Signs Your Pet Needs Emergency Vet Care

Pets, just like people, can sometimes suffer from conditions or illness which require immediate emergency veterinary care. Here, our Wake Forest vets explain what situations may warrant emergency care and what to do when that occurs. 

Contact your veterinarian or emergency vet clinic immediately if your pet is having an emergency.

Situations that require immediate emergency veterinary attention can occur at any time, whether day or night. And as a pet owner, you will need to be prepared for if and when it happens to your pet.

Knowing how to identify when your pet needs emergency attention isn't always obvious. So, you will need to be aware of some of the signs and symptoms that indicate a trip to the emergency vet is required. If you are unsure, always call your vet or an emergency pet hospital near you for assistance.

Signs of a Pet Emergency

  • Unconsciousness
  • Obvious pain
  • Loss of balance
  • Uncontrolled bleeding
  • Vomiting or blood in diarrhea
  • Lameness or inability to walk
  • Bloated, swollen or painful abdomen
  • Severe injury (falls, car accidents, broken bones, open wounds)
  • Dilated pupils
  • Seizures
  • Unable to deliver puppies or kittens
  • Inability to urinate or defecate
  • Sudden blindness, staggering or stumbling
  • Inflammation or injury to the eye
  • Difficulty breathing, extreme coughing or choking
  • Ingestion of poisonous foods, substances, plants, or bones

Basic First Aid

It's critical that you know that first aid care for your pet is not a replacement for a veterinary visit. It is solely meant to stabilize your pet for a trip to your vet or the closest emergency hospital.


Start with muzzling your pet. Place a clean gauze pad over the injury, applying pressure with your hand until blood clotting begins (usually several minutes). Severe leg bleeding requires a tourniquet of gauze and an elastic band to secure it, bring your pet to the vet immediately. 


Remove objects that may hurt your pet. Do not attempt to restrain them. Keep your pet warm after the seizure is over and phone your vet.


Muzzle your pet. Lay them on a flat surface that can be used as a stretcher to transport them to the vet. Secure them to the stretcher if possible, avoiding the injured area.


Be exceedingly cautious, your pet may bite you in a panic. Look for any objects in their mouth and remove them if possible. But make sure you don't accidentally push the object even further into their throat. Don't waste any time on this if it is difficult to do, because you could be losing time. Bring your pet in to your veterinarian as quickly as possible.

Being Prepared

What You Should Know in Advance

Our vets recommend preparing and having the following available in case of an emergency:

  • Directions to the Emergency Vet Clinic
  • Knowledge of basic CPR for pets
  • Knowledge of how to stop bleeding
  • The phone number for your vet's office
  • The phone number for the closest Emergency Vet Clinic
  • The phone number for the Animal Poison Control Center
  • How to muzzle your dog when he's in pain so he doesn't bite others

Financial Responsibilities

Pet emergency care may be expensive because of the amount of testing, diagnostics, monitoring and treatment that is required. As a pet owner, it is your responsibility to make sure you can financially care for your pet in a time of crisis.

It might be easier to plan ahead for unforeseeable circumstances with savings set aside for emergencies, or pet insurance plans. Delays in care to avoid emergency fees may put your pet's life at risk, so it's important to take this into consideration when becoming a pet owner.

If your pet is in need of emergency care, please contact North Wake Animal Hospital or go to your nearest emergency veterinarian clinic immediately.