As an owner, it is sometimes difficult to know the severity of your pet's injury or illness and to decide whether or not the situation requires veterinary attention.

When in doubt, please contact your veterinarian or the closest veterinary hospital.

Pet Emergencies That Should Be Evaluated Immediately

  • Difficulty breathing, choking, non-stop gagging, and/or coughing
  • Severe bleeding or bleeding that does not stop within five minutes
  • Bloat (i.e, distended/bloated abdomen, pain, and lethargy)
  • You suspect or know your pet has ingested something poisonous
  • Inability to urinate, straining, or obvious pain while trying to urinate\
  • Inability to pass feces, straining, or obvious pain while trying to pass feces
  • Allergic Reaction (i.e., swelling, hypersalivation, hives/welts, severe itching/sneezing)
  • Obvious signs of pain or extreme anxiety (i.e, pacing, heavy panting, hiding, or vocalization)
  • Heat stress or stroke (i.e., heavy panting, bright red gums, hyperventilation, hypersalivation. In severe cases: vomiting/diarrhea, pale gums, or tremors)
  • Severe lameness or the inability to move
  • Severe vomiting or diarrhea
  • Injuries to the eye
  • Seizure activity
  • Bite wounds

Large, deep chested dogs are especially prone to acquiring this critical condition. The stomach fills with swallowed air or excessive stomach gases, becoming over-distended. At that point, the dog is unable to belch or vomit, and cannot release any pressure. The stomach continues to extend and often rotates. This excessive extension and ensuing twisting cuts off circulation to the stomach tissues causing severe pain, shock, and eventual death within hours.

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The chest usually has "negative pressure" (or vacuum) between the lung tissue and the chest wall (ribs and muscle); any leaks in the system severely jeopardize the breathing mechanism. If this vacuum effect disappears, the body cannot draw air into the lungs. Or, if enough air, blood, or tissue leak between the lungs and the chest wall, then the lungs cannot expand to inhale enough air.

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Pets, like children, can choke by chewing on small toys, balls, pieces of toys, bones, rawhides, etc. An  object may simply be lodged between teeth or at the back of the throat while the animal can still breathe; however, a true choking victim has the object completely blocking the airway, allowing minimal or no air to pass. These patients are critical, and time is crucial.

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Injury to the eye may occur as a result of direct trauma, sudden environmental changes (low humidity, strong winds, heavy dust), glaucoma, systemic infections or inflammation, and/or a culmination of chronic symptoms. Additionally, breed disposition may increase the risk of various types of eye problems.

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The veterinarian will examine the injured limb and perform the necessary radiographs for evaluation. The sooner proper treatment is initiated, the sooner pain management can begin, infections kept under control, and healing can progress. Surgery may or may not be indicated.

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Most seizures will stop within a few minutes, though the animal may be a little confused, dazed, or agitated for another few moments or few hours longer. Be aware, it is not uncommon for additional seizures to occur within the first 24 hours. Potential causes may be epilepsy, a toxin/poison, head trauma, heat stroke, a brain tumor, infection in the brain or spinal cord, or low blood sugar.

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Shock is a result of severe trauma or certain medical conditions. In shock, the blood fails to circulate properly; as a result, the organs and tissues do not get enough oxygen to function normally.
Shock needs to be managed with intravenous fluids and medications administered by a veterinarian; therefore, your pet needs to be seen by a veterinarian immediately to increase its chances for survival.

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With any trauma, it is strongly advised to have the animal seen immediately by a veterinarian. After a traumatic incident, it may be easy to evaluate external injuries (cuts, bruises, hurt legs, broken teeth, etc.), but many times internal injuries have occurred. Without immediate diagnosis and appropriate treatment of such internal injuries, the animal could die within hours.

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Normal Values


Temperature: 99.5-102.5
Pulse: 80-140
Respirations (breaths/min): 14-40

Temperature: 100-102.5
Pulse: 150-180
Respirations (breaths/min): 20-40