What is a Veterinary Emergency? Advice from the Experts


It’s rare for a pet owner to go through life without experiencing at least one serious veterinary emergency. Recognize this scenario? It’s midnight on Saturday and your dog or cat seems sick or hurt. Your vet’s office will be closed until Monday morning. Do you wait it out or take your pet to a 24-hour emergency veterinary hospital? The answer depends on the particular symptoms your pet is experiencing.


The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) has lots of great information for pet owners on their website, including what to do in an emergency. While it’s never wrong to call the vet if you have a concern, how do you determine if it’s time to go to the hospital? Here are a few of the most common scenarios that the AAHA classifies as definite emergencies that require immediate care:

  • Physical trauma such as being hit by a car or falling several feet.
  • No detectable breathing or heartbeat.
  • Unconsciousness.
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea for 24 hours, especially if you’re seeing blood.
  • Suspected broken bones.
  • Breathing difficulties and/or an object is stuck in the throat.
  • Seizures.
  • Bleeding from the eyes, nose or mouth (and blood in urine or feces).
  • Suspected ingestion of a toxic food, drug, or household item like antifreeze.
  • Your male cat is making frequent trips to the litter box but cannot urinate.
  • Whining, shaking, hiding or other signs of pain.
  • Your pet collapses and is unable to get up again.
  • Bumping into things and/or disorientation.
  • Eye injury, as well as behavior indicating that your pet cannot see.
  • A hard, swollen abdomen and attempts to vomit.
  • Signs of heatstroke.
  • Pregnancy and delivery problems, such as a gap of 3-4 hours between birth of a puppy or kitten.


The AAHA recommends getting your pet to the vet ASAP in these situations. If your regular vet doesn’t provide emergency services or contact information, then locate an emergency facility near you. It’s always good to know of one or two 24-hour hospitals in your area before a crisis situation occurs so you are prepared.


15 thoughts on “What is a Veterinary Emergency? Advice from the Experts

  1. Emergency visits and plumbing catastrophes are a lot alike. They only seem to happen on the weekends, but you definitely need them. Thanks for sharing the comprehensive list-always good to know should be dealt with immediately. 😉

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