Our dogs and cats hate to let us know when they’re not feeling well. It’s instinctive for them to hide illness and even injuries if possible.
Some emergencies are obvious, though, and an emergency, by definition, requires immediate treatment. Any time your pet experiences one of the following conditions, you need to get him to the veterinarian on the double, whether it’s noon or nighttime, weekend or holiday.
▪ Hit by car. Even if your pet appears to be OK, he could have serious internal injuries.
▪ Falling out a high window. Cats have a reputation for surviving high falls, but that doesn’t mean they don’t sustain injuries.
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▪ Blood gushing from an artery or bleeding from the mouth, nose or rectum.
▪ Loss of consciousness.
▪ Difficulty breathing, which can indicate choking, poisoning or heart failure.
▪ Sudden collapse or paralysis.
▪ Bloody vomiting or diarrhea.
▪ Broken bones, difficulty walking or reluctance to put weight on a limb.
▪ Gums that are pale instead of a healthy pink.
▪ Seizures, tremors or staggering, which can indicate poisoning or neurological problems.
▪ Known ingestion of antifreeze, Easter lilies, rat poison, items containing xylitol or other toxic substances.
Some pets are more prone to certain types of emergencies than others. Cats, for instance, love to nibble on plants and can develop fatal kidney failure from eating any part of a lily, even small amounts of pollen.
In male cats, straining to urinate can signal an obstructed urinary tract. When that happens, toxins build up quickly and can kill the cat if the blockage isn’t relieved rapidly. Cats who strain to defecate should also be seen right away.
Dogs, especially males but sometimes females, can also develop urinary obstructions from bladder stones or prostate disease. Breeds at higher risk include Dalmatians, bulldogs and black Russian terriers.
An enlarged stomach accompanied by drooling, panting and retching without bringing anything up is a sign of gastric dilatation volvulus, commonly known as bloat and often seen in deep-chested dogs. Never “wait and see” if your dog shows these signs.
Dogs are notorious for eating anything they run across, which leaves them open to ingesting toxic foods and pharmaceuticals. Take your dog in if he eats grapes or raisins, fungi such as mushrooms or toadstools, dark chocolate, any food containing the sweetener xylitol, or drugs such as Tylenol, nasal spray or eye drops.
Another common pet emergency is severe vomiting and diarrhea accompanied by appetite loss. Those signs may be early indicators of life-threatening disease or gastrointestinal obstruction. Pets left untreated, especially cats or toy-breed dogs, can quickly become weak and dehydrated.
Pets with flat faces such as bulldogs, pugs and Persian cats are prone to heatstroke. If these pets are restless, have a rapid pulse, have trouble breathing or are panting or drooling, it’s an emergency.
Cat and dog breeds such as Maine coons, ragdolls, Persians, American shorthairs and cavalier King Charles spaniels are at risk for congestive heart failure. Signs include unusual inactivity, tiring quickly, restlessness, panting, difficulty breathing, crackly breathing sounds and pale gums.
A pet who has trouble walking may have a spinal cord injury. Dogs or cats with long backs such as dachshunds or munchkins are susceptible to ruptured intervertebral disks.
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award journalist Kim Campbell Thornton, affiliated with Vetstreet.com.