We are often asked about the kinds of pet health emergencies that are seen by our veterinary partners and referred to FACE, so that we may help qualified pet owners pay for life-saving veterinary treatments for their companion animals. There are many common pet injuries and illnesses that we and our partners see on a monthly or even weekly basis. Here’s a list of the top pet health issues helped by FACE grants. Be sure to check out our website for more detailed information on each medical condition!
Broken bones are a very common pet injury that we see on an almost weekly basis. Fractures of a dog or cat’s long bones are like human arm or leg fractures. Some young or small pets can even sustain fractures from a jump off a couch or bed. The most common signs of fractures are lameness, as well as pain and swelling at the injury site. Be sure to get your pet to the vet as soon as possible. Falls from high places (or being hit by a car) can cause serious, life-threatening internal injuries besides broken bones, like internal bleeding and ruptured organs, so quick diagnosis and treatment are critical.
- Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)
Most commonly seen in dogs, especially Dachshunds and other breeds with similar body types, IVDD occurs when the cushions between your dog’s spinal bones swell or rupture. This can damage the spinal cord and lead to lameness, loss of sensation, incontinence, and even paralysis. Mild IVDD can be treated with non-invasive measures, but a serious case requires surgery to decompress the spine. Sadly, vets may often recommend euthanasia if a ruptured disc is left untreated.
- Foreign Body Obstructions
Dogs, cats, and other pets will often get into mischief and eat things they shouldn’t. A gastrointestinal obstruction occurs when the object is not vomited up or passed through the intestinal tract. Many common household items can cause an obstruction: toy pieces, strings, rubber bands, coins, pieces of bone, etc. An object stuck in the upper GI tract can be removed via endoscopy, but many stomach and intestinal obstructions require surgery. Untreated obstructions can be fatal.
- Urinary Obstructions
A very common veterinary emergency, often seen in male cats, urinary obstructions occur when crystals or mucus form in the kidneys and enter the bladder and urethra. Mild obstructions can cause your cat discomfort and distress, but complete obstructions (and the inability to pass any urine) cause deadly toxins to build up in your cat’s body, leading to death if left untreated. Your cat’s urinary system will need to be flushed. Chronic obstructions often require surgery. Your vet will talk to you about dietary changes to prevent the formation of crystals in the future.
Besides leading to unwanted litters of puppies and kittens, leaving your female dog or cat unspayed can also lead to a life-threatening medical condition called pyometra. It is a bacterial infection of the uterus, occurring in one quarter of unspayed female pets. Signs include lethargy, vaginal discharge, and anorexia. A seriously infected uterus can be fatal, and the recommended treatment for pyometra is removal of the uterus and ovaries.
- Rattlesnake Bites
Here in San Diego, rattlesnake bites are a fairly common pet emergency that can happen year-round because of the warm climate. Dogs are 20 times more likely to be bitten by a snake than us humans, mostly due to their inquisitive nature when they are exploring the great outdoors. A bite from a venomous snake can be fatal to your pet, and immediate treatment with antivenom is crucial. Your pet will also require additional treatment for pain, infection, and inflammation.
- Emergency C-Sections
Emergency Caesarian sections are sometimes required if your pet is experiencing distress during the birthing process. Certain dog breeds with large head/small body size (like some bulldogs and terriers) can be especially vulnerable to problems. It is critical to bring your dog to the vet as soon as possible if she is experiencing intense contractions with no sign of puppies.
Enucleation is the removal of an eye due to an injury or illness that causes your dog or cat discomfort. In pets, enucleation is often the best solution to relieve pain. Conditions that may require removal of the eye include glaucoma, cancer, severe infection, and trauma. Your vet will perform the operation to remove the eye under anesthesia, stitching the skin closed when done.
- Laceration Repairs
A laceration is a cut or tear in the skin, with severe lacerations often involving blood loss and damage to underlying structures like muscles, tendons, blood vessels, and nerves. Surgery under general anesthesia is often required to repair significant lacerations. Lacerations should be treated as soon as possible to avoid infection of the wound.
- Severe Dental Work
Rounding out the list of the most common pet health issues we assist with is a relatively new addition…severe dental work. Serious periodontal disease in dogs, cats, and other pets can lead to life-threatening health conditions. Left untreated, diseased teeth and gums can lead to loss of tissue and bone in the mouth and the bacteria can enter the bloodstream and travel throughout the body, leading to bone infection and organ damage. Talk to your vet about prevention strategies like home tooth brushing.