cross.jpg 24-Hour Emergency Services                                                                                                phone.jpg 757-935-9111


When Does Your Pet Need to Go to an Emergency Room?

Jun 13, 2017


When in doubt...check it out!

If you are concerned about the health and welfare of your pet, please do not ever feel embarrassed or hesitant about calling an animal emergency hospital for guidance. By providing some basic information about your pet’s situation, the hospital team member will be able to tell you whether you should bring your pet in immediately or should wait for an examination with your primary care veterinarian.

Emergency Symptoms

You know your pet better than anyone else does. And if something does not seem right or you just need peace of mind, please contact your veterinarian. However, if you notice any of the following signs or symptoms, your pet may need immediate attention. Contact your veterinarian or visit a nearby emergency animal hospital right away.

• Allergic Reatcions • Drooling/or Salivating Profusely • Pale or Discolored Gums
• Behavior Changes
• Excessive Thirst • Poison/Toxin ingestion
• Bite Wounds • Eye Injury • Profound Weakness
• Black Stool • Frostbite • Seizures
• Bleeding • Heat Stroke • Snake Bites
• Breathing Difficulties • Insect Sting/Bite* • Swelling
• Broken Bones • Labor/Delivery Difficulties • Swollen Abdomen
• Collapse • Lethargy/Collapse • Trauma
• Coughing
(excessive or w/ blood)
• Loss of Use of Rear Legs • Unconsciousness
• Choking • Not Eating or Drinking • Urination or Defecation Straining
• Cuts or Lacerations • Pain • Vomiting
• Diarrhea    

*That cause breathing difficulty, bleeding, pale gums, sudden diarrhea, vomiting, etc.


Where to Go: Primary Care Veterinarian or Animal Emergency Hospital?

Primary Care Veterinarian

We, humans, have primary care physicians, and it’s equally important for your pet to have a primary care veterinarian (also called a family or general veterinarian), too. This professional provides ongoing preventive care to keep your pet healthy and is available to diagnose and treat most illnesses and injuries during regular business hours. If advanced care is ever needed, your primary care veterinarian will refer you to the appropriate veterinary specialist, such as those who work at The COVE. Many primary care veterinarians can also care for some urgent situations. However, if your veterinarian’s office is closed, the injury or illness is severe, proceed immediately to an emergency hospital.

Emergency Hospital: Nights/Weekends Only or 24/7?

Emergency hospitals have specially trained veterinarians, technicians, support staff, and equipment available to provide expert care for urgent potentially life-threatening illnesses and injuries at a moment’s notice or for when your family veterinarian is unavailable. Some emergency hospitals are only open evenings, weekends, and holidays (when your primary care veterinarian’s office is closed), whereas others are open 24/7. The COVE is open 24/7 and has access to specialists in critical care, surgery, cardiology, and advanced dentistry. Call 757-935-9111 anytime. No appointment is ever needed for ER.

Be Prepared for Pet Emergencies

Having a pet means the unexpected can occur at any time. The best way to handle emergencies is to be prepared—so you can help your pet as calmly, quickly, and confidently as possible. Here are some important recommendations:

  • Keep the phone numbers and addresses of your primary care veterinarian and the nearest 24-hour emergency veterinary hospital in an easily accessible place.
  • Centralize/organize your pet’s medication information (drug names and doses), collar and tags, medical records and vaccination history, microchip number, tattoo or other identifying marks, and a recent photo (in case your pet gets lost).
  • Learn basic animal first aid from a local community organization.
  • Cover your pet with pet insurance. Pet insurance companies have a variety of plans that reimburse veterinary bills  up to 80-90%. If pet insurance is not an option, you can still be financially prepared by setting aside money each month in a pet savings account. You can also sign up to for CareCredit, a healthcare financing credit card on veterinary services.
  • If you leave your pet at a boarding kennel or with a caregiver, always leave a phone number of your veterinarian and preferred ER and information about where you can be reached in case of an emergency.
  • Leave written authorization and advanced medical directives with your veterinarian and any other surrogate decision-makers regarding your pet’s care if you are unavailable.
  • Have a first aid kit nearby: First aid care is not a substitute for veterinary care, but it may save your pet's life until he or she receives veterinary treatment. You can purchase preassembled kits through pet supply stores, hunting/sporting goods stores, and online resources. Keeping a first aid kit both at home and in the car is always wise because accidents also happen on the road. Click here for a checklist from the ASPCA of recommended items to have on hand whether purchased or assembled on your own.
  • Be aware of poisonous substances: If you suspect your pet has ingested something toxic, call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control hotline, which provides 24-hour 7-day-a-week, access to experts. There is a $65 charge to consult with a toxicologist.
    • Hotline number is (888) 426-4435
    • Visit the website for more information about poisonous plants, food, household products, and more.

Safe Transport to Appropriate Care

The-COVE-Pet-Carrier.jpgBe sure to transport ill or injured animals extremely carefully. Remember, they are likely in distress, so their behavior may be unusual or frightening. Stay calm. The calmer you are in response to the situation, the more likely your pet is to react in a subdued and cooperative manner rather than aggressively.

Always call your veterinarian or the emergency hospital of choice for instructions on how to move your sick or injured animal. 

Additionally, for small animals, especially cats, be sure to keep them confined in some type of container during transport to reduce the risk of further injury. Pet carriers work well, or you can use a box—ensuring your pet has enough air. Keep in mind that it is equally important to confine larger dogs’ movement, too. You can use a board, toboggan/sled, door, throw rug, blanket, or something similar to serve as a stretcher. Restrain the cage or pet with a safety belt for maximum stability and cover the animal with a blanket if he or she appears to be cold. After a severe injury, pets may go into shock, just as human beings do.

When possible, contact the emergency room to let it know you are coming so the staff can assist you when you arrive.

As a reminder, The COVE is open 24/7/365 with a team of highly skilled and compassionate emergency clinicians at the ready.

Category: Pet Health Tips