Newtown Veterinary Clinic

03 5221 5333

How do I know if it is an EMERGENCY?

HOW DO I KNOW IF IT’S AN EMERGENCY???

When pets are part of our family, and they can’t speak to us to tell us if something is wrong, its natural to worry about them.

Some ailments require prompt treatment, whilst others can wait until the morning or after the weekend. How can you know the difference? Below is a guide based on problems we see most often, as to what is urgent and what can wait.
 
Anything is worth at least a call if you're not sure what's wrong, but some things require urgent attention.

The following require urgent or prompt attention:

  • Seizure, fainting or collapse. 
  • Eye injury, no matter how mild it appears to you
  • Vomiting – if many times in a day and the dog is distressed
  • Diarrhoea – if there is a lot of blood or frequency of motion is hourly or more 
  • Allergic reactions, such as swelling around the face (urgent), or hives, most easily seen on the belly
  • Any suspected poisoning, including rodent or snail bait, and human medication. Cats are especially sensitive to insecticides (such as flea-control medication for dogs) or anything that can be licked off their coats including fertiliser and oils
  • Snake or venomous spider bites. 
  • Tick paralysis – if you travel to an area with paralysis ticks for holidays, ensure you have your pet protected and know what to watch for if they are unlucky enough to have a tick lodge on them
  • Thermal stress -- from being either too cold or too hot -- even if the pet seems to have recovered. The internal story could be quite different.
  • Any wound or laceration that's open and bleeding, or any animal bite especially if a dog fight involved shaking of the victim
  • Trauma, such as being hit by a car, even if the pet seems fine. Again, the situation could be quite different on the inside.
  • Any respiratory problem  that is unusual for your pet:  trouble breathing, water related distress (ie choking, near drowning)
  • Straining to urinate or defecate for more than 24hrs. Sooner if a cat is straining to urinate and passing nothing

Although some other problems aren't life threatening, they may be causing your pet pain and should be taken care of over public holiday periods or weekends instead of waiting until a working day. Signs of pain include panting, laboured breathing, lethargy, restlessness, crying out, aggression and loss of appetite. Some pets seek company when suffering, while others will withdraw. Remember, it is important to know what is NORMAL for YOUR pet, as a bit of panting for some dogs is normal when they are stressed, whereas for others it may mean they are really in distress.

Some ailments that usually don’t require urgent attention:

  • Licking at paws – if it is driving the pet crazy, sure it can be seen at pet emergency, but it isn’t urgent
  • Limping – mild to moderate limping is best treated by resting your pet, which means no playing with other dogs, no jumping, no walks. Then see your vet the next business day 
  • Shaking – this is a tricky one, as it is very non-specific. It doesn’t tell us anything in particular, except that the dog isn’t quite right. In the absence of any of the signs above in the urgent list, rest your dog and see how they respond after 24 hours
  • Ear infections – unless really upsetting your dog, this can usually wait until regular hours
  • New/changed lumps – if you notice a lump that isn’t bleeding, infected, or seriously bothering your dog, it can wait. A small amount of bleeding can be treated by applying pressure to the area for several minutes. Cleaning  other lumps with dilute betadine and monitoring may save a trip to emergency also.
  • Vomiting or diarrhoea – isolated incidents with an otherwise happy pet. 
  • As a general rule, if there is something that worries you, but your pet is doing all its normal activities and it doesn’t fit the urgent list previously, most likely rest and monitoring for 24hours may result in your pet being back to its normal self.

When in doubt, err on the side of caution and call an emergency clinic for advice. Be familiar with the location of your local after hours clinic (Geelong Animal Emergency, 102 Fyans Street, Geelong, 03 5222 2139. If on holidays, take a minute to find out where the nearest after hours clinic is, as it could save your pet in a real emergency.