First Aid & Emergencies Part 2: When to Seek Help

Last time, we talked about getting comfortable with the at-home exam so that you are comfortable knowing what is normal for your pet.  This week, we’ll focus on what constitutes an emergency and give you some guidelines for when to seek immediate care.

Things that warrant immediate veterinary attention include:

  • Any severe difficulty in breathing – increased abdominal effort to breathing, bluish-discoloration to the gums, open-mouth breathing in cats
  • Anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction) – typically manifested as collapse or extreme lethargy, severe vomiting or diarrhea that is acute in nature, or severe facial swelling**
    • **Mild facial swelling may sometimes be treated on an outpatient basis or even at home with the advice of your veterinarian and is rarely life-threatening; however, in severe cases the swelling can be so significant as to partially occlude the airway, making immediate treatment vitally important
  • Ongoing bleeding that is not responding to applied pressure
  • Dragging limbs, ataxia (“drunk” walking), or inability to walk
  • Extreme lethargy/depression
  • Temperature greater than 105 degrees F
  • Prolonged seizures or more than 2 seizures in 24 hours
    • A single seizure does not always warrant immediate veterinary attention if the patient is alert and “back to normal” quickly thereafter; however, we always recommend contacting your veterinarian if your pet has a seizure and has no previous history of them
  • Bite wounds — with penetrating bite wounds, what we see from the surface is often “only the tip of the iceberg” — thus, it’s usually best to seek veterinary attention for all but the most superficial of bite wounds
  • Protracted vomiting and/or diarrhea – in many cases, a single episode of vomiting or diarrhea does not need immediate attention; however, if it is accompanied by lethargy or other symptoms we recommend at least consulting with your veterinarian.
  • Fractured limbs or penetrating wounds
  • Injuries to the eye — in general, our rule of thumb with any acute issue affecting the eye is that it should be seen as quickly as possible to ensure treatment is started in a timely manner
  • Known or high suspicion of ingestion of a toxin/poison or foreign object
  • Last but not least, you know your pet best of all, so even if there is not an obvious or clear-cut problem but you just feel that something is “off” we recommend consulting with your veterinarian.

What can I do while getting veterinary help?

  • Stay calm
  • Contact your veterinary hospital, or the emergency hospital if after-hours, to get advice and to let them know you are coming in so they can be fully prepared
  • If known trauma, keep your pet warm and keep movement to a minimum
  • Drive carefully on your way in!

We are fortunate to have many great emergency hospitals in the area, which serve as an excellent resource for you and your pets during hours when your primary veterinarian may not be available.

The American Veterinary Medical Association recently released a video on pet CPR, which we encourage everyone to watch at least once.

And, as we mentioned in the last installment, there are some really great online resources available:

Check out Clarendon Animal Care’s Calendar of Upcoming Events, including the AWLA Walk for the Animals on 5/7, Taste of Arlington on 5/15, and a Yappy Hour to benefitAWLA on 5/26!