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Common Pet Emergencies and How to Avoid Them

You’ve seen those viral memes of pets sitting somberly, their heads hanging down, handmade signs around their neck stating their crime; a down pillow reduced to feathers behind them. It’s adorable when posted on your friend’s social media page, not so funny when you’re headed to the emergency clinic at two in the morning because your pet ate something they shouldn’t.

Of course, not every incident requires a trip to the ER, but if your pet is acting out of character or exhibiting signs of distress, it’s important to trust your instincts. Rather than wondering whether it’s critical enough to bring your pet in, the best thing to do is call your vet and if it’s after hours, your local emergency clinic. Animal Emergency Clinic of Conroe is open seven days a week, 24 hours a day (even holidays) and we’re always happy to answer your call and offer triage over the phone.

Our team has seen a LOT of emergencies. While no two days are the same in the ER, there are some emergencies we see more commonly than others. Since prevention really is the best medicine, we’ve identified some of the most frequent uh-oh moments and a few tips to help prevent them.

Uh Oh: Vomiting and Diarrhea  

This is one of the most common issues for pets and one of the most confusing for pet owners. Sometimes it can resolve itself on its own while other times it can be an indication of a host of larger problems. What’s most important to note is the duration and whether it’s unusual behavior for your pet. Because of the risk of dehydration — especially with kittens and puppies —it’s best to call us if you have any concerns. The sooner we can intervene, the better the outcome. While there’s no surefire way to prevent GI-distress, you can make sure your pets have access to fresh water and are given a diet recommended by your vet. Otherwise, make sure they don’t have easy access to the temptations of a garbage can or other unsafe ingestibles. 

Uh Oh: Toxin Ingestion 

Despite what those pet food commercials would have us think, dogs and cats don’t have the most discriminating palate. From poisonous plants to people foods on the no-no list, prescription medications and ordinary household items, there are many sources of toxins that surround our pets and we don’t always know which ones will pique their curiosity— or appetite. Fortunately, if treated soon enough, most cases of accidental ingestion can be resolved. The best way to avoid an emergency is to familiarize yourself with common toxins and ensure they aren’t accessible to your pets. Many guides are available online, just make sure the one you use is provided by a legitimate source such as the ASPCA. Their website lists common toxic substances broken down by category including:

- Poisonous Plants 

- People Food to Avoid 

- Poisonous Household Products 

- Human Medications and Cosmetics

The ASPCA even has a user-friendly mobile app where you can search through hundreds of potential hazards to determine the severity of each item. It also helps to teach your pet a voice command such as, “leave it,” so you can catch them before they chow down.  Again, if in doubt, give us a call and we can help figure out the best course of action.

Uh Oh: Injury or Trauma

Just like humans, pets can experience a number of injuries whether it’s a sore paw or injury from a fight. Seeing blood can be worrisome, but some trauma, such as that from blunt force, leaves no external signs. If your pet has experienced trauma, it’s best to call us whether you notice any physical injury or not so we can advise you over the phone. Even minor bite wounds can become critical if they get infected, so treatment is the best protocol.

Not all accidents can be prevented, but there are some simple ways to avoid injuries, including:

  • Leashing your dog - even the most disciplined dogs can get distracted by a smell and wander off.  When you’re hiking or in an environment where there could be hazardous plants, wildlife, cliffs, or even other dogs, keeping your dog leashed is imperative.
  • Teaching them voice commands - “Leave it,” “Stay” and “Off” can help curb behavior that could lead to an injury.
  • Skipping the dog park - dogs may be pack animals in the wild, but at the dog park it’s a different story. Whether shy or aggressive, dogs that exhibit signs of distress around other dogs should be kept out of dog parks to avoid any potential altercations. Even if your dog is socialized and gets along well with other dogs, it can be hard to predict what other dogs will do. Proceed with caution and keep an eye on your dog at all times.
  • Opting for a kennel - some pets will sleep all day and others are more, well, active. For pets that get into trouble when left alone, the safest thing is to keep them crated or in a pet kennel until they can be properly supervised.

Uh Oh: Difficulty Urinating 

When a pet is having trouble urinating or there is blood visible in their urine, please call us. Straining to urinate can be a sign of a urinary tract infection, crystals in their bladder or something more severe. This should be treated immediately and can be life-threatening. Depending on the diagnosis, there can be different underlying reasons for the issue, but the best way to ensure the health of your pet is to have regular blood work done, per your regular vet’s recommended schedule. It may seem extreme to get annual blood work or lab tests done, but it’s the best way for a vet to discover any red flags and prevent a future emergency. Believe it or not, about 60-70% of all emergency visits could be prevented with regular vet check-ups and tests!

Uh-Oh: Heatstroke

Summer means fun camping trips, nighttime bonfires, and BBQs with friends and family. Summer also means the temperatures are rising. Avoiding extreme heat is critical for your pet’s well-being. The #1 rule of Summer Pet Safety is to NEVER leave your pet in the car on a warm or hot day. Even on a warm day, temperatures can increase to life-threatening levels in such a short amount of time. Leaving your pet in the car, even if it seems like just a few minutes, is not worth the risk. Even with the windows cracked, your car is still far too hot for a pet and may result in someone breaking the window to rescue the pet, criminal prosecution in some states, or may result in a fatality of the dog. Signs of heatstroke include but are not limited to, heavy panting, excessive drooling, frequently lying down, a fast or irregular heartbeat, vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, or even neurologic signs such as seizures or stumbling.

Uh Oh: But Google Said… 

Google is a great tool, especially when you’re trying to find a recipe for gluten-free, dairy-free dog biscuits, but it can be a vortex of information overload if you’re using it to diagnose your pet’s illness. We understand these searches are done with your pets’ best interests in mind, but as trained professionals, we prefer you call us with your questions rather than trying to problem-solve online. We can conduct triage over the phone and will only ask you to bring your pet in if we deem the situation critical. If we do need to diagnose and treat your pet, that Google search may inadvertently bias your description of your pet’s symptoms and since they can’t talk, we rely on the details you provide. The last thing we want is to run an unnecessary test (that costs you time and money) because some of the information was misstated from an online search.

Pets are a part of the family but unlike kids who can tell us when their throat hurts, pets rely on their owners to recognize and care for their ailments. If you’re unsure if something requires critical attention, give us a call. Even a simple injury or illness can become critical if left untreated. We’d rather help you catch it from the start when it will be treated more easily, saving you time and money and saving your pet from as much suffering as possible.  One rule of thumb is to trust your gut. If you think something seems out of the ordinary, let us know.  Our highly trained veterinary team at Animal Emergency Clinic of Conroe is waiting to take your call! 


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