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14 Reasons to Rush Your Pet to Vet Emergency


In the United States, 39 percent of households have at least one dog, and nearly 34 percent have at least one cat, reports the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Keeping these furry family members healthy is a top priority for most pet owners, yet knowing when there's a problem can be tricky.

dog owners

Dog owners spend an average of $219 a year on veterinary visits every year, while cat owners spend an average of $175, according to HSUS.

Neither dogs nor cats are complainers, and they generally will not make crying or yelping noises unless they are in extreme pain. Cats, meanwhile, may purr if they feel sick or if they're content, while dogs, being pack animals by nature, will often downplay any signs of illness for fear of being cast off by their "pack" (a.k.a. you).

So how is a responsible pet owner to know when something's really wrong versus when a regular vet appointment two or three days away will do?

You know your pet best, and generally if you notice any changes in eating, drinking, personality, or activity -- or see excessive scratching, head shaking, vomiting, or diarrhea -- a trip to the vet is in order.

pet safety

Get more tips on how to keep your pet safe and sound in The Top Household Dangers to Your Pets.

The following symptoms, however, are all cause for alarm, meaning you should rush your pet to the nearest 24-hour vet emergency clinic if you see any of these signs:

  1. Swollen, tight abdomen: This is a symptom of bloat in dogs. Bloat is the second leading killer in dogs (after cancer) and can kill a dog in less than an hour. Bloat occurs when a dog swallows too much air (from eating too fast, for instance) and the stomach swells, rotates and twists, blocking veins in the abdomen and leading to shock and organ damage. Other symptoms of bloat that should never be ignored include a hunched up appearance and numerous attempts to vomit (often unsuccessfully).

  2. Labored breathing

  3. Unconsciousness

  4. Lethargy: This can be a sign of many life-threatening illnesses, including poisoning, rabies, brucellosis and more.

  5. Bloody diarrhea: Sometimes caused by bacterial infection from E. coli or campylobacter (dysentery in humans).

  6. Thick mucous from the anus (without a bowel movement): This may indicate a bowel obstruction, which can be life-threatening.

  7. Vomiting blood: May occur if your pet ate something sharp (that caused puncture wounds) or may indicate poisoning, ulcers, blood disorders or cancer.

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  1. Collapse or sudden inability to walk or stand: This could be due to shock, poisoning or electrocution.

  2. Heatstroke: Heavy panting, rapid pulse, vomiting and lethargy are all danger signs if your pet has been outdoors in hot weather. If you notice any of these, bring your pet inside and apply cool, wet towels. Get to the emergency vet immediately.

  3. Dehydration: If your pet has had severe diarrhea, he may be severely dehydrated. A sign of this is skin or fur that loses its elasticity and doesn't snap back when gently pulled.

  4. Profuse bleeding: This can be caused by a road accident, an attack by a wild or loose animal, or a fall.

  5. Seizure: This can result from a head injury or epilepsy.

  6. Unusual temperature: A fever over 105 degrees F, or a temperature under 98 degrees F (hypothermia) needs immediate attention.

  7. Broken bones

Remember, it's always best to err on the side of caution. If you're in doubt about the safety or health of your pet, seek help right away.

Recommended Reading

The Best Types of Dogs for Each Type of Function: From Guarding the Home to Companionship to Hunting

The Top 10 Names for Dogs and Cats -- and Some Tips for Naming Pets


The Humane Society of the United States

Small Dogs Paradise

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