If you’re like most pet owners, your pet — whether it’s a purebred British Shorthair cat or a rescue dog — is your best friend.
In fact, for many, a pet is more than a friend: it’s a life-long companion and another member of your family. Knowing just how important pets are, it’s essential to be able to identify situations in which your furry loved one may have a need for emergency pet care.
Identifying a pet emergency for some animals is harder than others — unless it involves obvious trauma. Situations involving puncture wounds, not breathing, or a steady flow of blood are pretty easy to recognize as severe issues in most pets.
However, various types of life-threatening injuries that require emergency pet care can be more difficult to recognize in some animals. The Veterinary Specialists of the Rockies emergency care facility is expert in dealing specifically with cats and dogs.
A good rule of thumb for seeking emergency pet care? It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Signs Your Furry Friend Might Need Emergency Pet Care
Identifying whether or not your dog or cat might be in need of emergency pet care means having a good understanding of their normal behavior and knowing what to look for when they start acting strangely.
Here are some clear signs that your dog or cat could be in a life-threatening situation:
- Pale gums
- Difficulty standing
- Weak or rapid pulse
- Apparent paralysis
- Loss of consciousness
- Excessive bleeding
- Change in body temperature
- Eye injury (no matter how mild)
- Excessive vomiting or diarrhea (more than two or three times an hour)
- Hunched-up appearance (especially if the belly seems tight)
It’s worth calling special attention to two specific situations where an emergency may be imminent:
- Abnormal breathing patterns: Gasping — fast and shallow, even at rest, or using abdominal muscles to breathe. Any sort of rapid breathing (more than 40 breaths per minute when sleeping/resting) without obvious reasoning (like just having taken your dog on a run) is something that should be checked out by a professional.
- Painful urination: Cats with trouble urinating can go in and out of the litter box frequently. They can also vocalize their pain while doing so. Additionally, straining to urinate or defecate is a sign of potential emergency in both cats and dogs
It’s important to remember that if your dog or cat needs emergency pet care, they might be in a different state of mind than usual and may act aggressively toward you as a result. With this in mind, take the necessary precautions to protect yourself while trying to help.
If you have a cat in need of medical attention, gently place a towel over its head to prevent it from biting you. At that point, you can slowly lift the cat up and transfer it to a carrier.
If you have a dog, remain calm and approach it slowly, saying its name as you approach. If it doesn’t show any signs of aggression, you can proceed to gently place it into a carrier. However, if the hairs on its back are raised, its teeth bared, or it shows any other signs of aggression, call a professional for help.
Know Some Basic Pet First Aid
As a responsible pet owner, you should take the necessary steps to educate yourself in pet first aid, giving your friend the best chance of surviving an emergency medical situation.
Some primary animal first aid skills and knowledge can be the difference between your pet making it to the emergency room alive and dying on the way there.
The best way to prepare yourself is by taking the 35-minute, online animal first aid course offered by the Red Cross. The course will teach you how to check your pet’s vital signs, as well as how to care for them in critical emergency situations — at least until they can be evaluated by a professional. Though it is designed for dog and cat owners, some of the skills you learn will be transferable to the care of other animals.
This is not a substitute to veterinary care, but rather what you need to know to keep your pet alive until you’re able to have it evaluated by a professional.
What’s the Emergency Plan for Your Pet?
By thinking ahead and mentally preparing for a pet emergency, you’ll be able to respond more quickly and effectively to your friend’s needs. This means knowing where first aid supplies are in the case of a traumatic event (such as a cut paw). Additionally, it means having the phone number of your local veterinarian, as well as a 24-hour emergency pet hospital, easily accessible.
Though you might know the way to your family veterinarian by memory, it is a good idea to double-check how to get to the nearest 24-hour pet hospital before it’s an emergency.
Final Thoughts: How to Know When You Need Emergency Pet Care
Though some emergency pet care situations will be more evident than others, paying close attention to your pet will help you to identify more subtle — but just as life-threatening — situations, such as heat stroke.
By identifying anything strange with your friend, from breathing patterns to painful urination, you’ll be able to take the best care of your pet, keeping them healthy, and giving you both the chance to create more memories down the road, together.