When a pet suddenly falls ill or is injured, their owner will generally fit in one of two camps: the type to rush to the nearest veterinarian, or the sort who would rather wait and see if their furry pal improves on their own. While not every sudden change in your pet’s condition requires urgent care, several health issues require immediate treatment to prevent serious consequences. To learn whether your furry pal needs emergency veterinary treatment, read our Animal Emergency Hospital and Urgent Care team’s description of various common pet conditions.

Common pet illness and injury scenarios

The situation: Theo, a 4-year-old pit bull, was playing fetch in the backyard, springing across the yard, chasing a wildly bouncing ball. Suddenly, he let out a yelp and began holding up his rear leg. Theo’s owner brought him inside to rest, and the dog did not exhibit any more pain signs (e.g., whining, crying, growling, avoidance of touch). Although he continued limping on the affected leg, Theo ate his regular meals and drank water as usual that day.

The plan: Although Theo appeared to be uncomfortable, he was still walking, eating, and drinking. If Theo were unable to put any weight on the legindicating a possible fractureor if he was showing other pain signs, such as anorexia or growling when touched, our Animal Emergency Hospital and Urgent Care team would recommend emergency treatment. Ideally, Theo should visit his primary veterinarian or our urgent care veterinarian within a day or two. 

The situation: Perry, an overweight 5-year-old cat, had battled urinary issues most of his life. During  his recurring cystitis bouts, Perry would urinate small, frequent amounts that were often bloody, but these issues would typically resolve. Recently, however, Perry’s owners noted that he had constantly been in his litter box, and appeared to be trying to defecate without success. Yowling in discomfort, Perry would hop out of the box. Perry’s owners believed their cat was constipated, and contacted our hospital for advice.

The plan: After learning of Perry’s presenting problem and his past urinary issues, our Animal Emergency Hospital and Urgent Care team determined that the cat was in dire need of emergency treatment. Most likely, Perry had developed a urethral obstruction that was preventing him from urinating. Many cat owners believe their cat is attempting to defecate when they are actually trying to urinate, thinking their feline friend is constipated. However, if left untreated, a urinary blockage is much more serious than constipation and can be fatal within a few days. We advised Perry’s owners to bring him in immediately so we could insert a urinary catheter and administer treatment.

The situation: Sophie, a curious, rambunctious pug puppy, loved pushing her grumpy feline housemate as far as she could before scampering away from retaliation. One day, Sophie was a bit slow in leaping back, and the cat’s paw smacked her in the face. Letting out a yelp, Sophie ran to hide under the bed. By the time she re-emerged, she was squinting and producing excessive tears. Sophie’s owners thought her eye might be a bit sore, so the family called their primary veterinarian to schedule an appointment, whose earliest availability was the next week.

The plan: Sophie’s primary care veterinarian advised her owners to seek urgent care for their pup. Because she is a brachycephalic (i.e., flat-faced) breed, Sophie’s eyes protrude, making them susceptible to injury. In addition, all animals’ eyes are extremely sensitive and—without prompt treatment—an eye injury can deteriorate rapidly. To prevent a serious problem from becoming worse, Sophie’s owners immediately scheduled an appointment with our Animal Emergency Hospital and Urgent Care team.

Guidelines for determining if your pet requires emergency treatment

Pets can be stoic even when they are in extreme pain, so don’t wait until your pet’s pain signs are obvious, because their illness or injury may have progressed too far by that point. Our Animal Emergency Hospital and Urgent Care team should see your pet immediately if they have developed any of the following issues:

  • Vomiting or diarrhea for more than 24 hours, or vomiting excessively within a short timeframe
  • Bleeding from the nose, eyes, or mouth, or blood in their urine, feces, or vomit
  • Seizures
  • A traumatic event, such as being hit by a car
  • Toxin ingestion
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Collapse, or inability to stand
  • Heatstroke signs
  • Unproductive attempts to vomit
  • A broken bone
  • Extreme pain
  • Eye injury

Numerous pet conditions can require immediate treatment, and you may be on the fence about whether your furry pal needs an immediate emergency evaluation, or if they can wait for an appointment with your primary veterinarian. When in doubt, contact our Animal Emergency Hospital and Urgent Care team for help triaging your pet’s condition over the phone.