Is it an emergency?
By DR, REBEKAH FROST – OBSERVER Columnist , Observer Today
Summer is in full swing and fall is just around the corner. This is the busiest time of year for emergencies at my clinic. Pets and their owners are outside more often and dogs and cats may come in contact with trouble more frequently when out and about. Some emergencies without a doubt should be seen immediately by a veterinarian. But there are many times that a pet owner may question what actually constitutes an emergency. Therefore, I am going to discuss what situations should be seen immediately and what can possibly wait until the next day!
1. Breathing/respiratory issues – This may include heavy breathing, heaving sides, open mouth breathing, or heavy panting. Other symptoms that may contribute to the severity of a respiratory disease include a cough, pale, dark red or bluish gums, and other changes in the pet’s attitude such as lack of appetite or weight loss. Unless your pet is just panting on occasion, I highly recommend any respiratory problem be seen by your veterinarian. Conditions that cause difficulty breathing include congestive heart failure, feline asthma, bronchitis, and fluid in your pet’s chest from a mass or an underlying viral disease.
2. Seizures Seizures can occur in your pet starting at about 3 years of age and continuing throughout your pet’s life if the animal has a form of epilepsy. What exactly happens with a seizure? Your pet may experience a wide range of seizure-like activity from mild – such as a muscle tremor – to a full blown seizure where your pet may be on its side violently tremoring, chomping its teeth, salivating, and possibly losing urine and bowel control. Although a seizure may be a scary thing to watch in your pet, it does not constitute an emergency unless it lasts more than 2 minutes or your pet is going in and out of seizures. (This is called cluster seizures.) We recommend your pet be seen if it has never had a seizure in the past or if it is a very unusual occurrence. If your pet has a seizure, put towels or blankets around it to protect the animal from injury and use caution because it could inadvertently bite you. When the animal seems to come out of the worst part of the seizure, calm it down. Then call your veterinarian.
3. Lameness – Any hind or front limb lameness should be seen depending on the extent of the lameness and the cause of the lameness. Any dog that is hit by a car with a lameness associated should be seen regardless of how severely it was hit. Other injuries may be present and can be picked up by a veterinarian. I recommend a limb lameness should be seen if your pet cannot put any weight on the leg and/or is in extreme pain. If your pet can still put some weight on the leg, then your pet can possibly wait until your veterinarian opens again.
4. Wounds – Any wound that is bigger than a puncture or a wound associated with a fight should be seen. Infection can set in fast especially in cat bite wounds and should not wait until the next day. It is important to start your pet on antibiotics and close any wounds while the skin edges are still fresh.
5. Toxin ingestion or foreign body ingestion – If you know your pet has ingested a toxic substance such as rat poison, chocolate, or your own prescription medications, do not wait! Call your vet immediately. Depending on what has been ingested your veterinarian may recommend something to help your pet vomit or they may recommend your pet be seen for detoxification. Also if your pet has swallowed a bone, a ball, or any other foreign object they should be seen before the object causes an obstruction and your pet becomes ill.
6. Urinary issues If your pet is drinking more and squatting to urinate frequently it may have a urinary infection. Provide your pet with plenty of fresh cool water and your veterinarian may recommend a pain medication until your pet can be seen. I recommend your pet be seen immediately if your pet is squatting to urinate and no urine is being produced or if you see any blood in the urine. If your pet is attempting to urinate with no urine production this is a serious emergency and they may have a urinary blockage. Any cat or dog that remains blocked for more than 12 hours may go into acute kidney failure, become severely dehydrated and will not survive unless a urinary catheter is passed and the blockage is relieved.
7. Allergic reactions I get many calls about allergic reactions. This may be mild like slight facial swelling from a bee sting to severe where your pet may go into anaphylactic shock. Mild facial swelling can be controlled with antihistamines and we recommend calling your veterinarian for a proper dose. If your pet is having difficulty breathing, is becoming covered in hives, or has pale mucous membranes call your veterinarian to be seen immediately.
Of course there are many more situations that you may find your pet in that I have not discussed. If ever in doubt, please feel free to call the clinic at 366-7440. We try to make sure we are available evenings and weekends to take your calls or give you other options if we cannot take your call. Our goal at the Dunkirk Animal Clinic is to help provide your pet with the best quality of life and to be prepared for an emergency. Again, don’t hesitate to call with any questions!
Veterinarian Rebekah Frost’s column “For Pet’s Sake” appears monthly in the OBSERVER.