It can be scary when your pet is sick or hurt. As pet parents, you want to do what’s best for them at that moment – but how can you tell the difference between something that can wait and something that needs urgent attention?

You might think that it’s always better to err on the side of caution and get to the veterinary clinic ASAP. However, depending on the problem your pet is experiencing, it could take time – hours, even – before they can be seen. Like many veterinary hospitals across the country, we are busier than ever, and we have to give priority to the most serious and life-threatening cases first (just like at emergency rooms for humans).

Seek Immediate Care

Here are some of the symptoms that should be taken seriously, as they could indicate that your pet needs urgent care:

  • Acute abdominal swelling (bloat/GDV)
  • Collapse, difficulty standing/walking
  • Coughing (persistent)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Electric shock
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Heatstroke (excessive or loud panting, extreme thirst, vomiting, a bright red tongue, and pale gums)
  • High or low temperature (including frostbite and heatstroke)
  • Inability to urinate or defecate
  • Poisoning or toxic ingestion
  • Recurrent vomiting or diarrhea
  • Repetitive and prolonged seizures
  • Snakebite
  • Squinting, bulging, or painful eyes
  • Trauma (hit by car, accident)

Less Urgent Signs

Pet exhibiting the signs below should still receive veterinary attention, but these cases tend to be less urgent than those above, especially if they are not accompanied by additional symptoms. We recommend calling us to see if your pet’s condition warrants immediate care or if you can provide care at home.

  • Abscesses
  • Anorexia/not eating for more than 24 hours
  • Constipation for more than 24 hours
  • Chronic diseases
  • Ear infection
  • Lameness/limping
  • Minor wounds
  • Skin conditions
  • Eye irritation
  • Pain/restless
  • Urinary tract problems
  • Vomiting/diarrhea more than a few times in 24 hours

Remember, this list doesn’t include all symptoms, and each pet is different. When in doubt, please call us at 908-232-1048. Our Westfield and Union teams are available to help pet owners recognize emergency symptoms and provide advice on the next steps if symptoms progress. If your pet requires urgent care, get them to our Union location (open seven days a week, 365 days a year, from 7 am – 7 pm) or the nearest after-hours emergency veterinary hospital.