Pet Emergencies: Common Scenarios and How to Handle Them



From Poisoning to Trauma: How to Handle Pet Emergencies

by Dr. Satveer Dadrwal May 21st, 2024
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Pet Emergencies: Common Scenarios and How to Handle Them

Pets bring immense joy and companionship into our lives, but they can also encounter emergencies that require swift action. Understanding common pet emergencies and knowing how to handle them can make a significant difference in outcomes. Here’s a guide to some frequent pet emergencies and how to manage them.

1. Poisoning


  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Seizures
  • Lethargy
  • Drooling

What to Do:
Identify the Poison: Try to determine what your pet ingested. Common household toxins include chocolate, certain plants, medications, and chemicals.
Contact a Vet: Call us, your local veterinarian in Richmond, or an emergency animal hospital immediately. You can also contact the British Columbia Poison Control Centre at  +1 800-567-8911.
Don’t Induce Vomiting: Unless advised by a vet, do not try to induce vomiting, as some substances can cause more damage if vomited.

2. Choking


  • Difficulty breathing
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Gagging or retching
  • Blue gums or tongue

What to Do:
Stay Calm: Your pet will sense your panic, which can exacerbate the situation.
Check the Mouth: Open your pet’s mouth and see if you can remove the object. Be careful to avoid pushing it further down.
Heimlich Maneuver: For small pets, hold them upside down and give a few firm taps between the shoulder blades. For larger pets, place your hands just below the rib cage and give a quick, upward thrust. Only perform this maneuver if you are confident and trained to do so.
Seek Immediate Veterinary Care: Even if you dislodge the object, take your pet to the vet to ensure there is no damage to the airway.

3. Seizures


  • Collapsing
  • Jerking or twitching
  • Drooling
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Paddling with the legs

What to Do:
Keep Your Pet Safe: Move them away from any objects that could cause injury.
Do Not Restrain: Allow the seizure to run its course without trying to hold your pet down.
Time of the Seizure: Note how long the seizure lasts to inform your vet. You can try to make a video or record it on your phone.
Cool Down: After the seizure, offer water and a cool, quiet place to recover.
Vet Visit: Always consult your vet after a seizure to determine the underlying cause and appropriate treatment.

4. Heatstroke


  • Panting excessively
  • Drooling
  • Red or pale gums
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness or collapse

What to Do:
Move to a Cool Area: Immediately take your pet to a shaded or air-conditioned area.
Cool Down: Use cool (not cold) water to wet your pet’s body, especially the belly, paws, and underarms. Avoid ice-cold water as it can cause shock.
Hydrate: Offer small amounts of water to drink.
Veterinary Care: Heatstroke can cause serious internal damage, so a vet visit is crucial, even if your pet seems to recover.

5. Trauma (e.g., being hit by a car)


  • Visible injuries
  • Limping
  • Bleeding
  • Shock (pale gums, rapid breathing, weakness)

What to Do:
Stay Calm and Assess: Carefully approach your pet to avoid startling them, which could cause further injury.
Control Bleeding: Apply gentle pressure with a clean cloth to any bleeding wounds.
Minimize Movement: If possible, keep your pet still and use a board or sturdy material to transport them.
Immediate Veterinary Care: Trauma can cause internal injuries that are not immediately visible, making a prompt vet visit essential for accurate pet diagnosis. 

6. Allergic Reactions


  • Swelling (especially around the face)
  • Hives or rash
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Vomiting

What to Do:
Identify the Allergen: If possible, determine what caused the reaction.
Administer Antihistamines: Consult your vet about the appropriate type and dosage of antihistamine to give.
Emergency Care: Severe reactions, particularly those affecting breathing, require immediate veterinary attention.

Preparedness and swift action are key in handling pet emergencies. Familiarize yourself with these scenarios and always have your veterinarian’s contact information readily available. Additionally, consider enrolling in a pet first aid course to further enhance your ability to respond effectively to emergencies. Your pet depends on you, and being equipped to handle these situations can save their life.

Veterinarian and Owner - Petsville Animal Hospital