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What is an Emergency for Your Pets

What is an Emergency for Your Pets

The word “emergency” probably brings to mind images of frantic phone calls, wailing ambulances and nurses and doctors rushing left and right. While real-world medical emergencies aren’t quite as dramatic as reality TV might have us believe, they can certainly be scary for all involved. Although there is no sure-fire way to prevent emergencies from ever happening to our beloved pets, quickly recognising these situations and taking appropriate action will help give them the best chance at recovery.

So what’s an emergency (and what’s not)?
Emergencies are life-threatening situations that need immediate veterinary intervention. Conditions that are not immediately life-threatening are not emergencies – of these, some can wait for a scheduled appointment with your regular veterinarian, but there are others that should still be seen promptly, ideally within the next 24-48 hours.

Common examples of each are listed below (this list is not exhaustive and is intended as a guide only).

What to do in an emergency
Call a veterinary clinic or hospital immediately. Don’t wait; time is of the essence. If you’re unsure whether your pet’s situation needs immediate attention, call anyway – clinic staff will often be able to advise you on the appropriate course of action. If possible, make the call before or during the trip to the vet, as this will give the staff time to prepare for your pet’s arrival.

Many clinics will see emergencies during office hours, but always call ahead to be sure. Don’t be surprised if your regular vet recommends going to an emergency hospital instead – depending on the situation, they may be better-equipped to treat your pet. Outside of office hours, dedicated emergency facilities will generally be the only options available.

The staff who take your call may ask questions to determine how urgently your pet needs to be seen. Be truthful, and take their advice.

At the clinic, staff will initially focus on stabilising your pet to ensure they are out of danger before deciding on next steps. Once your pet is stable, further diagnostics such as blood tests, X-rays or other imaging may be needed. In some cases, your pet may also need to be hospitalised or taken to surgery.

What to expect after an emergency
Depending on the initial cause of the emergency, ongoing care may still be needed once your pet is healthy enough to go home. Some specific examples are outlined below:

Heart disease is a common cause of breathing difficulties, especially in older pets. If this is diagnosed, the vet may recommend medications such as pimobendan or furosemide.

Pets presenting with vomiting may be prescribed anti-vomiting medication to use at home.

If your pet has undergone surgery, you may need to continue administering painkillers such as meloxicam, carprofen or gabapentin at home.

No pet parent ever wants to go through an emergency, but learning to recognise one may well be the first step in saving your pet’s life. Remember that every pet is different, therefore please consult your veterinarian if you have specific queries.

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