Identify an emergency with your pet, act correctly and prevent it!

Emergencies happen and are commonplace in every veterinary clinic. But what if your own pet is affected? How do you even recognize an emergency as such and what is the best way to act? So that you and especially your furry friend are prepared for an (hopefully not) emergency situation, we have put together a few important points for you to identify emergencies and how to deal with them correctly.

What is an emergency?

In medicine, we speak of an emergency when there is a situation in which the patient suffers serious (permanent) damage or dies without immediate medical treatment, often restricting elementary life functions. Classic examples include serious injuries, poisoning or acute illnesses.

Tierarzt und Tierbesitzer mit Hund bei filu im Behandlungszimmer.

How do I recognize an emergency?

It is probably clear to everyone that a heavily bleeding wound or, for example, a broken leg should be treated immediately. But an emergency is not always so clearly identifiable as such — cats in particular usually show much more subtle symptoms when it comes to pain and injuries.

In these cases, we strongly recommend that you drop by with your animal immediately:

Severe bleeding or severed body parts can usually be clearly identified as an emergency — in the case of open wounds or severe bleeding that cannot be stopped within a few minutes, rapid medical care is important.

Broken bones or injuries (e.g. after a car accident, eye injuries) are usually just as easily identifiable as an emergency. Sudden severe swelling or inability to move a limb are other signs that your pet needs immediate help.

  • Breathing problems: If your animal suddenly has difficulty breathing or makes unusual breathing noises, this could be a sign of a serious upper respiratory tract disease, such as a stuck foreign body.
  • Poisoning: If you suspect that your animal has eaten something poisonous, such as medicines, household chemicals or poisonous plants, it should be treated immediately.
  • Seizures: If your pet has a seizure that lasts longer than 5 minutes or has multiple attacks in quick succession, immediate veterinary attention is required.
  • Loss of consciousness or severe lethargy: If your animal is unconscious or shows extreme weakness and is no longer able to move independently, you should take it to the vet immediately.
  • Scalds, burns and heat stroke (e.g. due to hot liquids or staying in a closed car): Heat accidents are always an emergency!
  • Very bright/pale and dry mucous membranes: these are signs of severe dehydration and an unstable circulatory situation — immediate action is required
  • Even acute and severe vomiting every minute should be clarified by a vet as soon as possible.
  • Absence of urine or only drops of urine in a hangover (more rarely also in a cat): Constant urination, blood in urine or abnormal cleaning of the penis are signs of a misplaced urethra and an absolute emergency. Urinary congestion can lead to life-threatening electrolyte shifts!
Tierarzt und Tiermedizinische Fachangestellte beim Ultraschall mit Hund

How do I behave correctly in an emergency?

Even though it's certainly not that easy, it's important to keep a cool head first. If you are panicked yourself, your animal will also feel it and this can also lead to fearful or aggressive behavior. If you have recognized an emergency situation as such, an essential step has already been taken. So stay calm and first get your animal “out of the danger zone”, i.e. out of the hot car, away from the scene of the accident or from the biting dog, away from the chocolate, etc. Also pay attention to your safety and remember that otherwise lamb pious animals often behave differently under stress and pain and may bite or be aggressive. A blanket or towel can be helpful to grab a potentially aggressive or panicked animal and protect yourself from bites. In addition, a blanket can be used as a stretcher for transporting larger dogs.

You should treat heavily bleeding wounds yourself on site: with a pressure bandage, you can stop the bleeding for now and thus stabilize your animal for transport. If you do not have bandages at hand, you can also makeshift the wound with handkerchiefs and/or an item of clothing (e.g. shawl, scarf, T-shirt).

Then contact a vet or veterinary clinic immediately and describe as precisely as possible what happened and what symptoms your animal is showing. As in human emergencies, you can follow the W questions so as not to forget anything:

  • Who is calling?
  • Where did it happen?
  • What happened?
  • What is the injury?
  • Who is affected?
  • Waiting for inquiries!

If necessary, follow the specific telephone instructions from the vet or clinic.

The right transport to the vet

If there is an emergency, take your pet to the vet or a veterinary clinic as soon as possible. Animals that are unable to stand or walk are best transported in a right lateral position with an extended neck. The back of the animal can be placed slightly higher than the front part with a towel and thus allows better blood flow towards the head. Make sure that your furry nose is well secured, cats and small dogs are best in a box — large dogs can be transported in the trunk. If you are too excited yourself, ideally let someone else drive you to the vet. It also allows you to monitor the sick or injured animal while driving.

If possible, take your furry nose's vaccination certificate and, if necessary, more recent medical documents with you to the vet. If your pet has eaten something poisonous, pack some of it too (e.g. packaging of chewing gum, chocolate, cleaning products, etc.) - this can provide the treating vet with important information for diagnosis and treatment.

Tierärztin mit TFA bei der Untersuchung einer Katze

How can I prepare for an emergency?

Unfortunately, you can't really fully prepare yourself for an emergency. However, there are a few points that can help you and your four-legged friend keep cool in an emergency situation.

With a First aid kit Emergencies can occur and are commonplace in every veterinary clinic. But what if your own pet is affected? How do you even recognize an emergency as such and what is the best way to act? So that you and especially your furry friend are prepared for an (hopefully not) emergency situation, we have put together a few important points for you to identify emergencies and how to deal with them correctly. For example, treat minor wounds yourself or stop heavy bleeding before you make your way to the vet.

Always have important medical documents and your furry friend's vaccination certificate ready and pack them even when traveling. You should also always have important contact details for your veterinary practice, as well as emergency clinics nearby and at the holiday destination. It is best to find out in advance which is the fastest way to a veterinary clinic so that you can start right away in an emergency.

The most important point is, of course, to avoid emergencies. Always ensure the highest possible level of safety for yourself and your animal, whether by correctly securing in the car, socializing early with other animals and the environment (traffic, people...) or leashing on big roads. Even at home, you should remove all possible sources of danger — store food that is poisonous to animals safely and place poisonous houseplants so that your four-legged friend cannot reach them. A regular visit to the vet is essential so that any illnesses in your animal can be identified at an early stage and treated correctly.

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