Are You Experiencing a Pet Emergency?

This is a quick guide to help you decide if you've got a pet emergency situation on your hands.  If YOU think it’s urgent, go to a veterinarian immediately!

If you do decide to go to an urgent or emergency care center, be prepared to tell them what’s happening, how long it’s been going on and whether the situation has changed at all. If a poison is involved, take the container with you or know the name and quantity. The first step in emergency planning for pets is always remain calm!

Any pet showing these signs should see a vet right away.


Bleeding may or may not be a true pet emergency, depending on the location, duration, and a few other factors:

  • A puncture wound that’s bleeding, especially over the chest or abdomen 
  • A wound that’s still bleeding after holding pressure on it for 5 min
  • Bleeding that soaks a bandage 
  • Bleeding from the mouth, an ear, vulva or prepuce, or the anus and you don’t see a reason for it


It may come as no surprise, but breathing problems are almost always a pet emergency, including the following specific symptoms:

  • Your pet is gasping for breath
  • Your pet is breathing with its neck stretched forward
  • Your pet is breathing with its mouth open (not normal panting)
  • Your pet is a cat who is panting for no obvious reason such as heavy exercise
  • Choking
  • Your pet’s tongue or parts of its mouth look blue or grey
  • Your pet is breathing very shallowly (not taking in much air)

Dog-Specific: Bloated Abdomen

Dog bloated abdomen
  • Your dog’s belly looks distended or bloated
  • Your dog is retching without vomiting
  • Your dog is restless and pacing
  • Your dog is salivating so much it appears to be vomit but it’s all “foam”  

Cat-Specific: Constipation

Your pet is a male cat and is straining in the litter box (it can be a urinary blockage instead of constipation).

Constipation itself is generally not a true pet emergency.


Your pet has explosive diarrhea that occurs several times within an hour or two. The diarrhea may or may not contain blood, but the explosive nature is persistent.


When deciding if eye symptoms are a sign of a true pet emergency, please keep in mind that your pet only has two eyes, and sudden vision changes should never be taken lightly. The following are definite reasons to seek emergency care:

  • Your pet has an eye that is bulging
  • Your pet has an eye that is coming out of the socket
  • Bloody discharge from one or both eyes
  • Your pet cannot open it's eye


Hives alone are generally not of concern unless are your pet is also having trouble breathing or experiencing any facial swelling.


Not all ingestions are toxic, and some are dose dependant. This article will help you avoid household toxins. Furthermore, our toxins library can help you determine the urgency level for particular items. That said, the following should always be considered an emergency:

  • Your pet has ingested antifreeze
  • Your pet has ingested rat/mouse poison.  Be sure to take the container so the emergency vet knows the exact ingredients



Cat Emergency

Generally, a single seizure is not an emergency unless:

  • Your pet has never had seizures before
  • Your pet has one seizure that starts right after another (cluster seizures) 
  • Your pet has a seizure that lasts longer than 5 minutes


  • Your pet is a male cat that is straining in the litter box or is not able to urinate
  • Your pet is a male dog that is straining to urinate but not passing any urine
  • The urine being produced is actually frank blood

Just In Case

You may go to the emergency room and find out that it wasn’t as serious as you thought.  That’s the good news!  It’s always better to error on the side of seeking emergency care when it’s not needed instead of waiting and putting your pet in real danger.

As a general rule if you think you have a pet emergency on your hands, don't hesitate getting your furbaby checked out! 

Emergency planning for pets means being prepared.  Check out how to make your own Pet First Aid Kit!

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