Sometimes, it’s obvious when a pet needs emergency care. Other times, you might be wondering if you can wait until morning when your regular veterinarian’s office opens. At Animal Urgent Care, we urge pet owners in Escondido, CA and across North County San Diego to call us at 760-738-9600 for any questions regarding their pets’ health. We can provide you with instructions based on their condition. We provide 24/7 medical and surgical care, 365 days a year.
Common Pet Emergencies Include, But Are Not Limited To:
Dogs and cats may be mildly to severely allergic to:
- Stings from bees, wasps and other stinging insects
Insect Bite Hypersensitivity:
Allergic reactions to insect bites and stings are common for pets, and can vary in severity. Common symptoms of facial swelling, swelling around the wound, hives, or red ears or skin. Symptoms of a severe reaction may include vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, and/or collapse. Mild reactions may worsen and should be evaluated by a vet.
There are 3 types of reactions that can occur:
Mild: Minimal swelling or pain at the sting/injection site. May or may not require treatment. Monitoring for worsening reaction is strongly advised.
Moderate: Swelling at the site and development of hives and/or swelling around the eyes or face, tummy or groin. Cats rarely develop hives but will scratch themselves and may have trouble breathing. The earflaps will often become red and swollen. The reaction may occur immediately after the sting, or be delayed by minutes to hours. You should take your pet to a veterinarian for injection treatment.
Severe: Following the bite or sting the pet vomits, has diarrhea, and has difficulty breathing or collapses. PLEASE NOTE: Oral antihistamines for acute, severe reactions are usually ineffective and can be dangerous for your pet.
Pets with a severe reaction need to see a veterinarian immediately, as the vomiting and diarrhea may become bloody and cause a severe, life-threatening condition.
There are many causes for anemia (decreased red blood cells). If your pet is bleeding excessively from an open wound, you should try to calm them down and place a bandage directly over the source of bleeding. Make sure that it is not placed too tight and have them seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Other causes of anemia may not be as obvious, and can be the result of several conditions including:
- Immune mediated disease (the immune system attacks and destroys the body’s red blood cells)
- Intra-abdominal bleeding from a ruptured tumor on the liver or spleen
- Rodenticide poisoning resulting in bleeding into the chest or abdominal cavity
Despite the cause and source of bleeding, your pet will likely display similar symptoms which can manifest as:
- Weakness, lethargy and collapse
- Fast breathing and elevated heart rate
- Pale gums
- Coughing or distended abdomen (if they have internal bleeding)
If you suspect your pet is anemic, you should have them seen by a veterinarian immediately. Animal Urgent Care is stocked with canine and feline blood products in the event your pet requires a blood transfusion.
The most common bite wounds are:
- Dog vs. Dog
- Dog vs. Cat
- Cat vs. Cat.
Wild animal bites can cause some of the most severe bite wounds.
Bite wounds can cause infections and damage beneath the skin which can be very serious. It is difficult to tell how much damage has been done beneath the skin, which is why it is important for your pet to see a vet. First, clean the site of the wound with water and gentle soap. It may need an antibiotic to fight infection, which is why your pet should be seen promptly.
If the wound is large and underlying tissue is exposed, do NOT put anything on the wound and take the animal to a veterinarian immediately.
Bloat (Gastric dilatation and volvulus)
Bloating in pets can be a life-threatening condition. It is most common in larger dogs but can occur in any dog or cat. Your pet needs evaluation by a vet as soon as bloating is detected.
Signs of bloating and/or twisted stomach include:
- Abdominal distention
- Retching or trying to vomit, but all that comes up is foamy material
- Rapid heart rate
- Pale gums
- Unable to get comfortable or lay down
Treatment usually requires aggressive medical stabilization with intravenous fluids, along with stomach repositioning surgery. Early treatment is essential, because left untreated, stomach twisting results in stomach lining death and stomach rupture.
If you suspect your pet may be bloated, take your pet to a veterinarian or Animal Urgent Care immediately.
Congestive Heart Failure
Heart disease is common in both cats and dogs, although the exact mechanisms as well as symptoms vary greatly. In dogs, coughing and exercise intolerance are usually the first symptoms to be observed. Cats typically don’t cough but may exhibit an increased respiratory rate, lethargy and inappetence.
As heart disease progresses, the heart decompensates and fluid will begin to accumulate in the lungs (most commonly) or abdomen. When this occurs, they will develop labored breathing which can manifest in different ways depending on the species (see respiratory distress).
If you suspect your pet could be in congestive heart failure it is extremely important that you get them to a veterinarian immediately where treatment can be administered in the form of oxygen and diuretics. Try to minimize stress as much as possible during transport of your pet to the hospital.
Diabetic ketoacidosis is a serious complication to diabetes mellitus, which can occur in both cats and dogs. The most obvious symptom of diabetes mellitus is increased drinking and urination, increased appetite and weight loss. If diabetes mellitus goes untreated or an already diagnosed diabetic acquires an additional disease such as pancreatitis, they can develop a severe/complicated form of diabetes called diabetic ketoacidosis.
If your pet is currently being treated for diabetes with insulin and stops eating, begins vomiting or appears lethargic, it is best to NOT give more insulin and have them seen right away. Animals that develop diabetic ketoacidosis need to be managed in the hospital until they are stable enough to go home. Once home, they will usually require insulin therapy for life, which is both a time and financial commitment that every pet owner needs to be made aware of and comfortable with before going forward.
Foxtails are a type of grass found throughout Southern California. These benign-looking plants have barbs that help attach themselves to the fur of dogs and cats. Once attached, they will continue to migrate and can penetrate through tissue into body cavities.
The most common location for foxtails in dogs are the ears, nose and paws. Symptoms of embedded foxtails pertain to their location on the body and may include:
- Head shaking/ear scratching
- Incessant sneezing with or without blood
- Excessive foot licking, swelling/pustule between the toes
When possible, it is best to avoid walking your pet through areas that are dense with foxtails. Always check your pet’s coat after walks and promptly remove foxtails from their coat. If you suspect your pet may have a foxtail lodged in their skin, seek treatment immediately.
Lameness is an abnormal gait or stance which is usually the result of pain in one of the extremities. This can occur as the result of many conditions, including soft tissue injuries (strains/sprains, contusions), fractures or dislocations.
If your pet is consistently lame, in pain and/or refuses to put weight on a leg, you should have them seen immediately. X-rays may be advised to assess for a fracture or dislocated bone. Certain types of fractures and dislocations can be managed conservatively with splints and rest, while others may require surgery for best long-term outcomes. Animal Urgent Care works closely with several board-certified surgeons to treat most fractures that are not amenable to conservative management.
Pets should never be left in the heat for too long, and they should NEVER be kept in a car on a hot day. If your pet has heat stroke, they need emergency care immediately.
Heat stroke can develop in dogs whose temperature has reached 105 degrees Fahrenheit or more. Symptoms of heat stroke include:
- Excessive panting even after resting
- Bright red, infected gums
- Bloody urine
Your first thought may be to provide your pet with water, but this is not enough. Heat stroke can lead to kidney failure and death, so your pet needs to receive emergency care immediately.
Intervertebral Disc Disease
A pet with a collapsed disc may experience several symptoms, including:
- Severe back or neck pain
- Weakness or inability to walk
- Hunched posture
- Dragging their hind limbs
- Inability to urinate or defecate.
This condition is painful and can get worse, so you should seek immediate medical care for your pet if they are experiencing these symptoms. Be careful when transporting your pet to the vet’s office; use a carrier or crate and try to limit movement of their neck or spine. If your pet is in a lot of pain, a muzzle may be needed. The sooner you seek treatment, the better. Surgery may be required. This condition is more common in pets who are longer than they are tall.
Your dog or cat in labor should seek emergency care from a vet if:
- They have been pushing for more than half an hour without producing a puppy or kitten
- More than four hours pass between puppies or kittens
- Your pet is weak or in significant pain
- A puppy or kitten becomes stuck as it is emerging
If your pet has suffered an eye injury, they should be evaluated by a veterinarian immediately, eye injuries can result in pain and potentially blindness.
Symptoms of eye injuries or conditions include:
- Excessive tearing
- Uneven size of pupils
- Pupils seem larger than normal
- Pawing at the eye
- Redness of the eye
- Cloudiness of the cornea
- Bulging of the eyeball
Parvovirus is a common and serious disease which typically affects young, unvaccinated puppies but can affect dogs of any age regardless of vaccine status. The virus is shed through the feces and contracted after the dog is exposed to the virus while grooming itself or eating. The virus is very stable outside the body and can persist for months in the environment.
Once the animal acquires the virus, it has a 5-10 day incubation period, meaning the dog will not show symptoms for several days. Symptoms typically manifest as lethargy and loss of appetite which progresses rapidly to severe vomiting and diarrhea (often bloody).
Most animals need to be hospitalized for several days and require aggressive treatment in the form of IV fluids, anti-vomiting medications, antibiotics and other supportive care (feeding tubes, plasma). The prognosis is typically good if early treatment is started. Without treatment, this virus is often fatal.
Treatment for a rattlesnake bite depends on the severity of the bite. For example, if the snake bit your pet out of aggression, it may be a more serious bite. Bites on the feet, legs, or chest are more severe than face bites. Small dogs and cats may have worse reactions than a large dog would. However, any pet that has been bitten by a rattlesnake should receive immediate treatment, as the venom can cause skin death, internal bleeding, trouble breathing,
and kidney failure. The sooner antivenom is injected, the more effective the treatment. Even if your pet has received the rattlesnake vaccine, they need treatment.
Symptoms of a rattlesnake bite include:
- Swelling and pain around the bite wounds
- Bruising of bitten skin and surrounding area
- Lethargy and depression
- Oozing puncture wounds
- Difficulty breathing
- Weakness and collapse
- Stiffness and paralysis
Respiratory distress has many causes but is always considered a serious emergency and warrants immediate intervention. Common causes of respiratory distress in dogs and cats include:
- Congestive heart failure
- Asthma (cats)
- Collapsing trachea (dogs)
- Laryngeal paralysis (dogs)
Signs of respiratory distress in both species may manifest as:
- Extended neck and inability to breath comfortably while lying down (air hunger posture)
- Increased respiratory rate and abdominal effort
- Open-mouth breathing (cats)
- Pale/purple gums
- Excessive coughing, wheezing or congestion
Any animal experiencing these symptoms should be seen by a veterinarian immediately. Try to limit stress during transport into the hospital.
Dogs (and less commonly cats) can develop seizure for a variety of reasons, most commonly epilepsy. A typical grand mal seizure will manifest as loss of consciousness and collapse followed by the limbs becoming stiff and convulsing. This can last seconds to minutes, and may result in life-threatening complications if it persists. A petit mal seizure may be more subtle and the animal may only demonstrate small behavior changes like spacing out, disorientation, jaw chattering and inappropriate urination.
The best thing a pet owner can do is to stay calm and make sure your pet cannot fall or hit their head during the seizure event. Do NOT stick your hand in their mouth to avoid getting bit. Safely transport them to the hospital once the seizure has finished (or during the seizure if it persists more than 5 minutes).”
Animals can suffer trauma due to bites from other animals, falls, or being hit by a motor vehicle. Be aware that an animal in pain may try to bite or scratch you. Approach the animal slowly and make sure they are breathing. If the injured animal is a cat, place a laundry basket over it and use a towel to scoop it into the basket. For dogs, use a belt or leash to restrain the mouth and place them on a towel or board to take to a veterinarian. Be careful when transporting an injured animal as to avoid further injury.
If the injured animal is not yours, contact your local animal control or humane society for transportation. Do NOT attempt to set fractured legs. Traumatic wounds may cause heart or lung problems to develop. If your pet has been injured or traumatized, they should be evaluated immediately.
There are many things considered toxic to cats and dogs. A list of well-known poisons/toxins include:
- Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications (Ibuprofen, Acetaminophen, Aspirin)
- Pesticides (Rat bait, snail bait, squirrel/gopher bait)
- Sago Palms
- Mycotoxins (moldy food)
The best treatment for any toxicity is early intervention and decontamination. Time is critical, so the sooner you can get your pet into the hospital, the sooner we can induce vomiting and get the toxin out of their system to prevent further absorption. If you are unsure whether or not your pet ingested something toxic, it is better to be safe than sorry and still have your pet seen.
For further information regarding common toxins, please visit: https://www.aspcapro.org/animal-health/toxicology-poison-control
Urinary obstructions are most common in adult male cats, but they can also be found in male dogs, and occasionally in female cats and dogs. Causes of blockage include:
- Bladder stones
- Bladder sand/crystals
- Swelling or inflammation of the urinary tract
Symptoms of urinary obstruction include:
- Difficulty urinating
- Small drops of bloody urine
- Crying during urination
- Getting in and out of the litter box frequently.
Sometimes, the only symptom may be vomiting, sickness or lethargy, so it may be hard to tell your pet is having a urinary problem. However, obstruction can be life-threatening, because left untreated, it results in toxin buildup in the blood that can result in death. If you suspect your pet has a urinary tract blockage, take them to a veterinarian or Animal Urgent Care immediately.
Vomiting and/or diarrhea is the most common condition we see in cats and dogs coming to the emergency hospital. There is a long list of causes for vomiting and diarrhea and not every cause requires emergency treatment.
Reasons why you should have your cat or dog seen if they are vomiting and/or having diarrhea include:
- Multiple (2 or more) episodes of vomiting in a 24-hour period
- Vomiting up foreign material (i.e. toys, fabric and other nondigestible material)
- Blood in the vomit and/or stool
- Refusal to eat/drink
- Vomiting/diarrhea persisting more than 24 hours
- Vomiting/diarrhea coupled with weakness and lethargy
Some of the more concerning causes for vomiting and diarrhea include:
- Foreign body ingestion with subsequent bowel obstruction
- Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis
Diagnostics will typically be recommended in the form of blood work and x-rays to help determine the cause for the vomiting/diarrhea (particularly when it comes to foreign bodies since this is a surgical emergency that requires prompt intervention). It is always better to be safe than sorry and have your pet seen immediately given all the potential causes for vomiting/diarrhea.