What are Common Veterinary Emergencies for Pets?

Dr. Joe Alcorn, M.S., D.V.M.

Dr. Joe Alcorn is founder of Care Animal Hospital in Temecula, California. He has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Colorado State University. He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association and his advice has been featured in large publications like Bustle and Martha Stewart.

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Accidents and emergencies often occur when you least expect them. Fortunately, most veterinarians are well experienced in dealing with the unexpected and see a wide variety of time-sensitive and life-critical situations affecting domestic animals in the United States every day. Nevertheless, there are some types of veterinary emergencies that are more regularly seen than others.

Common Veterinary Emergencies

Here are a few of the most common veterinary emergencies for pets and what you need to know about finding adequate treatment for them.

Vomiting and diarrhea

While vomiting and diarrhea are not unusual pet complaints, if they become severe or last for more than 24 hours, it could signify that your pet is becoming seriously unwell and needs professional care. This is especially true if he also develops other symptoms such as blood in his vomit or feces or seems particularly weak or lethargic.

If your pet has been diagnosed with a chronic medical condition such as diabetes, it is worth getting him checked over by a veterinarian as soon as possible if he suffers repeated episodes of vomiting or diarrhea.

Breathing problems

Unsurprisingly, any sign of respiratory distress should be treated as an emergency and you should get your pet to your veterinarian immediately. There are a number of different things that can cause breathing problems, including choking on a foreign object, allergic reaction, heart or lung problems, or heartworm infestations.

If your pet starts wheezing, choking, persistently coughing or seems to be struggling to breathe, get in contact with our vet right away for an examination.


Countless animals get taken to their veterinarian with suspected poisoning every week. There are many different substances that are toxic to animals from cleaning products and chemicals to innocent-looking plants and flowers. There are also many human foods that we inadvertently share with our pets that are actually dangerous for them to eat, with some of the most common perpetrators including chocolate, garlic, grapes, and raisins.

While many types of poison can be successfully treated, prompt medical intervention is essential, and so if you suspect that your pet has eaten something he shouldn’t, you must seek immediate professional care.


It is not just humans that can be affected by seizures, a frightening and potentially dangerous health problem. These tend to occur due to a sudden neurological change affecting your pet, and symptoms include uncontrollable shaking, tremors, loss of consciousness and bladder and bowel control.

You should ensure your pet is somewhere safe where he cannot hurt himself and time how long the seizure lasts. After it has finished, call our veterinarian to obtain advice, particularly if your animal has had multiple seizures or has a chronic health condition.

Sharp force trauma

If your pet has sustained an injury that has cause him to bleed profusely and the flow of blood does not stop after five minutes, immediate veterinary intervention is required. Sometimes there may be something stuck in the wound, such as glass or a stick.

Do not be tempted to pull it out. Instead, wrap the wound as well as you can around the object before taking your pet to our veterinarian. It will be necessary for us to check that no internal organs have been punctured or damaged by the object penetrating his body.

Eye injuries

Eye problems should never be dealt with by anyone other than a trained professional and they can quickly get worse if left untreated. Whether you believe there to be a foreign body stuck in his eye, or he is experiencing redness, eye discharge, or swelling, get to our veterinarian for the safest treatment.

Failure to urinate

If you have a dog or cat that goes a day without urinating or appears to be trying to urinate and is unable to, then it could indicate a potential blockage. These can be life-threatening and so you should get him checked immediately.

Blood in the urine is also a sign of an underlying health problem so should always be checked out.