When should I call the Vet?
Most pet parents have been in a situation like this: Buster
slipped on the way down the stairs and now heís walking with a limp. Itís
11:00 at nightóshould you call your veterinarian, or are you just being a
Youíre never wrong to call.
If youíre concerned about your pet, you should never feel embarrassed
about calling a veterinarian. Veterinarians are used to emergencies and they
prepare for them.
Most veterinary hospitals have doctors on-call or provide referrals to
emergency pet hospitals, so donít worry about waking your veterinarian out
of a sound sleep. In fact, all AAHA-accredited hospitals are required to
provide 24-hour access to emergency care, either in their own facility or
through referral to another hospital.
Remember, you know your pet better than anyone else.
If you notice your pet behaving in a way thatís unusual for her, or if
something just doesnít seem right, you may have picked up on a subtle sign
of a real problem. To find out, you can call your veterinary hospital, or an
emergency animal hospital near you. By asking a few questions over the phone,
an emergency veterinarian should be able to tell you whether you should bring
your pet in right away, or whether she can wait for an examination during your
hospitalís normal office hours. Even if you find out nothingís wrong,
youíll be glad to have your mind at ease.
There are some times, however, when you wonít need to call first.
If you notice any of the following problems, take your pet in immediately
for emergency care.
- Your pet has been experienced some kind of trauma, such as being hit by
a car or a blunt object or falling more than a few feet. (Falling, not
jumping as cats do)
- Your pet isnít breathing or you canít feel a heartbeat.
- Your pet is unconscious and wonít wake up.
- Your pet has been vomiting or has had diarrhea for more than 24 hours,
or she is vomiting blood.
- You suspect any broken bones.
- Your pet is having trouble breathing or has something stuck in her
- Your pet has had or is having a seizure.
- Your pet is bleeding from the eyes, nose, or mouth, or there is blood in
her urine or feces.
- You think your pet might have ingested something toxic, such as
antifreeze, rat poison, any kind of medication that wasnít prescribed to
her, or household cleansers.
- Your pet, particularly your male cat, is straining to urinate, or is
- Your pet shows signs of extreme pain, such as whining, shaking, and
refusing to socialize.
- Your pet collapses or suddenly canít stand up.
- Your pet begins bumping into things or suddenly becomes disoriented.
- You can see irritation or injury to your petís eyes, or she suddenly
seems to become blind.
- Your petís abdomen is swollen and hard to the touch, and/or sheís
gagging and trying to vomit.
- You see symptoms of heatstroke.
- Your pregnant dog or cat has gone more than three to four hours between
delivering puppies or kittens.
What to do if itís an emergency:
If you notice any of the symptoms above or you suspect a serious problem,
try to get directly in touch with a veterinary professional. Donít leave a
voicemail or use the Internet or email.
Your first step is to call your veterinarian.
If youíre in an unfamiliar city, look in the phone book under
"Veterinarians" and call the nearest emergency hospital.
Once you decide to bring your pet in for emergency treatment, make sure you
know where youíre going and how to get your pet there safely. If you have
any questions about directions or how to move your ill or injured pet, call
the hospital and ask.
The best way to deal with pet emergencies is to prepare for them, just in
case. The next time you bring your pet in for a checkup, ask your veterinarian
what you should do in case of emergency. Find out whether your animal hospital
is open 24 hours, or whether they refer emergency cases on evenings and
weekends. If they refer, get the name, address, and phone number of the
emergency facility they refer to.
Keep your veterinarianís name and number on an emergency sheet near the
phone, right next to the numbers for your doctor, fire department, and poison-
If your veterinarian refers evening and weekend emergencies to another
hospital, write down that hospitalís name and number too, as well as what
hours your doctor refers cases there. This way, if an emergency catches you
off guard, you wonít have to file through drawers or folders looking for
business cards. You may also want to have a list of pet first aid tips easily
accessible, along with guidelines for human first aid.
Most important, remember to trust your instincts. You know and love your
pet, and you have the right to be worried if something seems wrong. Emergency
veterinary professionals are there for youónever be afraid to call.
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