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Be Prepared for A Pet Emergency

Pet emergencies happen every day, so it’s important to stay prepared in case something was to happen! When in doubt about the need to seek medical attention for an injured or sick pet, always err on the side of caution. Don't delay in seeking veterinary care if you think there could be a problem.

The following Q&A address some major points about pet emergencies.

Q: What household items should you never use without talking with your veterinarian first?

Many of the medications used in treating pets are the same ones used in people. The amoxicillin your physician prescribes is just the same as the amoxicillin to treat your cat's abscess.

But several important differences exist between humans and pets. Acetaminophen (the main ingredient in Tylenol), which we use for everyday aches and pains, can cause deadly consequences if given to a cat or dog.

Some OTC drugs that should never be used in your dog or cat:

  • Ibuprofen (Advil) - causes kidney and gastrointestinal damage.
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) - causes liver and red blood cell damage.
  • Naproxen (Aleve) - causes kidney and gastrointestinal damage.
  • Ketoprofen (Orudis) - causes kidney and gastrointestinal damage.
  • Phosphate-containing enemas (Fleet) - causes a variety of symptoms.
  • Most cold and flu remedies, such as Nyquil

Remember never to give your own medication to your pet, and never give the prescription intended for one pet to another.

Q: What are some signs that should have you heading for a veterinarian? 

A: You know your pet, and you know what’s normal for their behavior and habits. If something seems amiss, it’s probably worth having a veterinarian take a look. If you’re traveling with your pet, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with local emergency clinics in the city you’ll be visiting and make sure you bring along copies of pertinent medical records and a supply of any medications your pet is on.

Some sure signs that trouble is afoot, and you should head into your nearest animal ER include: 

  • Difficulty breathing, including open-mouth breathing in cats.
  • Straining to urinate, especially in male cats.
  • Non-productive vomiting, especially if accompanied by a distended abdomen.
  • Seizures
  • Difficulty in giving birth, straining to pass a puppy for over 30 minutes.
  • Greenish, reddish, or foul-smelling vaginal discharge in an unspayed female dog.
  • Pain
  • Inability to get up or use the back legs in cats.
  • Severe weakness or lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Not eating for over 24 hours
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Bleeding or severe wounds (larger than a dime)

Q: What is the most important thing a pet owner can do in an emergency?

A: Quick thinking, quick acting, and cooperation with your pet’s healthcare team are the key factors in ensuring a good outcome when you have an emergency. Be honest with the doctor about your wishes regarding what you feel is right for your pet and your financial abilities. Listen to what the doctor has to say and provide a concise and logical history. 

  1. Consider an insurance policy for your pet. Pet insurance is now becoming more common and is even offered by some employers as a part of a benefits package. For major trauma or illness, it can reduce the sting of the final bill considerably and take some of the stress of financial decision-making out of the equation so you can focus on what you feel is medically right for your pet.
  1. Don’t believe your dog will always come to you when called – use a leash! You may have a well-trained dog who obeys your (almost) every move, but if he sees a squirrel across the street, all that training can be lost in the blink of an eye.
  1. Get your pet spayed or neutered. Spaying your female dog prevents devastating uterine infections, greatly decreases the risk of mammary cancers, and prevents unwanted pregnancies. Neutering your male dog decreases roaming behavior and injuries and decreases inter-dog aggression. Although uncommon, it also minimizes the risk of prostatic infections - but it does not change the risk of prostate cancers.

A little bit of preparation and prevention can really pay off when it comes to pet emergencies. Continue to practice preparedness to ensure their safety and security by following the above tips and other advice from your pet’s veterinarian.