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The Pet Health Community and Pet Health Center are NOT substitutes for a vet visit. Contact a vet in an emergency! | Dog Conditions A-Z | Dog Symptoms A-Z | Cat Conditions A-Z | Cat Symptoms A-Z

Remember Your Beloved Pet
When is it time to go to the ER?
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Will Draper, DVM posted:
Severe pain, nausea, difficulty breathing -- these are symptoms that would alert us to take our family members or ourselves to the emergency room. Well, it's the same for our pets. These special family members can't verbally tell us what's wrong. So as their caregivers, it is very important that we be in tune with their behaviors. Certain signs are more apparent in different breeds and species. So it is imperative to know what to look for in your own cats or dogs.

In larger dogs, loss of appetite and abdominal swelling is a sign of a serious condition, commonly referred to as "Bloat", which is a true medical emergency. Smaller dogs will be more prone to allergic reactions and even break out in hives. In this case, a timely cortisone or antihistamine injection can mean the difference between life and death. Limping and/or tissue swelling can mean a snakebite, or even an injured ligament.

With cats, it's even more important to be observant, since they are generally a bit harder to read. Respiratory distress can be an indication of heart or lung disease in cats. However, this symptom is much less subtle in felines than it is in dogs. Lack of appetite can mean some hidden injury, such as an abscess or a musculoskeletal issue. Cats can develop anorexia, which can lead to liver disease, which is also critical and time-sensitive for veterinarian care.

What emergency situations have you been in with your own pet(s)?
Dr. Will
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Ponyrun2 responded:
I've been lucky in my lifetime.. haven't had any real emergencies with my dogs... sure, there have been times when we needed to see a vet right away for an injury but not as a true can't-wait-until-tomorrow emergency...

I did have two instances many years ago with my Belgian Malinois... once as a young adult I kept him confined to the bathroom when I went to work.... I came home to find the bathroom torn to shreds... he even ate through a wooden towel rod on the wall... in the mess was the label to some toothpaste... I called my vet and they told me to bring him in (I got there 5 minutes before they were to close) as human toothpaste can be dangerous... well, they made him throw up the contents of his stomach... luckily, for him, it didn't contain any toothpaste... after I got home with him I found the intact container in another room... seems my dad had found it earlier and put it out of harms way....

The second time was when he was 13... one morning he collapsed out in the yard... I rushed him to his vet... luckily they have at least one doctor come in before actual opening hours.... unfortunately, due to a severe anemia and lack of oxygen to his brain (he had postured while at the vets) I had to have him put down...

The only time I ever had to take a dog to an actual after-hours Emergency Clinic was when my Lab mix got his toe caught in the wire door of his crate... when I went to open the door (not knowing his foot was caught) it tore the entire hard outer coating of his toenail off... so I rushed him to the EC and they cleaned it up and put him on antibiotics... unfortunately, when we went to our regular vet a few days later they had to do what the ER should have done and that was to knock him out and cut the entire "quick" back and just let a whole new nail grow in rather than spending months with an exposed raw nerve....
 
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srstephanie responded:
Hi Dr Draper,

One thing that you might add ... though I have no experience with it since I've only had female cats, and I don't know details of what to look for ... but I know that a blocked urethra in males can be a life-threatening emergency fairly quickly. I know it is rare in females because they have a larger urethra, but if a male is straining in the litterbox and unable to produce urine, I think it is time to get to an emergency clinic. I've known a couple people who have lost their cats because they didn't realize it was such an emergency. I had one friend who lost two young male kittens (ca 4-5 months old). She recognized they were in trouble and took them to her vet, but the vet didn't believe male kittens that young would block and waited too long. A few hours later, my friend tried to rush them from her vet's to an emergency clinic with specialists and one died on the way and the other soon after arriving, from bladders that burst.

In my own experience, the only times I've taken my kitty to an emergency clinic was once for constipation because my cat was obviously upset, going in and out of the litterbox, straining to poop but not able to get it out, and crying. Right after I called the emergency clinic to ask if this was an emergency (of course they said, yes, and to bring her in) and was getting ready to go, she finally was able to get a small but thick and hard feces out. I took her in but she was fine and no more stool.

The other time I took her to emergency was when she was having trouble walking with her back legs and would start to fall over every few steps. I rushed her to emergency but, again, they didn't find any problem and chalked it up to an arthritis episode. She seemed okay a few hours later. I'm not sure if it was arthritis or maybe a mini-stroke, or maybe low potassium (she had CKD). But I think difficulty walking is a reason to get to emergency.

Another time I called the emergency clinic but decided not to go. My 18 yr old cat was obviously sick, vomiting and not feeling well. But we knew she had pancreatitis and she was a very complex case (also having CKD, hypertension, grade 1 murmur, IBD, poss cholangitis, etc). Of course, it was a Sunday and I couldn't reach her vet or Internist. But the vet tech that assisted my Internist was working a shift at the emergency clinic and knew my cat's case well. I talked to her and she advised against bringing my cat down because there was at least a 2 hour wait and vets who were unfamiliar with her case ... and my cat became very stressed at vet visits. But the tech was able to get word to her Internist who called me at home and advised me. The next day I was able to get her to her regular vet ... and two days later an ultrasound and lymph node aspirate diagnosed pancreatic cancer that had spread. While I think a vomiting, obviously sick cat is a good reason to seek emergency care, in my case it was better to wait a few hours for her Internist who knew her case.
 
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Will Draper, DVM replied to srstephanie's response:
Great, info, srs...thank you! you are right on point with the blocked cat info. thanks for bringing it to everyone's attention!
Dr. Will
 
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Vianns responded:
What I am needing to know is I have a pomeranian that is 15andhalf in age. He seems in good health and sperit and health except for getting a littls slower getting up in the morning,eyes going and already deaf. But he has learn sign language. What concerns me is sometimes he keeps his tail between his legs and moves slower. He still plays and chases his toys like a pup almost. Is the tail betwee the legs a sigh I might be concerned about?
 
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Will Draper, DVM replied to Vianns's response:
Vianns- tail between the legs and moving slowly can definitely be some sign of pain...probably musculoskeletal. I'd recommend a visit to your vet if you've not already done so. Best of luck!
Dr. Will


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