I was contacted by a friend this past weekend on a issue with her dog. The dog seemed to have a problem urinating… unable to fully relieve himself and then having accidents in the house. So, she asked me what she should do.
In her case, it could have been something as simple as a UTI — uncomfortable, but not an emergency— or it could have been a blockage, which could absolutely be life threatening. The thing is, the dog would have to be seen by a veterinarian in order to know… and waiting it out could have been deadly.
This is often a question pet parents ask themselves. Do I rush my dog or cat into the ER? Or is it okay to wait until my vet’s office opens on Monday morning?
As an aside, my clients are all preferred clients… when they call the office and leave a message — even after hours — I call them back AS SOON AS I wake up or otherwise hear the message. If they MUST go to the ER with their pet, I’m in their back pocket, literally… texting back and forth with them, speaking to the emergency veterinarian, so they don’t have to make health decisions alone. No matter where you live in the country, finding a vet that is accessible to you in these moments of uncertainty can make a huge difference.
Below is a list of symptoms that may necessitate an immediate trip to the veterinary emergency clinic. This is not an exhaustive list, of course, but a place to start. If you see any of the following, consider driving your pet to get immediate triage care:
Vomiting That Won’t Stop.
If your pet is vomiting multiple times in an hour, they need to be seen immediately. it COULD be just an upset stomach, but it could also be an obstruction, which can be deadly This obstruction could be a physical obstruction, caused by part of a toy, or sock or piece of wood that has been ingested… or — in the case of bloat — it could be a physiological obstruction where the stomach has turned over on itself.
Distended and hard belly.
This could be bloat… a painful and deadly condition.
Difficulty Breathing or Labored Breathing
If your dog or cat is breathing like they just completed the Boston Marathon, but they’ve been sitting at home all day, or otherwise struggling to breathe, they need to be seen immediately.
Syncope and / or Fainting Episodes
If your dog faints and falls over, and then gets up like nothing happened, they need to be seen.
Any Seizure Activity
Any seizure activity (or involuntary muscle tremors, including eye twitches, snapping at the air, or full grand mall seizures) necessitates a trip to the emergency room. The key here is to prevent one seizure from clustering, or turning into many seizures. A trip to the emergency veterinarian will help prevent these dangerous clusters from occurring and doing damage in the brain.
Quick note: While the dog is having a seizure, do not get near their mouth. They are not aware of what’s going on, and may bite. Instead, surround the dog with soft blankets or pillows so he doesn’t hurt himself and when it’s over, take him in to be seen.
Having A Hard Time Urinating.
As I said before, if your dog is having a hard time urinating, can’t urinate, or can’t fully relieve himself when urinating, this may be an emergency. In general, it becomes an emergency when you see that they can’t pee at all. They may be squatting to pee, but nothing is coming out. If you see this, they need to be seen immediately.
Lameness or limping.
Limping or partial lameness is concerning, but it is not an emergency. If you see limping, a change in their gait, or other issues of the sort, you can wait to call your veterinarian on the next business day. If you see limping accompanied by a break in the skin and you can see the bone, THAT is an emergency.
Of course, this is an emergency.
Again, this isn’t an exhaustive list, but may give you a place to star