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The Holidays Are Upon Us...

They are and and in the spirit of giving, and gift exchanges we often inadvertently place those who love us unconditionally at risk. In fact, holidays are kind of double whammy when it comes to pet emergencies. Like everyone in society, veterinarians and vet clinics need downtime too. So, what do you do if a pet emergency arises at the worst possible time? Well, first, it is important to know what to look for, so you know when to act.

According to the VMHA the top ten most common veterinary emergencies in pets are:


If your pet has ingested something toxic, you’ll know it. Signs of toxicity include: vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, excessive salivation, difficulty breathing and lethargy. Depending on how a particular substance affects your pet’s body and how much was ingested, inhaled or even absorbed through the skin. In severe cases, they can also develop neurological signs, such as wobbliness, tremors and convulsions, that can evolve to coma and death.

Even if you aren’t sure what your pet has eaten or inhaled, don’t wait to find out. If you notice any of the signs mentioned above, get to the emergency vet as soon as possible.

Persistent Vomiting & Diarrhea

Persistent is the key word here, especially if it occurs with other signs, like decreased appetite, abdominal pain and/or lethargy. It could also be a sign of parasites, food allergies or other diseases. But your pet’s life could be at risk if it is the result of eating something toxic, having an intestinal obstruction or a viral or bacterial infection.

The important thing is not wait. Persistent vomiting and diarrhea can lead to dehydration, especially in small or younger pets, and metabolic disturbances, and can result in death.

If there is bleeding, remember to keep track of the amount and color of the stool, as well as the presence of blood and if it dark or bright red. Abdominal distension and repeated, unproductive attempts at vomiting are often an early indication of Gastric Dilatation and/or Volvulus (when a loop of intestine twists around itself and the mesentery that supplies it, causing a bowel obstruction). If so, do not wait – get to the emergency vet immediately.


Yeah, it can happen even when it is cold outside. Heatstroke is a condition that occurs from an extremely high body temperature. The most common causes are keeping your pet in a hot car, even when it is cool outside, and of course if you are enjoying a holiday in a warmer climate, walking during the hottest hours, going to the beach or intensively exercising your pet on a warm day can contribute. It is also often the brachycephalic breeds, whose short muzzle prevents efficient heat displacement that are at greatest risk.

Signs can vary from heavy panting, excessive salivation, collapse, and weakness to death. If you suspect your dog is having early signs of heatstroke, get him or her to a cool place immediately, and take a temperature. The vets will need that info.

Respiratory distress

Respiratory distress could be a sign of a heart or respiratory problem, or even a more serious condition, like an embolism, feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), or even a viral and fatal disease especially in younger cats. So, if your pet’s breathing suddenly changes without warning, this is a sign that something is very wrong. Be aware of: open mouth breathing (in cats), coughing heavily, increased breathing rate, or increased breathing effort.


Falling from windows, jumping from high heights, being run over by cars, fighting other animals, especially unsocialized or wild animals are likely causes of trauma that will probably need in most cases an urgent visit to the emergency vet.

These all could lead to fractures, lacerations and/or soft tissue trauma (injuries to the skin, muscle, tendons and ligaments), causing one or more bleeding focus. Bear in mind the bleeding may be internal and thus might not seem so bad externally do to the depth of the bite. It’s nothing to fool with so, when transporting your pet, try to reduce your pet’s movements and put pressure on these bleeding points.


Some seizure signs are more obvious than others but are often very brief. If a seizure is occurring, you may notice muscles twitching or uncontrollable spasms, but sometimes you will only see loss of consciousness, drooling or atypical eye movements. Generally, seizures, especially new onset are caused by a metabolic issue that may be life-threatening.

If your pet has just had their first seizure, or the seizure lasts for more than a couple of minutes or has had multiple seizures within a short period of time, seek veterinary attention immediately.

Fainting/Syncope/Loss of Consciousness

Fainting or syncope occurs when blood flow to the brain is inadequate. This could be caused by many things, a heart problem, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), low levels of calcium (hypocalcemia) or sodium (hyponatremia) in the blood, certain medications that can affect blood pressure or your pet could have eaten something toxic.

Urinary obstruction

Urinary obstruction is an acute obstruction of the urinary tract most commonly affecting male cats, especially the neutered ones. It can be caused by stones but is usually due to a plug of inflammatory debris and crystals. The underlying cause is sometimes unknown, but it may be related to a urinary tract infection, stress, genetic factors or diet.

If your cat looks for the litter box too often or tries to urinate outside of it, or if your pet urinates little or not at all each time, sometimes even vocalizing, the urinary tract may be blocked, and immediate veterinary assistance is needed.

Acute constipation/Bowel obstruction

If your pet struggles to evacuate and starts to push harder, it’s definitely a sign of constipation. Untreated and chromic constipation can cause an intestinal blockage. This is known as an impaction.

So, if your pet doesn’t evacuate its bowels for two days (two days being one day longer than their usual bowel movement frequency), it’s time to take him to the emergency vet.

Acute allergic reaction/Anaphylaxis

Pets can also be allergic to all sorts of things, from mild irritations through to full blown anaphylaxis, a serious allergic reaction that is rapid in onset and can prove fatal.

Symptoms typically come on over minutes to hours, with your pet showing signs of swelling of the location where a bite occurred, itchiness, sneezing, congested and uncomfortable, but in severe cases they may show: breathing difficulties, rapid heart rate, increased body temperature, vomiting and/or diarrhea, shock, unconsciousness and collapse.

If your pet begins to show swelling or any other signs of a bad allergic reaction, call the emergency vet right away. If you know what bit it or what is the origin of the allergy, you should let the vet know this as well.

So what can you do?

It’s important to be prepared, but don’t spend too much time worrying about them, otherwise you and your pet will not be able to enjoy each other’s company.

The best way is by downloading the Minson’s Guide to Veterinary Hospitals App available on Googleplay and Apple

That way, no matter where you are, the time of day and especially if traveling, you will have no trouble locating a good quality emergency vet facility.


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