Pet Emergencies | When to Take Your Pet to the Vet for Animal Emergencies

March 15, 2023

Author: Mark Ehrman

vets treating the dog

Pets bring joy and companionship to our lives, but as pet owners, knowing how to handle pet emergencies is important. Sometimes, it can be difficult to tell if your furry friend needs immediate attention from a veterinarian.

This blog will discuss some common signs of pet emergencies and what to do when they occur. We will also share some tips on preventing pet emergencies from happening in the first place.

Signs of a Pet Emergency

lame dog

Let’s look at some of the most common signs of a pet emergency and what actions you must take if you spot them.


If your pet suddenly becomes unconscious, you need to act fast. You can check for breathing and a heartbeat and perform CPR if they’re not breathing. Make sure to take your pet to the vet immediately after stabilising them.

Severe Injury

In case of severe injuries like car accidents, broken bones, or open wounds, stabilise your pet and stop any bleeding by applying pressure. Take them to the emergency room immediately.

Uncontrolled Bleeding

If your pet is bleeding uncontrollably, apply pressure to the wound and elevate it above its heart level. Take them to the emergency vet immediately for further medical attention.

Ingestion of Poisonous Substances

If your pet has ingested something toxic, like chocolate or plants, look up a list of toxic foods and plants for pets, and then call your vet immediately.

Difficulty Breathing

If your pet is having difficulty breathing, you must act quickly. Keep them calm, and take them to a veterinarian for treatment as soon as possible.

Vomiting or Blood in Diarrhoea

It’s common for pets to experience vomiting or diarrhoea occasionally. Still, if you see blood or notice a significant increase in frequency, it could be a sign of a more serious condition.

Additionally, if your pet seems weak, lethargic, or refuses food and water, it’s time to see the vet.

Lameness or Inability to Walk

A sudden onset of limping or an inability to walk may indicate an injury or other underlying medical issue. Your pet may be experiencing tremendous pain, so seeking medical attention is essential.

Bloated, Swollen, or Painful Abdomen

If your pet appears in significant discomfort and exhibits widespread abdominal swelling, it could be a sign of internal bleeding or organ failure. These conditions require immediate emergency care.

Dilated Pupils

Dilated pupils in pets can indicate various issues, including high blood pressure, neurological problems or exposure to toxins. An eye exam, as well as a full-body evaluation, is necessary to determine the underlying cause.


If your pet has a seizure, you must remain calm and call your veterinarian immediately. You can help your pet by keeping them safe, but it’s crucial to understand that seizures usually require immediate medical intervention.

Inability to Urinate or Defecate

If your pet struggles to urinate or defecate or appears to be straining, it’s time to call the vet. Urinary or bowel obstruction can be life-threatening and require surgical intervention.

Sudden Blindness, Staggering or Stumbling, and Abnormal Head Tilt or Circling

These could indicate a neurological issue. It can be caused by an ear infection, stroke, or other underlying conditions that require immediate medical attention.

Inflammation or Injury to the Eye

Excessive redness, swelling, or discharge from the eye can indicate an injury or infection, leading to vision loss if left untreated. Early intervention by a veterinarian is necessary.

Unable to Deliver Puppies or Kittens

If your pet is pregnant and struggling to deliver puppies or kittens, seeking medical attention is essential. If the delivery process takes too long, it’s possible that the mother or babies could experience serious complications.

Obvious Pain, Difficulty Breathing, or Loss of Balance

If your pet is in severe pain, having trouble breathing, or unable to maintain balance, it’s vital to seek emergency veterinary care immediately.

What to Do During a Pet Emergency

medical treatment for cat

Knowing what to do during a pet emergency can save your furry friend’s life, from something as small as ingesting human food to something life-threatening like choking or poisoning. Here’s what you should know about handling a pet emergency.

Have Emergency Numbers on Hand

During any pet emergency, the first step should be to call your veterinarian or emergency animal hospital. Always keep their numbers in your phone or on your fridge. Staying calm and providing the necessary information about your pet’s symptoms is crucial in promptly getting the help you need.

Know How to Control Bleeding

Anytime there’s a cut or injury, you’ll want to control the bleeding immediately.

The first step is to apply direct pressure. If the bleeding doesn’t stop, try elevating the wound above the heart, placing a clean cloth or towel over it, and applying direct pressure.

Be Prepared for Choking

Choking is one of the most common pet emergencies, especially in dogs who tend to eat things they shouldn’t. If your pet is choking, hold their head up and gently blow in their face, as it may cause them to cough up the object blocking their airway. If that doesn’t work, try the Heimlich manoeuvre, which involves placing your hand on the abdomen below the rib cage and squeezing sharply.

Plan for Poisoning

If your pet ingests something toxic, time is of the essence. Call your veterinarian or animal poison control centre immediately to find out what to do next. You may need to induce vomiting or give your pet activated charcoal, but you must follow the instructions given by the professionals.

Know How To Transport Your Pet

In case of an emergency, it’s important to know how to transport your pet safely. If your pet can walk, ensure their leash or carrier is at hand, and take them directly to the vet. If your pet is too ill to move, avoid picking them up by the neck, which could cause further injury. Instead, wrap them in a blanket and gently move them to a safe location while supporting the head and neck.

Tips on How to Prevent Pet Emergencies

sick dog

Taking the time to check your pet’s health and safety routinely can help you avoid potential emergencies. Here are some tips for how to prevent pet emergencies.

Regular Vet Visits

One of the best ways to keep your pet healthy is by scheduling regular vet visits. You should take your pet for an annual wellness exam and any additional visits that may be necessary if your pet is exhibiting any signs of illness or injury.

The vet can spot potential problems during these exams before they become emergencies. They will also be able to provide preventive care, such as vaccinations and parasite prevention treatments, which can help keep your pet safe from disease and other illnesses.

Proper Nutrition

Making sure that you feed your pet a balanced diet is important for their overall health and well-being. Good nutrition is essential for optimal health in both cats and dogs. Talk to your vet about which type of food is best suited for your pet’s needs and how much food they should eat daily.

Environmental Safety

It’s important to ensure your home is safe for pets, so they don’t get into anything dangerous or find themselves in hazardous situations. Be mindful of medications or cleaning products that could hurt them if ingested or exposed to their skin or eyes.

Also, ensure that any cords or wires around the house are safely tucked away, so they don’t chew on them – this could cause burns or electric shocks!

And finally, make sure to keep trash cans securely closed off so curious pets don’t get into them either since this could lead to serious medical issues if ingested.

Final Thoughts

Your pet’s health and well-being should always be a top priority. In any emergency that could potentially damage their long-term health or well-being, take it seriously and get them the necessary medical assistance immediately.

To prepare for any emergency, don’t forget that if you ever need advice or professional help during non-emergency hours, Matraville Veterinary Practice is here to answer all your questions. They are passionate about providing quality care for your pets at critical times and emergencies.

About Matraville Veterinary Practice

Your pet isn’t just an animal to you but a family member. We care for all creatures, great and small – as if they were our family. At Matraville Veterinary Practice, we ensure your furry (and not so furry) loved ones have a long, happy, healthy life.

With our large team of friendly, dedicated staff, we’ll take care of your pet’s every need.

For any emergencies or questions or want to book an appointment, contact us today!

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are the Most Common Animal Emergencies That Require Immediate?

The most common pet emergencies that require immediate veterinary care are difficulty breathing, severe bleeding, internal injuries, a heat stroke, and allergic reactions. In addition, obvious signs of distress, such as difficulty standing, convulsions, and unconsciousness, warrant emergency attention.

What to Do if Your Animal Is Having an Emergency?

If your pet has an emergency, the first step is to stay calm and seek veterinary care as soon as possible. You can stabilise your pet by keeping them cool, providing oxygen, and preventing further injury. However, it is important to understand that only a qualified veterinarian can provide the necessary treatment for an animal emergency, so you should get your pet to a vet immediately.

Got a question?

We’re here to help you with any urgent enquiries or assistance you might need. Need a little extra help, or not sure if you should bring your pet in for a check-up? Give our team a call and we’ll happily answer your questions.