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Common Pet Emergencies

As pet parents, we only want the very best for our precious pets, and it is such a worrying time when they are not well or hurt. Although it is rare, pet emergencies can happen and the best way to deal with an emergency is preparation and awareness. It can be difficult to determine some potentially life-threatening emergencies in our pets. If you have any worries, it is always best to seek advice from your vet.  Being aware of common emergencies can help to identify any early signs before it becomes a potential crisis.

Emergencies see in dogs and cats include:

  • Vomiting and/or Diarrhoea

Vomiting and diarrhoea can just be a sign of a simple stomach upset that can quickly resolve. However, if the vomiting and/or diarrhoea:

  • Is persistent and/or has not resolved within 24 hours
  • Your pet is not their usual self and/or is lethargic or seems in pain
  • Contains blood or unusual material(s)

It is advised to seek immediate veterinary attention.

  • Breathing Difficulties

Signs your pet is having difficulty breathing include:

  • Any unusual sounds during breathing such as wheezing
  • Coughing or retching
  • Shallow and/or fast breathing
  • Greater effort from the chest and/or abdomen on breathing
  • Open mouth breathing (in cats)
  • Excessive panting

Any signs of breathing difficulty can be potentially life threatening and therefore require immediate veterinary attention.  

  • Trauma

Some examples of common traumas seen include Road Traffic Accidents (RTA), Dog attacks or Cat fights or falls from a height.

In these cases, it is always advised to seek immediate veterinary attention. Even if your pet appears to be well externally, internal injury and bleeding is not always immediately obvious. Wounds can also be more extensive than they appear on the outside. Where there are wounds, infection can occur if veterinary treatment is not quickly sought. Shock can also develop as the result of a trauma; This causes a drop in blood circulation and is therefore life threatening if not immediately treated.

  • Bloat or Gastric Dilation Volvulus (GDV)

This is where the stomach becomes progressively bloated with gas (Gastric Dilation) which can potentially progress to cause the stomach to twist (Volvulus). This condition is mostly seen in large, deep chested dogs. Most common symptoms are:

  • Restlessness (commonly after a large meal)
  • Bloated abdomen
  • Unproductive retching
  • Excessive salivation
  • Vomiting
  • Severe stomach pain
  • Pale gums
  • Collapse

It is crucial to contact your vet immediately as this condition can deteriorate very rapidly and the quicker treatment can begin the better the outcome for your pet. 

  • Straining to Urinate

If your pet is:

  • Straining and only passing small amounts of urine
  • Unproductive straining
  • Urine contains blood
  • Frequently trying to urinate or seems distressed when urinating

This could be a sign of a urinary obstruction that can very quickly become a medical emergency. Therefore, it is advised to seek immediate veterinary attention. This is most commonly seen in male cats.

  • Stings/Bites/Allergic Reactions

Common signs of an allergic reaction include:

  • Facial swelling
  • Hives seen on the body
  • Itching or scratching
  • In rare cases this can lead to breathing difficulties or shock

Although some allergic reactions are mild and not develop further, it is important to immediately seekveterinary attention as in some cases reactions can very quickly deteriorate and potentially cause the airway to obstruct or the body to go into shock.  

  • Poisoning or Dietary Indiscretion

Our pets can be known to ingest all sorts of things and if your pet has eaten something they shouldn’t have, it is best to call your vet as soon as possible. Common toxicities for our pets are:

  • Chocolate – The higher the cocoa content and smaller the weight of your pet, the higher the risk of a toxic dose.
  • Grapes and Raisins – There is no known toxic dose therefore even one grape or raisin requires immediate veterinary attention.
  • Rat or slug poisons
  • Xylitol (A sugar substitute commonly seen in chewing gum)
  • Human medications
  • Onions & garlic
  • Lilies
  • Anti-freeze

The quicker veterinary attention is sought the less time the toxic substance has to absorb and cause further harm to your pet. This also applies to any foreign object your pet may have ingested such as pet toys, socks or other household items.

  • Neurological Problems and/or Seizures

There are many possible causes of neurological signs and/or seizures. Therefore, it is important to seek immediate veterinary attention if your notice any neurological signs. Seizures can present in many ways and there are differing types.

Common Neurological signs:

  • Disorientation or confusion
  • Staggering or incoordination
  • Circling
  • Lethargy or non-responsive
  • Abnormal eye movements
  • Loss of balance
  • Head tilt

Seizure symptoms:

  • Twitching, shaking and/or tremoring.
  • Sometimes a loss of consciousness
  • Glazed eyes
  • Champing of the jaw and excess salivation
  • Paddling of the limbs
  • Passing urine or faeces

Although the first thing you may want to do if your pet is having a seizure is to comfort them, it is advised that you try to reduce further brain stimulation by: 

  • Not touching your pet until after they have come round from the seizure.
  • Turn off the lights
  • Turn off any music or television and keep any noise to a minimum
  • Remove any potentially dangerous objects from around your pet to prevent injury
  • Time the seizure
  • Contact your vet
  • Eye problems

Eye problems can quickly become an emergency and if left untreated could cause blindness. These include:

  • Redness
  • Squinting or closed eye  
  • Excessive tear production or wetness of the face
  • Swelling
  • Pawing at the eye
  • Cloudiness or a blue tinge to the eye

It is advised to seek veterinary attention as soon as possible if you notice anything abnormal with your pet’s eyes as they can so rapidly deteriorate and can be very painful.

Although not all early symptoms will indicate an emergency it is always best to be safe and seek advice from your vet as soon as possible. It is also helpful to know where your nearest emergency or out of hours vet is in case your usual clinic is closed; Having their number handy can also save time and further stress during an emergency.

If you are ever worried, your vets are there to support and advise. In many cases, symptoms will not lead to an emergency, however, the sooner they can act to help and protect our pets, the better!

Pet Insurance

As emergencies can happen at any time it is best to be prepared. With Vetsure Pet Insurance, you can be rest assured that your pet is covered against accidents and illness with our Premier and Premier Plus policies, so if the worst were to happen