What Is Considered An Animal Emergency? (Top 8 Emergencies)

If you have a pet in your life, they may experience a medical emergency at some point throughout their life. Though we know our companions well, it can still be challenging to know when they are experiencing a true animal emergency. So what is considered an animal emergency in our furry friends?

In this article we will discuss the top 8 animal emergencies that are seen in animal hospitals, and help you understand when you should have your pet seen by a veterinarian.

Top 8 Animal Emergencies

What Is Considered A Vet EmergencyThe best way to offer your pet a long and healthy life is to be educated on possible animal emergencies. Many of these conditions can be serious for our furry friends, but are easily treated if they are addressed as soon as possible. To better prepare you going forward, let’s discuss the top 10 animal emergencies below.

1.) Gastrointestinal Upset

Gastrointestinal upset is a common condition that will likely impact every furry friend at some point in their life. GI upset, or gastritis, refers to any inflammation within the stomach and intestines that leads to GI symptoms. Gastrointestinal upset can range from vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, anorexia, lethargy and more.

Gastrointestinal upset can have multiple causes in our furry friends. Ranging from dietary indiscretion to bacterial infections, an animal’s gut can fall victim to many irritants. Some of the most common causes of GI upset in pets include:

  • Eating something they shouldn’t
  • Eating greasy food or table scraps
  • Bacterial infections
  • Intestinal parasites
  • Allergic reactions
  • Toxicities
  • Pancreatitis
  • Foreign bodies
  • Reactions to medications

While simple GI upset may not seem like an immediate medical emergency, it should always be taken seriously. Even one round of diarrhea can cause an animal to lose fluids within their body, leading to dehydration if it is not addressed immediately. Not only can the vomiting and diarrhea deplete your pet of hydration, but any decline in food or water intake can cause your pet to become even more ill. This is especially true if your pet begins to have bloody diarrhea or vomit, as this dehydrates them at a rapid rate.

When GI upset is treated as soon as possible, a full recovery is much easier to achieve. Many of these animals can be treated on an outpatient basis, and are back to their normal self within days. However, cases that are not treated quickly have a much harder time bouncing back to their healthy state. Severe dehydration and abdominal discomfort can require aggressive care, making their treatment plan much more involved and expensive. The sooner you bring your pet in for an upset stomach, the better!

2.) Seizures

Seizures are the most commonly reported neurological disorders in dogs and cats. They are described as heightened electrical activity occurring within the brain, leading to abnormal neurological symptoms that range from disorientation to convulsing. Seizures in our pets can be generalized seizures that involve both hemispheres of the brain, or focal seizures that originate in just one side of the brain. Their symptoms will range based on which type of seizure they experience, but all should be taken seriously.

While we tend to think of seizures as muscle rigidity and convulsing, that is not always the case. Some pets will have seizures that just involve stumbling or disorientation, and even hallucination that involves snapping at things that are not there. Any abnormal behavior should be taken seriously, and warrant a trip to your veterinarian. Seizures in animals can be due to:

Seizures in pets will be treated based on the cause behind the seizures, and how severe the seizure activity is. Your veterinarian will often recommend bloodwork to rule out any systemic abnormalities, and offer a treatment plan based on your pet’s specific symptoms. Some animals will require hospitalization to stabilize them, while others will be sent home to be monitored.

3.) Trauma

Trauma is another common animal emergency in our beloved companions. Our pets can get themselves into tricky situations, leading to sudden injuries that require medical attention. Not only can trauma cause severe pain for our pets, but it can also lead to serious health complications that need to be addressed immediately.

Trauma in pets can range from lacerations, bleeding wounds, broken bones, traffic accidents, and more. The exact treatment for your pet will vary based on the trauma they endured, and how critical their condition is when they arrive at the animal hospital. No matter what sudden injury your animal acquired, it is best to have them seen as soon as possible. 

4.) Toxicities

Our animal friends are known to get their paws on things they should not. Common toxins for pets hide within our homes, ranging from cleaning supplies to medications. With so many potential dangers in their environment, it is extremely common for our pets to come in contact with or even consume these potential threats. When this happens, emergency assistance is needed to ensure their safety going forward.

Even if an item is perfectly safe for humans to consume, it is always best to contact your veterinarian if your pet has eaten something they shouldn’t have. Some toxic items can require aggressive hospitalization in our furry friends, as they can have a drastic impact on their overall health. Speaking with your vet or the Pet Poison Helpline is the best way to give your pet the help they need, and rule out any complications going forward.

Each toxicity will be treated in a different way, as they can impact different parts of the body. Swift action is the best way to offer a full recovery to your furry friend, and find the best plan of action for your pet going forward.

5.) Urinary Issues

Urinary issues are a common emergency in the animal hospital. Both cats and dogs can struggle with urinary complications, ranging from UTI’s to inability to urinate. These urinary issues can be extremely uncomfortable for our pets, and can lead to serious illness if it is not addressed as soon as possible.

Urinary issues can be a bit challenging to see, especially if your pet goes out to the yard to urinate. While many urinary complications are noticed when a pet is attempting to urinate, there are other signs to be aware of as well.

Some symptoms of urinary complications in pets include:

  • Frequent urination or wanting to go outside constantly
  • Urinating in abnormal spots, cyanide of your home, around the litter box, etc.
  • Frequent posturing without producing urine
  • Crying out in the litter box
  • Finding less urine than usual in the litter box
  • Excessive licking of the genital area

If your pet is displaying any of the symptoms above, it is important to have them seen as soon as possible. Treating urinary complications from the moment they begin gives your pet the best chance at a full recovery, and can prevent serious illness down the line.

6.) Pain

While our animal friends may not be able to tell us they are in pain, they can still feel pain just as much as you and I can. Sudden injuries or chronic illness can cause extreme discomfort in an animal, leading to subtle changes in behavior that can point to their pain. Pain in animals can show itself in the form of:

  • Lethargy
  • Hiding
  • Trembling
  • Lack of appetite
  • Hunched posture
  • Limping
  • Anxiety
  • Crying out

If you think your pet is experiencing pain of any kind, it is best to have them seen by a veterinarian. Your vet can perform diagnostics to get to the source of their discomfort, and determine the best plan of action based on their diagnosis.

7.) Respiratory Distress

Respiratory distress is a serious medical emergency that should always warrant a trip to the vet’s office. Any change in breathing can be a sign of a major threat to your furry friend’s health, and requires immediate help before it progresses. Whether their change in breathing has been gradual or acute, these pets will need emergency support from a veterinary professional.

Respiratory distress can be terrifying for an animal, and may cause them to panic even more as they struggle to breath. This is a recipe for disaster when it occurs, and can further exacerbate a pet’s labored breathing. Having them seen as soon as possible can minimize the chance of serious struggling, and get them help before they are gasping for air. Some signs of respiratory distress include:

  • Increased effort when they breath
  • Coughing
  • Muddy, purple, pale, or blue gums/tongue  (normal gums should be pink)
  • Weakness
  • Wheezing
  • Honking when they breathe
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • And any other change in their breathing

Respiratory distress in animals can have multiple causes that range in severity. Difficulty breathing can be due to respiratory infections, pneumonia, cardiac disease, trauma, allergic reaction, and choking. If you think your pet is having a hard time breathing, we recommend having them seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible.

8.) Allergic Reactions

Just like you and I, the animals in our homes can experience allergic reactions. Allergic reactions can leave our furry friend itchy and uncomfortable, and even experience serious medical complications in severe reactions. Allergic reactions in animals can present as:

  • Skin irritation or redness
  • Itching
  • Facial swelling
  • Hives
  • Agitation
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Respiratory distress

Virtually anything in your pet’s environment can lead to an allergic reaction in a sensitive pup. Some of the most common triggers include insect bites, vaccines, new shampoos, topical treatments, and more. If you think your companion is experiencing an allergic reaction, it is best to have them seen as soon as possible to relieve their discomfort. Many allergic reactions require injectable steroids and antihistamines, both of which will need to be administered by a veterinarian.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, our animal companions can experience a number of medical complications that require immediate care. Be sure to review the information that we discussed above, and you can be better prepared for any animal emergencies to come!

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