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What is a Pet Emergency & When Should You Call?


Pet Emergency 101

Emergencies involving your pet are upsetting, no matter the timing.

Being equipped with basic pet first aid knowledge can make a significant difference in ensuring the well-being of your furry friend and may even be help save their life.

Dr Liam Donaldson, Emergency and Critical Care Specialist at Greencross Vet Hospital at the University of Melbourne, shares his tips for a pet emergency. 

Download Pet Emergency Info Sheet

Recognise the signs of a pet emergency

The first step in responding to a pet emergency is recognising when your pet needs help.  Common signs that your pet may be injured or unwell include:  

Difficulty breathing: Laboured breathing, wheezing, or gasping for air.

Severe bleeding: Uncontrollable bleeding from any part of the body.

Changes in consciousness: Inability to stand or sudden loss of consciousness. 

Trauma: Cuts, wounds, or injuries from accidents, falls, or sudden impacts.

Seizures: Uncontrolled convulsions or spasms.

Persistent vomiting or diarrhea: Severe vomiting or diarrhea that contains blood or lasts for an extended period.

Visible pain or discomfort: Crying out, restlessness, or aggression due to severe discomfort.

Changes in behaviour: Sudden disorientation, confusion, or abnormal behaviour.

Difficulties urinating: Straining to urinate, or regular unsuccessful toileting attempts.

Four steps to a pet emergency

In the event of a pet emergency, it’s crucial to remain calm and act quickly. Follow these steps until you can access help from a vet. Remember, always contact your local vet if you suspect your pet is unwell.

1. Stay calm: Your pet can sense your emotions, if you’re anxious or panicked, it can also escalate their stress levels. By staying calm, you can help reassure your pet and keep them at ease. 

2. Ensure safety: Ensure the safety of yourself, your pet and others nearby. If your pet is in a dangerous area such as on a busy road or near a dangerous object, move them to safety carefully.

3. Provide basic first aid: Administer basic first aid if necessary. This may include controlling bleeding, flushing a wound with saline, or applying a cool pack. If you’re unsure, you can speak with a qualified vet 24/7 with WebVet, who can guide you with first aid care. Download our pet emergency information sheet with first aid basics here

4. Seek help from vet: Go to your nearest emergency vet for assistance. Transport your pet safely, keeping them as comfortable as possible. Find your nearby after hours or 24/7 location here.

Common pet emergencies and first aid steps 

Knowing how to administer basic first aid can help make a crucial difference in saving your pet's life or preventing further harm until you can access help from a vet.

Common pet emergencies and essential first aid steps you can take include:

Cuts and wounds: If the wound is actively bleeding, apply gauze or bandaging to the wound to reduce bleeding. If the wound is dirty, flush the wound with saline if your pet can tolerate it. Remember, your pet may be moresensitive or reactive when in pain. It is best to transport your pet to the closest open vet for wound assessment.

Fractured or broken bones: Wrap your pet in a blanket, limit their movement and take them to your nearest emergency vet for treatment. Manipulation of the fracture will cause pain. It is safer to leave stabilisation to your vet, attempting it on your own could result in your pet biting or scratching. It could also cause them further tissue trauma and potentially catastrophic bleeding.

Snake bites: Seek veterinary assistance immediately. There is no need for you to try and identify the snake or take photos as vets use multivalent snake venom.

Tick bites: Tick bites can be fatal, seek veterinary assistance immediately. Many of the signs can be subtle and if missed your pet can quickly deteriorate.

Poisoning: Remove the poison from your pet's reach, rinse the mouth if safe to do so and transport them to your nearest emergency vet immediately.

Seizures: Cushion your pet's head and move them away from anything that may be a danger (e.g. fireplace, table legs). Seek immediate veterinary care if the seizure lasts over 30 seconds. Do not attempt to put your hands in their mouth as your pet is likely to bite.

Vehicle traumas: Transport your pet to a vet as soon as possible. Try to keep your pet's spine straight and supported. Avoid curling them up for a cuddle.

Burns: Cool the burn area with cold running water and transport your pet to your nearest emergency vet. In the case of chemical burns, seek immediate veterinary attention. Do not apply any ointments to the wounds.

Heat stress: Keep your pet as cool as possible, allowing access to cold drinking water and air conditioning / fan. Always visit a vet if you are concerned that your pet is suffering from heat stress. Delays in treatment can significantly reduce their chances of survival. 

Prepare a pet first aid kit

In addition to knowing how to respond to pet emergencies, it's essential to have a well-stocked pet first aid kit at home. Here's what you should include:

Gauze pads and bandages: For controlling bleeding and covering wounds.

Adhesive tape and scissors: For securing bandages and cutting gauze.

Tweezers: For removing ticks or debris from wounds.

Sterile saline solution: For flushing eyes or wounds.

Muzzle: To prevent biting if your pet is in pain.

Vet contact information: Including your regular vet and emergency vet.

Pet's medical records: Copies of vaccination records, prescriptions and any
relevant medical history.

Pet first aid information: Download and print our pet emergency information sheet here.

Know your nearest emergency vet 

Pet emergencies can happen at any time. The Animal Referral & Emergency Network has emergency vets available 365 days a year, including public holidays. Find your nearest location here. 

Download our pet emergency information sheet

For quick reference in times of need, download this pet emergency information sheet. Keep it handy in your pet first aid kit so it’s readily available. A quick response can make all the difference in a pet emergency.