Recognizing Animal Emergencies

What to do when your pet is feeling poorly, including prevention, knowing your vet's availability, recognizing emergencies, don't hurt and get hurt.

| January/February 1987

Recognizing when animal emergencies happen and what to do when your pet's feeling poorly. 

Recognizing Animal Emergencies

Seeing a beloved pet hurt or seriously ill can be frightening and perplexing. But as a practicing veterinarian, I've seen my share of emergencies, and I'm convinced there are things pet owners can do to help make such situations manageable. Here's a short course.

Prevention is the best cure. The cliché bears repeating. Keep your pet out of trouble and you won't have any animal emergencies.

One of my biggest frustrations is knowing that nearly all the animal injuries I treat could have been avoided with a simple $5 purchase: a leash. A critter running loose in an environment where there are other animals and people (and people's garbage) is a disaster waiting to happen. Our California emergency clinic's statistics, for example, show that 30% to 40% of the animals we treat have been hit by cars, and another 30% to 40% have been in a fight. And almost all the rest have sustained other injuries or illnesses (such as food poisoning from eating garbage) that wouldn't have happened if the animals had been on a leash.

So either keep Pet confined to the house (or the kennel), or walk him on a leash. The up side to leash walking is that both of you will get a two- or three-times-daily workout—good for your health as well as Pet's.

Know your vet's availability. How do the veterinarians in your area handle after-hours emergencies? In some places each vet services all his or her own clients, 24 hours a day. In other areas after-hours calls are referred to a central emergency clinic. In either case, make sure you know the after-hours emergency number; write it down near (or better yet, tape it to) your phone.

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