How to Prepare for Pet Medical Emergencies

When anyone in our families becomes ill, it can be extremely stressful. Since many of us consider our pets to be important family members, preparing for pet medical emergencies can help.

By acquiring knowledge, first aid training, and having a plan, we can save precious time and get our pets the care they need. Knowing how to help when an urgent medical situation arises can help us keep calm and take the most efficient steps to help our loved ones.

If you suspect that your pet is injured or is experiencing a medical emergency, it’s better to be safe than sorry and seek emergency pet care.

Know When Your Furry Friend Needs Emergency Vet Care

Knowing that a pet health emergency is happening can be more difficult in some pets than in others. If there is obvious trauma, puncture wounds, if a pet is not breathing, or if there is a steady flow of blood, most of us know that there is severe issue and we should seek immediate emergency veterinary care for our injured or ill pet.

Some kinds of life-threatening injuries or illnesses that also require emergency care can be more difficult to recognize in some animals. In Castle Rock, Colorado, the Veterinary Specialists of the Rockies emergency veterinary care facility has experts who can help diagnose trauma and other emergency health situations, specifically with dogs and cats.

You know your pet best, so you’ll be the best one to identify their normal behavior or what might be the start of a situation that requires emergency care.

If you suspect your pet is having a medical emergency, these are signs that your dog or cat could be in a life-threatening situation – please seek emergency medical care as quickly as possible:

  • Pale gums
  • Difficulty standing
  • Weak or rapid pulse
  • Apparent paralysis
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures
  • Fainting
  • 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)


There are two specific situations where an emergency may be imminent, and if your pet is experiencing either, please also seek emergency medical care as quickly as possible:

  • 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 an obvious cause (like just having taken your dog on a run) is something that should be checked out immediately by a professional.
  • Painful urination: Cats with trouble urinating are likely to go in and out of the litter box frequently. They may also vocalize their pain while doing so. Additionally, straining to urinate or defecate is a sign of potential emergency in both cats and dogs.

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.

The following signs indicate heat stroke in dogs:

  • Excessive panting
  • Unwillingness to move around
  • Drooling
  • Reddened gums
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Mental dullness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Uncoordinated movement
  • Collapse

It’s important to remember that if your dog or cat needs emergency pet care, they might be stressed and 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, you may want to gently place a towel over their head to prevent the cat from biting you. Then you can slowly lift the cat up and transfer them to a carrier or place them gently into the vehicle that you’re using to transport to the hospital.

If you have a dog, remain calm and approach it slowly, saying its name as you approach. If the dog doesn’t show any signs of aggression, you can proceed to gently place them into a carrier or directly into the vehicle that you’re using to transport them to the hospital. However, if the hairs on their back are raised, if they are baring their teeth, or if they show any other signs of aggression, call a veterinary professional for help.

Pet First Aid Training Basics Helps Save Lives

If you take steps now to educate yourself in pet first aid while your pet is healthy, you’ll gain skills to give your furry family member the best chance of surviving an emergency medical situation.

It can be difficult to imagine, but basic animal first aid skills and a little knowledge can make the difference between getting your pet to the emergency vet alive and having them die on the way to the hospital.

A great way to prepare yourself is by taking a 35-minute, animal first aid course online offered by the Red Cross. You’ll learn how to check your pet’s vital signs and care for them in critical emergency situations until they can be evaluated by a veterinary professional. The pet first aid course is designed for dog and cat owners, though some of the skills you learn may help in the care of other animals.

Though not intended as a substitute for veterinary care, the course will cover what you need to know to help keep your pet alive until you can get them the professional vet care that they need.

Prepare a Pet Emergency Plan

It’s important for us to prepare for emergencies that might happen to our pets. Simply creating a pet emergency plan and preparing mentally can improve response time and pet health outcomes if a furry family member needs help. Consider this list as a starting point:

  • Know where first aid supplies are in case of a traumatic event (such as a cut paw)
  • Travel with a critical care first aid kit on the road and even when hiking
  • Have the phone number of your local family veterinarian, as well as a 24-hour emergency pet hospital like Veterinary Specialists of the Rockies, 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.

Be Alert to Changes and Be Prepared

By watching your pet for changes or strange behaviors and having the knowledge to know when to seek help, you can start to prepare for a pet health emergency. Completing pet first aid training and having a pet emergency plan can help you to help your pet member if an emergency happens. Preparation is key to giving you more time to enjoy a long, happy life experience with your furry family member.

Have questions about how to deal with an emergency pet health crisis?

Call Veterinary Specialists of the Rockies at 303.660.1027, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.


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