emergency care:

  • Your pet isn’t breathing or you can’t feel a heartbeat.
  • Your pet is unconscious and won’t wake up.
  • Your pet has been vomiting, has diarrhea for more than 24 hours or is vomiting blood.
  • You suspect broken bones.
  • Your pet is having trouble breathing or has something stuck in her throat.
  • Your pet had, or is having, a seizure.
  • Your pet is bleeding from the eyes, nose, or mouth; there is blood in her urine or feces.
  • You think your pet might have ingested something toxic, such as antifreeze, rat poison, medication not prescribed to her or household cleansers.
  • Your pet, particularly your male cat, is straining to urinate, or is unable to.
  • Your pet shows signs of extreme pain, such as whining, shaking, and refusing to socialize.
  • Your pet collapses or suddenly can’t stand up.
  • Your pet begins bumping into things or suddenly becomes disoriented.
  • You can see irritation or injury to your pet’s eyes, or she suddenly seems to become blind.
  • Your pet’s abdomen is swollen, hard to the touch, and/or she’s gagging and trying to vomit.
  • You see symptoms of heatstroke.
  • Your pregnant dog or cat has gone more than three to four hours between delivering puppies or kittens.

Yes, it’s an Emergency, Now what?

Call your veterinarian! Don’t waste time trying to self-diagnose or medicate if you see any of the symptoms above. If your vet is closed, their voicemail should list a local alternative. If it doesn’t, contact a local AAHA-accredited hospital:

It’s Not an Emergency, But I Need Help!

Below are some great websites for first aid information, expert advice and tons of information:

Includes “When to Call your Vet;” “Other Emergencies and First Aid;” “Poisons/Toxicities;” and “Hotline” numbers.

IF time is not of the essence, try some of these “Ask a Vet a Question” websites. Some require pre-registration and may charge a fee.

Don’t wait until an emergency happens! Keep updated numbers for your vet and pet hospitals pre-programmed in your cell phone and in conspicuous places in your home – near the phone, on the refrigerator or wherever you keep other emergency numbers. Also bookmark the websites listed above for quick access.

Remember, forewarned is forearmed! Spend time learning about your pet’s health, any breed-specific problems and the basics of first aid – BEFORE an emergency.

With a little preparation, some basic knowledge and crucial contact information at your fingertips, you can rest easier knowing you can handle anything that comes up.

 Reviewed and approved by Dr. David L. Roberts, DVM

Photo:  Courtesy of Joe Parks via Flickr (CC by 2.0)

Sherry is a Nutritionist, Writer, National Speaker, Ghostwriter of books for Natural Medicine Doctors and an Author of 2 healthy cookbooks. She is a Nationally Certified Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer in Pilates, Yoga, Body Pump, STEP and Aerobics with over 20 years experience. She served as the On-Air Nutritionist for QVC television in the United States and the UK and hosted her own weekly “Healthy Living” segments for PBS. Sherry is passionate about helping animals and worked with “Helping All Animals” in Palm Springs, CA. in their rescue efforts, and is a member of the ASPCA and the Humane Society of the United States. Her experience working as a Veterinarian’s Assistant for many years’ aids in her passion for helping animals lead healthy and happy lives. For more information on Sherry, visit or write to Sherry at - call 517.899.1451