Knowing the signs of a pet emergency and how to respond are critical for pet owners. Our pets are more than just animals that live with us. They’re part of the family. You love your pet as much as any human family member, and part of that love is ensuring that they receive the right medical care. Of course, you’re prompt about annual vaccinations. You probably also make sure that they’re groomed properly, that their ears are cleaned out, and they get a healthful diet.
However, it can be challenging to spot actual medical issues with a pet. After all, they don’t have the ability to talk, so they can’t tell you that their stomach is hurting, that they have an earache, or that they’ve got a splitting headache. There’s good news, though. While you may not be able to verbally communicate with your pet, if you’re observant, you can spot the signs of a true pet emergency.
What signs should you look for, though? Below, we’ll explore 15 pet emergency signs that may indicate your loved one may have a true medical emergency that requires immediate care.
1. Serious Bleeding
We get it. Pets can get cut and bleed a little. It happens. However, if the bleeding is profuse, or if it continues for more than five minutes, this is a sign of a true pet emergency and it’s time to seek out medical attention.
2. Bleeding from Orifices
If your pet is bleeding from the eyes, nose, mouth, rectum, or you notice blood in the stool or urine, an immediate appointment with the vet is necessary.
3. Blood in Vomit
Vomiting alone is cause for concern in some cases, but if your pet is vomiting blood, or you notice blood in their vomit, contact your vet right away.
4. Eye Injuries
Any injury to the eye should be considered serious. Look for symptoms like excessive tearing, obvious signs of pain, or constant blinking.
5. Open Wounds
An open wound is an invitation to infection and it can be very difficult to treat one at home. Call the vet and make an appointment.
Like humans, dogs, cats, and other pets can experience seizures. These are medical emergencies and you should immediately get medical care.
7. Signs of Anxiety of Agitation
Is your pet experiencing unusual anxiety or agitation? It could be the result of exposure to loud noises, such as thunder or fireworks, but it could be a medical emergency. Signs of anxiety and agitation can include pacing, shivering/shaking, barking or howling, destructive acts, excessive licking or chewing that causes harm to themselves, cowering in corners, panting even when it’s not hot, and engaging in active escape behavior.
Our pets are just as susceptible to heat as we are. If you notice signs of heatstroke or heat stress in your pet, immediate medical attention is necessary. Signs to watch for that may indicate heatstroke or stress include excessive drooling, progressively heavy panting, a bright red tongue, very pale gums (or very red gums), increased heart rate, breathing distress, vomiting, and agitation.
9. In Ability to Void Bowels or Bladder
Have you noticed your pet straining to empty their bowels or bladder with little or no success? This is a sign of a serious problem. It could be a blockage of some type, a sign of an infection, or something else. Immediate medical attention is necessary.
Is your pet struggling to walk correctly? If they are staggering or seem to be walking drunkenly, this is a sign of a serious medical condition that requires immediate treatment.
11. Penetrating Wounds
While some wounds can be treated at home, penetrating wounds, in which a foreign object has penetrated into the pet’s body in some area, should be handled by veterinary specialists.
12. Lethargy or Extreme Fatigue
Is your pet suddenly lethargic and slow moving? Are they drowsy or seem indifferent to things that usually excite them, such as treats or visitors at the door? This single symptom can be indicative of a broad range of conditions, many of which can be serious or even life-threatening. If your pet is lethargic for over 24 hours, or is lethargic in conjunction with a fever of 104 or higher, consider this a medical emergency.
If your pet is coughing, it is a sign that they are in distress. To be clear, one or two coughs is not cause for concern. However, continued coughing may indicate an obstruction in the windpipe, a condition like asthma, an infection, heart failure, cancer, and numerous other conditions. Seek veterinary attention for your pet as soon as possible.
It’s normal for pets to have clumsy spells, particularly younger animals. Puppies and kittens, for example, are often uncoordinated. However, if your pet seems disoriented and uncoordinated, it may be cause for concern. For instance, if they are bumping into things while walking, zig-zagging or wobbling while moving, or otherwise seem to be experiencing mobility and coordination issues, it could be cause for alarm. Take your pet to the vet as soon as possible.
15. Signs of Pain
If your pet is showing signs of being in pain, particularly without any visible wounds or injuries, it may indicate a medical emergency. Signs to watch for include yelping or whining, withdrawal, aggression when being approached, and shaking.
These signs can all indicate a medical pet emergency and may need immediate medical attention. Make sure that you have the contact information for your veterinarian handy (programmed into your phone, preferably). However, in the event that the emergency happens during off-hours, make sure you know of an emergency clinic in your area.
It should be noted that the list above is not exhaustive, and there are other conditions that may indicate a medical emergency. If your pet is behaving abnormally or you suspect that something is wrong, call your veterinary clinic for advice on what to do.