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Having a fur baby isn’t always a walk in the park or a bag of catnip. Like people, pets get into real trouble and how their owners react could mean the difference between life and death for them.

If you don’t know what to do in case of a pet emergency you’re not alone. We all know what to do if a person is in medical distress, get them to the ER room! But it’s not so simple for your cat or dog.

The purpose of this guide isn’t to fill you with anxiety and turn you into a helicopter pet parent. By the end, I hope you understand what constitutes an emergency for your cat or dog and what to do in the event of one.

What Constitutes an Emergency

Before you know what to do during an emergency you need to identify when your pet is in an emergency situation. It’s more difficult to tell when an animal is having an emergency than it is with a person. This is especially true for anxious pet owners who are always fretting over their car or dog.

If you’re an anxious pet owner you’ve probably had thoughts like:

  • Should my dog be panting that much?
  • Is it normal for my cat to throw-up like that?
  • Is my dog having a seizure or just dreaming?
  • My cat’s sleeping a lot, is she sick?

That’s why I’m starting this blog with a list of situations where you don’t need to think, you just need to act immediately, because these are definitely emergency situations.

13 Animal Emergencies Requiring a Vet

  1. Severe or unstoppable bleeding from a cut or raw skin.
  2. Trouble breathing. This could mean choking, constant coughing or gagging.
  3. Signs of internal bleeding. Internal bleeding can be detected by a bloody nose, mouth, rectum, or blood in the urine.
  4. Your pet is in pain while trying to go to the washroom.
  5. You suspect they have injured their eyes. Your pet’s eyes are vulnerable. Take them to an emergency center immediately if they’re injured.
  6. You believe your pet may have eaten something poisonous. Remember different foods are poisonous to cats and dogs. If your dog eats chocolate you should take it to an emergency clinic.
  7. Seizures and or staggering.
  8. Severe or prolonged limping can often mean a broken or fractured bone.
  9. Heat stress or heatstroke. Symptoms of this include panting, drooling, restlessness, red tongue, trouble breathing, vomiting, diarrhea and weakness. The signs are similar in cats and dogs but are less visible in cats.
  10. Vomiting or diarrhea that lasts more than 24-hours or is combined with other symptoms listed here.
  11. Refusal to drink water for more than 24-hours.
  12. Unconsciousness.
  13. Signs of pain or severe anxiety.

If you’re not seeing any of the above symptoms, but you’re still concerned for your pet’s health, call your vet. As a veterinarian, pet owner and animal lover I can assure you, no vet will ever be upset with you for taking your cat or dog’s health too serious.

Pet First Aid

Now that we have defined what constitutes an emergency, it’s time to discuss what to do during an emergency.

Priority is getting them to the nearest vet clinic. This may take several minutes so there is a chance you will need to administer some first aid. First aid for your pet is similar to first aid for a child or baby.

If there is a bleeding wound try to apply pressure to slow the bleeding. If your dog appears to be choking you can use your hand to reach into their mouth and try to clear the blockage or a very gentle Heimlich maneuver.

A makeshift stretcher can be fashioned out of blankets, sheets or towels, but always remember to be extra careful with an injured animal.

If your dog or cat is experiencing seizures try to loosely wrap them in a towel or blanket to help prevent them from hitting their head. Don’t try to restrict their movements with force though, they’re not in control of their muscles.

Emergency Pet Clinics

In an emergency situation, the priority is to get your pet to an open animal hospital. Unlike regular hospitals, veterinary emergency clinics aren’t usually open 24-hours a day, 7-days a week.

It’s important you speak with your vet about this. Tell them where you live and ask them to recommend the closest emergency animal clinic. Contact that clinic and find out what their hours of operation are as they likely aren’t 24/7.

Make sure you store the clinic’s contact information on your phone as well as somewhere in the house. It’s a good idea to practice driving to the clinic a few times. If you’ve never been there before it will be difficult to find directions during a real emergency.


Has your pet ever been in an emergency situation? Did you know what to do? Now that you’ve read this post would you have done things differently? Let me know in the comments. If you have any related questions leave them in the comments below and I’ll be sure to answer them.


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