On the 5th of November I presented a talk at Castle Gardens in Sherborne as part of their Pet Wellbeing day. It was titled Common Emergencies, Toxins and Misconceptions. It generated lots of interesting discussion so over the next two months, I thought it would be a good idea to cover these topics starting with common emergencies.
Every veterinary surgery has to provide an out of hours emergency service and as we cover this service ourselves, it forms a big part of our working life and gives pet owners invaluable peace of mind when the surgery is closed.
So what is actually a veterinary emergency? This will vary from one vet to another and between different pet owners. Trying to decide what constitutes an emergency is sometimes more than half the battle.
The following examples are typical veterinary emergencies either that we see or should certainly be considered emergencies and warrant a call to the emergency vet:
Any significant blood loss is an emergency. If you have to ask yourself “is this amount of blood loss significant?” The answer is yes, it is! Small dogs and cats especially do not need to lose very much blood to lower their total blood volume to dangerously low levels.
Road traffic accidents are obvious emergencies and even if its just a glancing blow and your pet looks ok, be aware that internal injuries could still be present and bleeding into the lungs for example may not become obvious for several hours.
Any sign of respiratory distress; any increase in respiratory rate or effort, from deep heavy breathing to short shallow breathing is an indication for urgent veterinary treatment. Breathing problems can suggest lung or heart problems and can progress rapidly.
Acute vomiting and diarrhoea can not only lead to dehydration but vomiting especially can be a symptom of a more serious underlying illness or even gastro-intestinal obstruction.
In large deep chested dogs, unproductive attempts at vomiting (usually with abdominal bloating) are a classic symptom of a twisted stomach, and without doubt an emergency.
Straining to frequently pass small amounts of urine (cystitis) may be uncomfortable and warrant pain relief but is not life-threatening. However, in male cats (and less commonly male dogs) urinary obstruction can occur and is life threatening. It is not only extremely painful but can lead to acute kidney failure and even cause high potassium levels in the blood potentially triggering sudden heart failure.
These are some of the more common emergencies I think we as pet owners should be aware of but there are many other situations that require out-of-hours attention. Another group of emergencies are toxin ingestions and poisonings but we will cover these in next months article.
If you as pet owners have an emergency or have any concerns what so ever, help is always at the end of the telephone.
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