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Life threatening emergencies are generally rather obvious: severe bleeding, broken legs, pets hit by cars, continuous seizures. Always remember your own safety in dealing with animals in severe pain. Try to gently support the injury while moving your pet to our office.
Less obvious, but equally urgent emergencies, include gastric distention (bloat), urinary blockage, and pyometra (infection of the uterus). Signs of bloat, usually seen in large, deep-chested dogs, are an inability to get comfortable, drooling due to a difficulty swallowing, and a distended abdomen. This disease can rapidly lead to shock and death if not treated immediately. Urinary blockages are usually seen in male cats, but can occur in male dogs and, less commonly, in female dogs and cats. These animals will strain to urinate frequently with little or no urine produced. Male cats tend to vocalize while straining. This emergency can lead to kidney failure, bladder rupture, and death if not treated quickly. Pyometra, an infection of the uterus, is a chronic disease that is always treated as an emergency when diagnosed. By the time your pet shows signs, which include a discharge from the vagina, excessive urination and drinking, she is already experiencing kidney failure and other serious metabolic changes. Emergency surgery is necessary.
Other conditions requiring immediate attention include various poisonings. Anytime you suspect your pet has swallowed antifreeze, you should call a veterinarian immediately. This poison MUST be treated before your pet acts ill in order to save him. Rat and mouse poisonings must also be treated immediately to allow for uncomplicated recoveries. Ibuprofen and acetaminophen (Tylenol), especially in cats, can be poisonous and should be treated early if suspected. Always consult a veterinarian before giving your pet any human medicine. And don’t forget that chocolate is poisonous to dogs and cats.
The list of emergency situations which are not life threatening is very long, comprising most cases seen at emergency clinics. Probably the best advice for these cases is to realize that a behavior change is the first sign noted in most illnesses in pets. You are the expert concerning your pet’s behavior. If you believe a significant change in behavior has occurred, seek veterinary attention soon. It is better for us to determine nothing is seriously wrong, than for a true emergency to go untreated.