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What Does a Pet Emergency Look Like?

Close Up Image of a Brown Dog's Paws

When your pet doesn’t seem quite right, it can be easy to either panic or dismiss the symptoms. For these reasons, it is important that pet owners are able to identify what is a true pet emergency quickly. MissionVet wants all pet owners to know what to look for and how to respond to an emergency situation.

What Counts as a Pet Emergency?

It can be hard to decide whether or not the situation you are in is an emergency. Fortunately, we have a few pointers to help you decide:

If your pet is experiencing any of the following, seek immediate care.

  • Any difficulties breathing: short or shallow breath, increased effort, gagging, choking

  • Weakness, inability to walk, sudden collapse

  • First-time seizure, seizures lasting more than three minutes, or multiple seizures

  • Non-productive retching/vomiting, swollen or distended abdomen

  • Allergic reactions including swelling, rashes or itching

  • Excessive or persistent bleeding

  • Inability or straining to urinate

  • Diabetic animals refusing food

  • Pregnant pet in labor for more than one hour without delivering; pet that has gone more than 3-4 hours between delivering

  • Bumping into things, disoriented

  • Signs of pain such as whining, shaking, hiding or dull behavior

  • Vomiting blood, passing blood in stools/urine

  • Changes in behavior, appetite or elimination habits

  • Trauma—bite wounds, broken bones, burns, cuts, lacerations, electric shock, eye injuries, heatstroke, frostbite, hit by car, car accident

  • Ingestion of toxic or harmful substances

If you notice any of the above problems, you should get in touch with a veterinarian right away. These symptoms signify serious issues, and your pet’s best bet is urgent care.

The best way to handle a pet emergency is always to be prepared for one. Here are a few tips from MissionVet:

  • Have a list of important telephone numbers including your veterinarian’s phone number, the phone number and directions to an emergency veterinarian, and the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435). It is a good idea to get a recommendation from your veterinarian for an emergency animal hospital.

  • Have your pet’s up-to-date medical records on hand that you can bring with you to the emergency hospital.

  • Learn how to perform basic pet first aid, and keep a pet first aid kit in your home. It may also be a good idea to keep one in your car if you take your dog anywhere besides the veterinarian.

Pet First Aid

First aid can help you stabilize your pet before you take them to an emergency veterinary clinic. These measures can keep your pet alive, so it is important that you know how to perform basic first aid properly. Here are a few of the basics:

  • Stop or slow bleeding:


    Elevate the wound and apply pressure to the wound.

  • Airway clearing:


    If your pet is choking, you can try to remove the object with your fingers. Be careful not to push the object further back in the throat, however.

  • CPR:


    Find your pet’s heartbeat by placing your hand on their chest just behind the elbow. If you don’t feel it, begin chest compressions by pushing firmly on the chest in a rhythmic fashion. Do 30 compressions followed by two assisted breaths. Have someone drive you to the hospital while you continue chest compressions.

One additional first aid technique you should know is what to do if your pet ingests something poisonous. First, you should call your veterinarian, emergency veterinarian, or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435 to speak to a professional about what your pet has ingested. They should be able to recommend the next steps. You may need to induce vomiting or go to an emergency veterinarian immediately.

What Should You Expect at a Veterinary ER?

A veterinary ER is a lot like a human ER. The most serious cases are seen first, and there are times when you might be waiting to see a doctor for hours. While it is hard to stay patient, MissionVet encourages all pet owners to understand that the most life-threatening injuries and illnesses will be seen first in the attempt to save as many pets as possible. It is a good idea to bring something to entertain yourself while you wait.

When you first get to the ER, your pet will be examined by a MissionVet technician. The technician will determine whether your pet is stable. Again, the most critical cases will be seen first, so if your pet is stable, you will be asked to wait. Once it is your turn to be seen by a veterinarian, you will be asked to provide your pet’s medical history to help the veterinarian better evaluate your pet. The emergency veterinarian will walk you through the diagnosis and treatments, as well as the costs associated with them.

In some cases, pets need to stay at the hospital for care. If your pet needs to stay in the hospital for further treatment and monitoring, the hospital will admit them. You will receive regular updates on the status of your pet. When treatment at MissionVet is over, a veterinarian will recommend that your pet is either transferred to a MissionVet specialist, your family veterinarian, or to your home.

MissionVet’s Emergency Clinic is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Even on holidays, MissionVet is open to help all pets in San Antonio, Texas, and surrounding areas that are struggling with an emergency. If you have a pet emergency, call MissionVet at 210-737-7373 or visit today.