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What is an Emergency?

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Signs That Usually Do Not Need ER Care

Symptoms that should be seen by a doctor, but not necessarily in an emergency setting include:

  • Itchiness is a common problem, but does not usually need immediate care.  The pet should be seen soon though as it is amazing how fast they can lick or scratch enough to set up an infection in the skin.
  • Reverse sneeze is a common problem, and many dogs are presented at emergency clinics because owners think they're having an asthma attack.  With reverse sneeze, the dog forcefully brings air into his nostrils.  It is usually loud and sounds terrible, but veterinarians aren't too worried about these as long as there is no nasal discharge.  You can see what reverse sneeze looks like by viewing examples on YouTube.
  • Any pet with diarrhea certainly should be examined but it does not need to be in the emergency setting as long as the pet is bright, alert, and eating well.
  • Small wounds can probably wait for your regular doctor, although you should know that dog bite wounds can have small skin openings, but have large areas of tissue damage under the skin. 

We all become worried when our beloved pets become ill, but when should we take them to an emergency hospital?  Most larger communities have an ER for pets, but when do we need to utilize one?  What symptoms are serious and need immediate attention, and what can wait until the next day for your regular doctor? The following list will help you decide. 

1.    Almost any problem involving the eye should be seen right away.  Glaucoma, corneal ulcers, and foreign bodies beneath the eyelids are common eye diseases where waiting could make the problem worse.

2.    Profuse vomiting is another sign that needs immediate attention. Vomiting has many causes.  A common reason, though, is an intestinal obstruction since pets love to eat so many weird things!  If this occurs, the pet can die in a matter of hours, so an ER trip is warranted.

3.    Difficulty breathing is also a problem that should not wait.  This symptom again has many causes but almost all need immediate attention.  Difficulty breathing may be a severe cough, but more commonly it is exaggerated effort in breathing, with pets often using their abdominal muscles to help them breathe.  At first people may not notice their pet is having difficulty, but they may note that their pet does not want to lie down.

4.    If there is active hemorrhage, of course, the pet needs to be seen by a veterinarian right away.  If there is a small wound with just a few drops of blood, it is probably OK to wait for your regular veterinarian.

5.    If your pet suddenly can't use its back legs, is dragging its rear legs, or is unable to get up, this is a reason for an emergency trip.  This is a common problem, especially in Dachshunds, and emergency surgery may be needed to save the spinal cord.  For the best outcome in these cases, time is of the essence.

6.    If your pet has its first seizure, it should be examined immediately.  Seizures are just a symptom, they have many causes, and they should be checked without delay.  The pet should be monitored closely for the next several hours as another seizure may occur.  If your pet has had seizures before, has been diagnosed with epilepsy, is on medication, and has another seizure, it may not need to visit the ER each time it has a seizure,  but if a seizure lasts more than a couple minutes, or there are clusters of seizures, then a trip to the ER is warranted.

7.    If your pet ingests a toxin, they should be taken to the emergency hospital as soon as possible.  The doctor may induce vomiting to try to eliminate some of the toxin, so time is important.  If there is even a possibility the pet ingested antifreeze, it is important to get to the ER immediately.  There is a test to determine if they did drink any of the poison, and the antidote needs to be given within a couple of hours.
8.    If your pet is pregnant, and is having difficulty having the babies, it should see the emergency veterinarian.  This problem is called a dystocia and an emergency caesarean section maybe needed.  Veterinarians advise that a puppy or kitten should be born within two hours of the mother starting active labor, and there should be no more than one hour between puppies or kittens.  But, if you see a baby stuck in the birth canal, take them to an ER right away.

Of course, there are many other problems that pets can have. Dogs and cats can get into some very odd predicaments that may also use ER care.  The dog that gets a tin can stuck to its tongue, or the bone lodged around its lower jaw, does not have a true emergency, but they sure will be happier if they can get them removed as soon as possible!

If you need advice on whether your pet's symptoms should have immediate attention, call the Emergency Hospital for advice. They will be happy to discuss your pet and their problem.

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