Top 5 Tips to (Hopefully) Keep Your Pet Out of the ER

Every pet emergency is unique, but after years of serving our community, we have noticed some common injuries and illnesses that may have been preventable – especially during the holiday season. So, we thought we’d share our top 5 tips to keep your pet out of the ER so you can enjoy this festive time of year with your family and friends.

Tip #1: Keep Pet Toxins Out of Reach

Our pets have an uncanny way of getting into things that can be harmful, but keeping pet toxins out of their reach can help keep them out of the emergency room. So especially as the holidays are approaching, make sure to avoid having these items within reach:

  • Bones and fatty table scraps
  • Breakable ornaments and salt dough ornaments
  • Chocolate, yeast, garlic, and macadamia nuts
  • Garden products, mulch products, and compost piles
  • Holiday lights
  • Holly, lilies, mistletoe, and other poisonous plants
  • Household cleaning products
  • Insecticides
  • Lit candles, essential oils, and potpourri
  • Prescription and over-the-counter medications (for humans and animals!)
  • Rodenticides
  • Tinsel, string, and confetti

Tip #2: Avoid Foreign Body Ingestions

Nothing can land your pet in the ER faster than your pet ingesting a foreign body. Simply put, this is anything they eat that gets stuck in the gastrointestinal tract. A foreign body obstruction often makes pets extremely sick and can even be life-threatening. These items include string, rawhide bones, rocks, toys, socks, hair scrunchies, etc. Any of these objects (and many others) that get lodged in your pet’s system can obstruct the normal movement of their GI system, causing vomiting, retching, diarrhea, and inappetence. A veterinarian must quickly address this to avoid big problems. If you suspect your pet has ingested something they shouldn’t have, a visit to the veterinarian or emergency clinic needs to happen immediately.

Tip #3: Keep Toenails Trimmed

Even something that seems as minor as a torn toenail can cause an ER visit for your pet. Just as in people, part of the toenail is unattached and insensitive, but part – the quick – is attached to the underlying dermis (skin), making it very sensitive. If the quick tears, it will bleed a great deal since it has an ample blood supply. Torn toenails are also extremely painful for pets due to the quick’s sensitivity.

In many cases, even if the toenail only comes partially off, each time your pet puts pressure on it by walking, the torn toenail can irritate the quick and cause more bleeding. Bandaging at home can be a temporary fix. However, a veterinarian may need to sedate your pet, remove the toenails, and then wrap your pet’s foot with a more stable dressing. The solution to avoiding an ER visit for this problem is relatively simple but not always easy – keep your pet’s toenails trimmed so that longer nails cannot catch and tear off as your pet walks.

Tip #4: Socialize Intelligently

When out and about, it’s a good idea always to keep pets on a leash. Off-leash pets can wander out of sight, be hit by a car, or attack or be attacked by other dogs, necessitating a trip to the emergency room.

Socialization is essential at home, too. If you’re having trouble with your household dogs getting into arguments, you may find yourself heading to the ER for bite wound repairs. To avoid these sibling spats, feed your dogs in separate rooms, monitor play with high-value toys carefully, and consider keeping your dogs in different rooms while you’re away from home. This also applies to unfamiliar dogs and cats, and of course, not forcing cats to get close to dogs they don’t know or like. If you’re concerned about the dogs in your household fighting, schedule an appointment for a behavioral consultation with your primary care veterinarian.

Tip #5: Establish a Health Baseline for Your Pet

One of the best things pet owners can do to keep their pets out of the ER is to visit their family veterinarian regularly and keep up to date on wellness care, flea, tick, and heartworm prevention, and regular blood and urine testing. By paying attention to your pet’s wellness, your veterinarian can establish a baseline for their health and gain insight into suspicious changes that might indicate the beginning of disease. Early detection of health conditions helps prevent an emergency by treating problems early – before they get out of control.

In addition, your careful daily observation of your pet is a wonderful deterrent to emergency room visits. As a loving pet owner, you can often detect subtle changes in your pet’s behavior and physical condition. Know what to watch for that might indicate a problem, maintain open communication with your veterinarian, and seek care for anything that might seem “off.” By maintaining vigilance and awareness of our pet’s overall health, you can better prevent certain conditions from developing into emergencies.

Prescription Medication Reminder:

Be sure that your pet’s prescription refills are ordered in plenty of time

to accommodate the holiday schedule!

If you’re unsure if your pet needs to be seen in our ER, please don’t hesitate to call us anytime at 757-935-9111, and we will happily assist you. For non-urgent situations, we may recommend that you contact a veterinary telemedicine service such as Vetster, which offers 24/7 video chat consultations.

Of course, if you feel your pet needs to be seen immediately, please don’t hesitate to come in. We’re open 24/7/365. Please understand that if you do visit, depending on the patients we are already treating, you may be asked to wait. This is because we must always prioritize the most urgent cases first, including those who arrive after you do.

Eliminating risk is never foolproof, but making a few changes in and around your home and being aware of your pet’s health can help avoid a pet emergency.

We wish you and yours a joyful and healthy holiday season.

About Us

The COVE’s veterinarians and staff wholeheartedly embrace the core values of community, collaboration, commitment, compassion, and integrity. This focus ensures that pets, the people who love them, and their primary care veterinarians have as positive and affirming a healthcare experience as possible, regardless of the circumstances that bring us all together.