Do I need to take my pet to the ER?
At times it is difficult to know if your pet needs to see a veterinarian right away or if its okay to contact your regular veterinarian. At Mason Dixon Animal Emergency Hospital, we recommend everyone call us at (717) 432-6030 if you have questions about your pet's health.
Common Pet Injuries & Symptoms
Hit by Car
Some pets might appear “ok” after experiencing major trauma like being hit by a car, but we recommend having them checked out right away because pets can experience multiple serious injuries ranging from head trauma to internal bleeding or broken bones.
Do not hesitate if your dog or cat is not breathing right. Breathing problems in dogs or cats with breathing problems should be taken seriously. Any pet with an increase in their breathing rate or effort needs to be examined right away.
Prolonged bleeding can cause anemia (low red blood cell count). We recommend any continuous bleeding, ranging from the nose, a wound, or even from a broken toe nail, be evaluated.
Your Cat or Dog is Excessively Weak or Collapses
Weakness, especially when there is a sudden onset, shows as pets that are reluctant to stand up or walk. Many of these pets may have pale pink or white gums. This is a medical emergency if observed. Normal gum color in your pet should be pink. If you observe gums that are pale, white, grey, blue, dark red, yellow, or that contain small red spots (petechiations), please have your pet evaluated immediately.
Dog or cat eye issues often present as pawing at their eyes, squinting, or having ocular discharge or eyes that are red/swollen. If the eye looks red, your cat or dog need to be seen for their eye issues.
Prolonged Vomiting and Diarrhea
If pets have vomiting and diarrhea that lasts for more than 12 hours or is severe, your pet needs to be seen. If blood is seen in the stool or vomit, this requires immediate attention
If your cat or dog is having seizures and has more than 2 seizures in a 24-hour period or if the seizures will not stop, we recommend an exam. Your pet needs to be seen immediately if your cat or dog is having a seizure that lasts more than 5 minutes.
If your pet is walking with wobbliness in the hind end, dragging their legs, or inability to use the legs - this constitutes an emergency.
Pets can develop urinary stones or other conditions that make it difficult for them to urinate. This is a life threatening injury. If your cat or dog is unable to urinate or going back and forth to the litter box and you don’t know if they are producing urine, they need to be seen immediately. Male cats in particular are at a higher risk for developing urinary health issues.
Distended Abdomen with Retching (Non-productive Vomiting)
Bloat or GDV (gastric dilatation and volvulus) is a life-threatening emergency. Dogs typically start with a sudden onset of trying to vomit with little production. Their abdomen starts to get bloated and bigger. If you are suspicious your dog could be bloated, get in the car immediately and then call us to let our animal hospital know that you are on your way.
Heat Stroke / Heat Exhaustion
Dogs are more often at risk for heat illness than cats because they frequently travel with their human companions. Heat stroke emergencies can happen if a pet is left in a hot car, tethered outside without access to water and shade, or if taken hiking on hot days. Common cat or dog heat stroke symptoms include weakness, vomiting, and diarrhea. Sometimes, it is obvious that they have heat stroke, but if you aren’t sure, we recommend bringing them in for a dog or cat heat stroke exam.
Bloody Vomit or Blood in Poop
Blood in the vomit and/or bloody feces indicates a more serious condition. It can develop from foreign objects, severe inflammation, bleeding disorders, and sometimes parasitic infections. If noted, we recommend having your cat or dog checked out right away.
There are a lot of toxic plants, food, and chemicals out there! Some of the common toxins to dogs include sugar free gum, mushrooms, human medications (ibuprofen), grapes/raisins, moldy food, and chocolate to name a few. Some of the common toxins to cats include human medications (ibuprofen) and lilies.
Rodenticide (Rat/Mouse Poison) Exposure
Rodent poison can work in various ways. Some cause life-threatening bleeding disorders, while others can cause major neurologic abnormalities. If you think your cat or dog may have ingested one of these poisons, we recommend bringing them in immediately. Please try to bring the label, box, or packaging so we know what kind of poison they were exposed to.
Dystocia (Prolonged Labor)
More commonly encountered in dogs than cats, dystocia is a complication of the birth process that can include vaginal discharge that is bright red, green, black, or contain pus; contractions that persist for longer than 30-60 minutes with no delivery; greater than 4 hours between delivery of subsequent puppies or kittens; weakness and tremors; stillborn; or partially lodged fetus. Any of these developments warrants immediate emergency intervention.
Dogs and cats can develop allergic reactions, too! Typically, dogs having an allergic reaction will present with swelling around the eyes and/or muzzle, hives in isolated patches or all over the body, or even a sudden onset of vomiting and diarrhea. In cats, sometimes we can see facial swelling. Both cats and dogs experiencing allergic reactions can develop difficulty breathing and should be seen immediately.
If you’re wondering “why is my dog or cat limping?”, it could be due to a broken bone. A dog or cat that is not using their leg at all (non-weight bearing) should be seen more urgently because we need to ensure that they haven’t broken a bone. Common causes include sprains and strains, but other more serious injuries, such as torn ligaments, are common in large breed dogs.