Emergency Medical Conditions

DVM Blogs: Emergency Medical Conditions

By Dr. Edison Barrientos, DVM
Emergency medical conditions affecting your pet can be varied. Since animals are good at hiding symptoms, you may not notice anything until the pet's medical condition is quite advanced. The first thing to do is to step back and observe your pet. Answer the following questions:
  • Is their appetite ok?
  • Are they moving ok?
  • Are they bright, alert, and responsive?
  • Is the pet's breathing ok?
  • Is there any vomiting or diarrhea?
  • Are there any cuts, wounds, or bleeding?
  • Do the eyes look normal?
  • Do you think your pet ingested a toxic substance such as chocolate, drugs, rodenticides, or medication such as Advil?
If all of the above are normal, it probably is not a true emergency; however, if you have any doubt, it is better to take your pet to a hospital that is open 24/7.
I have compiled a list of 8 True emergencies. Please note that this list does not include all possible emergencies. If in doubt, contact your vet.

Bloat in dogs

Also called GDV, this condition is one of the most serious emergencies in dogs and requires IMMEDIATE attention.
GDV tends to affect larger deep chested breeds such as great Danes, Standard Poodles, Chow Chow and others.
The stomach gets twisted around which causes it to bloat, this in turn affects the intestinal blood supply to the organs and affects the dogs ability to breathe. The symptoms include a distended bloated belly, pacing in discomfort , trying to vomit but nothing coming , salivation.

Urinary Blockage

This is a common condition and can affect dogs and cats. It is more common in males. The main signs are straining to urinate, drops of blood in the urine and discomfort. Cats may go in and out of their box and meow in pain. Dogs may stand in position to pee but only a few drops come. This condition also requires immediate emergency veterinary care. as it is painful and a distended bladder may eventually burst. So if your pet can't pee. take him to seem an emergency veterinarian immediately.


If your dog or cat eats anything that is potentially toxic, please call your vet. If it is a rat poison please try to bring the container with the name of the toxin. Common causes of poisoning are: rat poison, overdoses of veterinary drugs, consumption of human medications, toxic plants, chocolate, antifreeze are among some of the most common poisons. Many cases are caused by owners trying to self medicate their pets. Never give any medication without veterinary advice.

Vomiting and Diarrhea

Vomiting and diarrhea are common; however, they may constitute an emergency in smaller, younger, older, and debilitated animals. If the vomiting and diarrhea persists it can lead to dehydration, which can be life threatening. If there is severe bloody diarrhea, this is a sign that the condition is more serious and requires immediate attention at an emergency veterinary hospital.

Dog or cat bites or injuries

Dog and cat bites are common. Sometimes some animals don't get along, which can lead to fights. Injuries can range from a little scratch to severe injuries. In general, if the bites or scratches have punctured the skin there is a high likelihood of infection. Sometimes it is difficult to see the wounds under the pet's hair, so make sure to perform a close inspection of the whole body on you pet. If you see a wound, or there is pain, it is best to take your little one to be seen by an emergency vet quickly.

Injuries to the eye

The eye is a very delicate organ and any injury to it should be addressed immediately. Dogs and cats will frequently rub or scratch their injured eye making thing worse. If the eye is red, swollen, squinty, or has any injury to it, it is best to have it seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Respiratory Difficulties

These can be truly life threatening. Causes are varied from choking, to asthma, to a heart condition. If you see your cat open mouth breathing or your dog panting excessively even at rest, this can mean they are having problems getting enough oxygen. The main thing is to keep your pet away from stressors and take him to a vet immediately.

Hit by car, or other trauma

If your pet suffers a serious accident they should be evaluated. Like people, dogs and cats can go into shock and get concussions. Sometimes injuries are not visible and they may be internal. We will perform a full exam, and probably x-rays to rule out fractures. Intravenous fluids, pain control, and observation are also usually done.
So, hopefully you never have to deal with any of the above! As mentioned previously, these are not the only medical emergencies. You know your pet better than anybody else so the last piece of advice I will give is to TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. If something is not right and you feel your furry friend is not well, take them to the vet.