Sadly, almost every pet parent will experience a pet emergency during their lifetime. These will range from an injury, sudden illness, to a more critical pet emergency like an animal attack or poisoning. These scenarios can be scary and confusing for both you and your pet. You may wonder what to do to help your pet before getting them to a hospital.
What is considered a pet emergency?
Animal Health Australia (AHA) manages the development and review of the Australian Veterinary Emergency Plan (AUSVETPLAN) on behalf of its Members. AUSVETPLAN contains the nationally-agreed approach for the response to emergency animal disease (EAD) incidents in Australia. The plan is captured in a series of manuals and supporting documents.
There are some very clear indicators of a true pet emergency. One that you must attend to immediately to save your pet’s life. Some of this type of pet emergencies include:
- Birthing difficulties
- Difficulty breathing or choking on a foreign object
- Falling from the roof
- Being hit by a car or other trauma
- Inability to defecate or straining to urinate
- Eye injuries
- A swollen or bloated abdomen
- Vomiting or diarrhea that recurs
- Heatstroke or hypothermia
- An animal attack or bite
What to do in Common Pet Emergency Situations
1. Keep Calm and Try Not to Panic
It’s important for you and your pet’s safety that you calmly assess the scene in case there might still be any additional threats to both you and your pet.
2. Keep Your Pet as Still as Possible
During a pet emergency, it’s best to keep your pet as quiet and as still as possible. Keep movement to a minimum, especially if you suspect that there could be any neurological symptoms such as a spinal injury or broken bones.
3. Call to Let the Facility Know That You Are on Your Way
For proper preparation and treatment of your pet, explain what your pet emergency is, what has happened and carefully follow the advice given.
4. Safely Move or Transport Your Pet
During a pet emergency, ask for assistance to carry your pet, if it is safe for you to move your pet, as per the advice given when you call the vet hospital. Use a carrier with its top off for safe and easy access for small cats and dogs. For larger dogs, use a makeshift stretcher during a pet emergency. You can improvise and use a rigid material like an appropriately sized, sturdy piece of wood. To carry the dog onto the stretcher, carefully maneuver the dog onto a coat or blanket then gently move it to the stretcher or carrier or box. This will help stabilise the neck and spine, preventing inadvertent scratching or biting from your injured pet.
5. Know the Proper Restraint for an Injured Pet
Your injured pet will most likely be panicked, disoriented and in pain. The stress of a pet emergency can sometimes cause an otherwise friendly and calm pet to become aggressive.
Your pet might respond to your voice or to you stroking them. Hearing and feeling you might make them feel calm. Nevertheless, it’s advisable to exercise caution when touching or approaching your injured pet.
What to do In Case of a Pet Emergency
A pet emergency can be a very frightening experience. Although every pet emergency is different, most require you to seek emergency veterinary care from the closest veterinary hospital vets on call or mobile vets. If the emergency isn’t too dire, you may want to first give your pet some first aid treatment to save their life before going to your veterinary doctor. This may involve phoning your preferred veterinary clinic for instruction, driving to the nearest ER hospital or calling the Animal Poison Control Hotline in the event of toxicity.
What if your pet ingests something you suspect is toxic? For this type of pet emergency, try to wipe or rinse out the mouth with a damp flannel. It isn’t advisable to give your pet anything to eat or drink before you speak with a vet or the Animal Poisons Helpline. According to Australian Animal Poisons Helpline, many pet parents ask how to induce vomiting in their pets when they suspect poisoning. This should not be the case unless advised to do so. In some cases, making your pet vomit can do more harm than good.
The Pet Poison Helpline and ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control can be great resources to review for all pet owners. Here you can access information about all the plants, substances and foods that can poison your pet.
2. Acute trauma
Two of the more frightening pet emergencies can be incidents with another animal or an accident involving a vehicle. The first critical step in such a pet emergency is immediately getting your pet to safety away from the attack or out of traffic while ensuring your own safety in the process.
Stabilise your pet with towels, a box or other item while transporting them to the closest emergency veterinary hospital. Most hospitals or mobile vets will offer instructions on the stabilisation process while you are en route.
3. Choking or Respiratory Distress
Choking on balls, toys and other things can turn out to be an immediate pet emergency. We all know how curious our fur babies can be. Dogs are especially very curious about everything and will use their mouths to explore both small and large items.
So what can you do in such a pet emergency?
If the item in question can be seen and easily dislodged, do so. But if your pet is having trouble breathing, get them to a veterinary hospital right away. It may not seem like your pet is in immediate danger of choking, but a swallowed item can lodge itself in the pet’s digestive tract and cause severe problems.
4. Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV)
Bloat or gastric dilatation and volvulus occurs when the accumulation of gas causes your pet’s stomach to rotate or twist. This puts pressure on the diaphragm, resulting in breathing difficulties. If not treated immediately, this pet emergency can be fatal.
What to Include in Your Pet First Aid Kit
- Absorbent gauze pads
- Sterile non-stick gauze pads
- Gauze rolls
- Wound dressing
- Hypo-allergenic tape
- Antiseptic wipes, lotion or spray
- Blanket (preferably a thermal shock blanket) or old towel
- Cotton balls or swabs
- Instant ice pack
- Non-latex disposable gloves
- Saline solution to wash out wounds
- Needle-nosed pliers or tweezers
- Contact information for your veterinarian and nearest after hours vet hospital
- Photocopy of your pet’s medical records and ID/microchip details
- Restraints/muzzle – an injured and frightened dog or cat may bite!
- Plastic forceps for ticks
- Rectal thermometer
To be better prepared for any emergency, we recommend discussing your pet’s health with your veterinarian and if there are concerns about a disease, illness or issue associated with their breed that might put them at risk for an emergency.
Pet social apps like PetsForever app can also be useful in giving you tips on how to better prepare or educate yourself on pet emergencies before they occur. It is an Australian app with a Q&A, blog, and socialising community where you can have almost all your pet-related questions answered and get tips and advice on various pet-related issues.
Not only do you get answers from pet parents or aspiring pet parents like you, but also from veterinary professionals. This can save you the time, money and hassle by providing you with answers with just a few clicks on your phone.
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The information we offer is educational in nature and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical prevention, diagnosis or treatment. Our recommendation is to always do your research.
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