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EMERGENCIES

We are more than happy to see your pet for emergency treatment during any of our regularly scheduled office hours.  For after-hour emergencies, the following emergency clinics serve the area:


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Hit by Car.

Any animal that is hit by a car should be evaluated immediately, even if the animal seems fine and there are no outward appearances of injury.  Injuries from cars vary greatly and can include lacerations, abrasions, fractures, internal hemorrhage, and organ damage.  Initially, signs may be mild but can progress over several days. Therefore, immediate veterinary attention is warranted.

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Bleeding/Lacerations

Use a clean cloth to apply firm direct pressure to the wound for five full minutes.  Wounds that have not stopped bleeding during this time should be evaluated immediately.  Small, superficial abrasions will likely heal on their own.  Clean the wound with soap and water and apply a thin layer of topical antibiotic, such as Neosporin.  Larger and deeper lacerations may require stitches, the sooner this happens, the faster it will heal.  Lacerations on the face, feet, and tail will often bleed more profusely than lacerations in other areas, especially if the animal is agitated and shaking it's head.  Any laceration has the potential to become infected, so even a non-emergency laceration should be seen the next day to see whether antibiotics are required.

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Fight Wounds.

Separate the animals and allow them to calm down so you can evaluate the extent of the injury.  Stop any bleeding by applying firm direct pressure for five minutes. Then clean the wounds with soap and water.  Wounds from fights between animals can result in injuries ranging from mild to severe. Superficial lacerations and punctures, as discussed previously, may be the only external sign of injury.  However, penetrating puncture wounds over the neck, chest, and abdomen can cause internal injury.  If you suspect a deep puncture wound, or the animal is having difficulty breathing or showing other signs of distress, they should be seen immediately.  Bite wounds usually become infected after a few days, so even non-emergency wounds should be evaluated the next day so the animal can be placed on an appropriate antibiotic.

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Seizures.

Seizure activity can vary from violent grand mal seizures to smaller less severe tremors.  They are extremely nerve-wracking to witness and are often accompanied by salivation, urination, and defecation.  Most seizures last between 1-3 minutes, followed by a period of disorientation and stupor. Do not touch an animal that is having a seizure or attempt to put anything in their mouth.  Seizures can be due to a wide variety of causes including epilepsy, toxic ingestion, head trauma, infection, liver problems, electrolyte imbalance, brain tumors, etc.  Seizures in diabetic animals and in young puppies (especially toy breeds) and kittens are often caused by low blood sugar.  In these cases, a small amount of karo syrup or sugar water can be given once the animal has regained the ability to swallow.  Animals that have repeated seizures, a seizure lasting more than five minutes, or additional symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, or altered consciousness need to be seen immediately.  Animals that have one seizure and then seem to recover fully should still be seen the next day so that an exam and bloodwork can be done to help determine the underlying cause.

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Limping.

Limping is one of the most common veterinary complaints, especially in dogs.  The list of ailments that can cause limping is extensive and includes: musculoskeletal injury (fracture, sprains, ruptured cruciate ligament), infection of the toes/ pads/ nails, arthritis, Lyme disease, intervertebral disc disease, degenerative disease and metabolic disease. 

Some dogs will limp profoundly if they have a broken toenail while others will barely limp with advanced bone cancer.  If your pet is limping, you should limit their activity until your veterinarian can evaluate them.  Cases that should be seen immediately as emergency include those that resulted from known trauma such as hit-by-car, those accompanied by other symptoms such as weakness and lack of appetite, and any limp resembling paralysis.  (See paralysis.) As noted in the section on over-the-counter medications, buffered aspirin can be given to dogs (not cats), see the section on over-the-counter medications for dosage.

Ibuprofen™, Tylenol™, naproxen, and many other OTC pain relievers are extremely toxic to dogs and cats and should never be administered.

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Prolonged Labor.

The gestation period is about 63 days in cats and 63-65 days in dogs.  Pregnant dogs and cats should deliver the first puppy/kitten within 1-4 hours of the start of labor.  An additional puppy/kitten should be delivered every 1 to 4 hours until all puppies/kittens have been delivered.  If labor is slow, contractions are weak, or mother seems too exhausted to continue it could be a sign of problems.  Immediately after delivery, the mother should open the birth sac to remove the puppy/kitten, and clean it by licking.  If the mother doesn't do this within about a minute, you must remove the puppy/kitten and gently clean it with a towel.

The puppy/kitten should begin nursing within an hour or two of birth.  Failure to deliver in a timely fashion, or to care for/nurse the puppies/kittens are medical emergencies.  Prompt veterinary care is necessary to preserve the life and health of the puppies/kittens and the mother.

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Vomiting/Diarrhea.

Vomiting and diarrhea can be the result of many different problems including dietary indiscretion (eating garbage, dead animals, or feces), internal parasites, viral or bacterial infection, obstruction/foreign body, pancreatitis, hairballs (cats), inflammatory disease, food allergy, cancer, etc.  Many mild cases of vomiting and/or diarrhea will resolve on their own by simply withholding food and water for 12-24 hours.  Situations that require immediate emergency care include blood in the vomitus, known foreign body ingestion and vomiting accompanied by any of the following additional symptoms: weakness, distended/bloated abdomen (see Bloat), difficulty breathing, or collapse.

Prolonged vomiting or diarrhea can lead to dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, and weight loss and should be treated promptly.  Any animal with even one bout of diarrhea should have a stool sample evaluated to check for internal/intestinal parasites.  (This may be done during normal office hours.)  As noted in the section on over-the-counter medications Pepto-Bismol can be administered to dogs and Immodium (loperamide) can be given to both dogs and cats.  See the OTC section for correct dosage information.

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Bloat (gastric dilation and volvulus/GDV)

Bloat is a serious sudden medical emergency in large breed dogs.  Bloat is caused by too much gas and fluid in the stomach.  This gas dilates or expands the stomach like a large balloon.  The gas-filled stomach then twists.  The twisting of the stomach is called volvulus or torsion.  The torsion/volvulus cuts off the blood supply to the abdominal organs and releases toxic chemicals which are immediately life threatening.

The common signs of Bloat are:

  • Abdominal distension
    The abdomen may be visibly distended just behind the ribcage and feel tight like a drum.
  • Restlessness – whining, pacing, hiding
    The animal may refuse to sit or lie down.
  • Vomiting/Defecating – or attempts to vomit or defecate
  • Unproductive gagging/hacking and heavy drooling
  • Abdominal pain
  • Rapid breathing and heart rate
  • Weak pulse
  • Pale/cold gums
  • Weakness or collapse.

Any dog suspected of Bloat needs to be seen immediately. Bloat is rapidly fatal if untreated.

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Allergic Reaction/Facial Swelling/Anaphylaxis

Facial swelling associated with allergic reaction is common in dogs and is most often associated with insect stings and bug/spider bites.  The swelling is often throughout the entire head and includes the eyelids, muzzle and ear flaps.  The swelling is usually red and hot to the touch.  The swelling is usually non-painful but can be extremely itchy.

The swelling may or may not be associated with more severe symptoms of anaphylaxis which include:  difficulty breathing/wheezing, pale gums, vomiting/diarrhea, staggering or collapse.  If any of these symptoms are present your pet must be seen immediately, as this reaction can be life-threatening.  If your dog seems fine other than the swelling you may treat the swelling at home by giving Benadryl™ (diphenhydramine).  Please consult the section on over-the-counter medications for proper dosage.

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Vaccine Reaction

Immunizations (or vaccines) are intended to stimulate the immune system to protect the animal from the infectious agent. However, this stimulation may cause some minor symptoms. Your pet may react to immunizations in ways that range from soreness at the site of injection to mild fever to allergic reactions, which can range from mild to severe.

  • Mild. Mild reactions include fever, sluggishness, and loss of appetite. Mild reactions last about 24 hours and usually resolve without treatment.
     
  • Moderate. Hives and facial swelling - swelling and redness of the lips, around the eyes, and in muzzle. It is usually extremely itchy. This reaction usually develops 1-4 hours after the vaccine and can last several hours. Please refer to the section on facial swelling for treatment options.
     
  • Severe. The most severe reaction is anaphylaxis which is a sudden, severe allergic response that produces breathing difficulties, collapse and possible death. Symptoms usually include sudden onset of vomiting, diarrhea, staggering, pale gums, very low heart-rate, swelling of the larynx leading to airway obstruction (and inability to breathe), seizures and cardiovascular collapse or death. This reaction is life-threatening for your dog and must be treated immediately. These reactions usually begin within 15-20 minutes after the vaccine was administered.

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Paralysis - sudden onset

Paralysis is the inability to move one or more limbs. There are many different disease processes that can cause a slowly progressive weakness or paralysis in dogs and cats.

This section deals with an acute (or sudden) onset of paralysis.

Acute paralysis (developing suddenly or over minutes to hours) is always an immediate emergency.

There are numerous causes of sudden paralysis. The most common causes are:

  • Spinal injury/trauma from falls, fights, and hit-by-car
  • Intervertebral disc disease/bulging disc (common in small dogs especially dachshunds)
  • Blood vessel clot (cats) - commonly referred to as "saddle thrombus"

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Urinary Problems

Urinary tract disease is very common in both dogs and cats. Urinary tract disease can become a life-threatening emergency in male cats, because they can become blocked/obstructed and unable to urinate at all. This almost never occurs in female cats or in dogs.

Urinary tract infections are the most common culprit but other problems include the presence of crystals or stones, congenital abnormalities of the urinary system, and behavioral issues.

Symptoms include:

  • Inappropriate urination - cats often urinate in sinks or bathtubs
  • Straining or pain during urination
  • Frequent urination - often only a drop at a time. (Cats go in and out of the box repeatedly.)
  • Blood in the urine (causing a dark or reddish color)
  • Excessive licking of the genitals

If your male cat displays any of these symptoms, take him to the Emergency Clinic immediately. They will be able to tell you whether or not he is obstructed and begin treatment.

If your dog or female cat has any of these symptoms, try to collect a urine sample as soon as possible. With dogs you can simply hold a cup or tupperware under them to collect the urine. To collect a urine sample from a cat it is easiest to replace their normal litter with something non-absorbable such as unpopped popcorn kernels. Be sure to wash the pan first. When the cat urinates in the litter pan, pour the urine (and the kernels) into a cup.

Refrigerate urine samples and make an appointment to be seen at the next available appointment.

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Broken/Ripped/Bleeding Toe Nail

Try and remove any of the broken part of nail that may still be attached.  The broken end only causes the dog more pain and may increase or continue the bleeding every time the torn piece is disturbed.  The quickest way to do this is with a dog toenail clipper.  Sometimes the piece is barely hanging on and they can be pulled off (quickly) with your hand.

Then use warm water to gently rinse the toe.

If there is active bleeding, apply gentle but firm pressure with a clean cloth to the area.

Often this type of injury leaves a bloody "stump" of bone that would normally be safe inside the toenail housing.  This is very tender and sensitive.  Although not a medical emergency, it is advisable to have your vet take a look at this type of injury.  If a large amount of toenail has been removed, your vet may bandage the area and prescribe a short course of antibiotics as prophylaxis against infection.

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Nail Clipped Too Short.

It is a good idea to have shaving alum or styptic pencils at home for general first aid – when a nail is accidentally cut too short, you will have the necessary tools on hand to stop bleeding.  Alum and styptic pencils can be purchased over the counter at drug stores in the first aid supply area.

If you don't have alum or a styptic pencil, you can use flour or corn starch to help stop bleeding.  Pack a small amount in the cut nail end and apply pressure.  Cutting a nail so short that it bleeds is not a medical emergency.

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Dog Got Skunked.

Keep the dog outside (we really didn't have to tell you that, right?).  Wipe off as much oil with paper or cloth towels as possible.
Prepare a home-made skunk bath:
Mix 1 quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide,
¼ to ½ cup baking soda,
1 to 2 teaspoons dish soap.

Wet the fur with warm water.  Apply to skunk bath mixture liberally and let sit for 5 minutes.  Rinse and repeat several times. 

This will help eliminate the odor, but won't completely get rid of it, that will take a week or so.

Important: Do not store the mixture in a closed container, the mixture of these ingredients creates pressure and could cause bursting.

Warning: The hydrogen peroxide could have a bleaching effect on your dog's coat. If this is a concern, try substituting vinegar for the peroxide.

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Dog Ate Bones.

Do not induce vomiting.

Feed several slices of mushy, spongy bread that is coated with butter or vegetable oil.  The bread will form a cushioned ball around the bones to help protect the lining of the GI tract and the oil will help lubricate the bread/bone "ball" and help it pass.

Monitor your dog closely for signs of pain, fever, vomiting, bloody stool or difficulty defecating and seek medical attention if you see any sign of trouble.

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