Pet emergencies can often be even more stressful than human medical emergencies because pets can’t tell us precisely what hurts or is wrong with them. This barrier can leave people guessing and confused about whether their pet requires immediate care, which can lead to added distress for the pet and owner. 

Emergencies are scary and sometimes unavoidable, even in the most cautious homes, but you can help keep your pet safe and happy by being informed. It is better to take the time now to learn about common pet emergencies than wait until one happens. To help make these situations less stressful, read the guide below to learn how to recognize pet emergencies and what steps you should take if they happen to your pet. Also, education helps prevent rushing to the emergency room for “non emergencies”.

Common Pet Emergencies and How to Recognize Them

There are several common pet emergencies that all owners should be aware of. Below, you will find a list of these emergencies and what signs to look for:

  • Choking and Difficulty Breathing – signs to look for are pawing at their mouth, having a blue or grey tongue or gums, and noisy breathing.
  • Wounds and Bleeding – signs to look for include visible cuts or lacerations and excessive bleeding htat is not stopping.
  • Poisoning – signs to look for include vomiting, diarrhea, seizures or tremors, and difficulty breathing. (or suspected toxin ingestion is often an emergency).
  • Seizures – signs to look for include loss of consciousness, uncontrollable shaking or convulsions, and stiffness or rigidity in the body.
  • Heatstroke – signs to look for include panting or rapid breathing, weakness or lethargy, and red gums or tongue or collapse.
  • Inability to urinate in cats or less commonly in dogs.

While seizures and difficulty breathing may be related to other health conditions, the common emergencies listed above can happen to any pet, which is why it’s essential to be able to identify them and know what steps to take.

Steps to Take During a Pet Emergency

First and foremost, you must remain calm. During a stressful emergency, it is easy to let emotions take over, but this can lead to panic, worsening the situation and taking up crucial time for treatment to help your pet. While remaining calm, you want to assess the situation. Do your best to identify the source of the problem by looking for the signs described in the section above. If you recognize the problem as one of those listed above, follow the proper steps:

  • If your pet is choking or having difficulty breathing and is still conscious, you should try to remove the object with your fingers. If your pet is unconscious, go to the vet immediately, if you are able to perform CPR on the way, you can do so.
  • If your pet has a bleeding wound, you should apply pressure with a clean cloth or bandage, clean the wound with warm water and mild soap, and take them to the vet for further treatment.
  • If your pet shows signs of poisoning, you should immediately contact your veterinarian or a poison control helpline. If available, bring the poisonous substance or any associated packaging to the vet to better help them provide treatment.
  • If your pet is experiencing a seizure, get them on the floor so they don’t fall, and keep them away from objects that could harm them. Do your best to time the seizure and then take your pet to the vet for evaluation.
  • If your pet shows signs of heatstroke, proceed to the vet immediately, but you can attempt to cool them with cold damp towels while en route to the vet.

While following those steps, you should also contact your veterinarian or an emergency animal hospital, who will be able to provide you with more detailed, in-time instructions, which you should follow.

Tips for Preventing Pet Emergencies

Although it is essential for all pet owners to know the common emergencies that can happen, what signs to look for, and what steps to take, it is even more essential to understand how to prevent them in the first place. Here are several preventative measures you can implement to help keep your pet safe and healthy:

  1. Keep hazardous substances out of reach. This should include cleaners, alcohol, food and plants poisonous to pets, medications, plastic bags, small items like toys, illicit drugs  etc. Keep such substances appropriately stored in cabinets and closets that your pet cannot get into on their own, and use child lock preventatives if necessary.
  2. Supervise your pet at all times. Obviously, you cannot be with your pet 24/7, so it’s important to ensure they are left in a safe environment where they cannot access dangerous substances. When leaving your pet alone, use a crate or gated room if needed. However, you should always supervise your pet while they are eating their daily meals, enjoying a treat, or playing with toys, as treats and toys can quickly become choking hazards if they are too small or ripped apart.
  3. Properly train and socialize your pet. While emergencies can still arise for the most well-trained and behaved pets, this is still a crucial step to minimizing the possibility. Part of their training should include not eating things off the floor without being prompted, not going on counters and helping themselves, and not chewing furniture. Your pet should also know commands such as “leave it” and “drop it” for when they are getting into something they shouldn’t be.
  4. Keep your pet up-to-date with preventative care and vaccinations. Regular vet visits will help minimize the possibility of emergencies related to their health, such as difficulty breathing, seizures, and more.

Don’t forget to have your veterinarian or an emergency number on hand so you don’t have to look for it should an issue occur. New York City residents can look to Pure Paws Veterinary Care in Clinton Hill, Hell’s Kitchen, and Hudson Square for assistance and recommendations.

Remember, if your pet is experiencing an emergency, staying calm is essential to get them the help they need promptly. And prevention is key, so take a little extra time to ensure your pet has a safe environment and is well-trained.