July 22, 2015 Emergency Pet Safety

Five Reasons to Go to the Animal ER NOW!

small dog being treated by a vet

Five Reasons to Go to the Animal ER NOW!

Pet families often ask me how they will know when it is time for their pet to go to an animal ER, like The Animal Medical Center’s 24/7 emergency room. This blog lists five things that should make you stop what you are doing and head to the closest animal ER.

Acute Collapse or Inability to Walk

The problems potentially responsible for a pet’s inability to walk are legion. They cover the entire gamut of body systems, including a slipped disc in the back, the pet version of vertigo, abnormal heart rhythms, orthopedic problems, non-functional adrenal glands and internal bleeding from a tumor, like hemangiosarcoma.
Not all of these are bona fide emergencies, but to the eyes of a pet family, these conditions can all look very serious. To the trained eyes of an ER team, these conditions can quickly be sorted out as serious or not.  The AMC’s ER staff use a triage system to determine treatment priority based on the severity of the condition. If they assess your pet’s condition as life-threatening, your pet moves to first in the treatment queue while other less sick pets must wait their turn.


Ingestion of medications, human or pet, is the number one reason for calls to pet poison control. Keep the numbers at the end of this blog handy in case you find your pet has ingested a medication by accident. The pet poison control hotlines can also advise you as to the type of emergency care your pet needs if he has eaten a plant, household cleaning product, paint balls or gorilla glue. For sure, if your pet has eaten rat poison, antifreeze, grapes, raisins, or products containing xylitol, go to the ER immediately.


Two related conditions involving air distension of the stomach occur in dogs: 1. Bloat, which is simply stomach distention with air (gastric dilatation) and 2. Torsion twisting of the air filled stomach (gastric dilatation and volvulus or GDV). The second is worse, but both are life threatening and dogs with either need ER attention immediately. The distended stomach impedes blood flow and your dog will develop shock. Dog families will readily recognize symptoms of bloat, which are unproductive vomiting, collapse, distended abdomen and general discomfort.

Breathing Problems

Respiratory distress stems from a problem anywhere between the tip of the nose and the lining of the lungs. Pneumonia can occur at any time of year, but is more frequent in dogs than in cats. Common in small breed dogs like Yorkshire terriers and Pugs is collapsing trachea.
Respiratory distress in cats may be the result of asthma or heart disease. Dogs too develop heart disease, which causes fluid to accumulate in their lungs, resulting in difficult respiration. The AMC’s cardiologists recommend an ER visit if the respirations in your pet are greater than 40 breaths per minute.


Pets involved in vehicular accidents and those that have been accidently sat on, tripped over or have fallen from a height need to be evaluated immediately. Obviously if the pet is unable to walk or is having breathing problems, you would rush them to the ER, but even if your pet looks fine on the outside, internal injuries as still possible. Identification of invisible internal injuries such as burst bladders, leaking lungs and damaged diaphragms require sophisticated testing available in animal ERs. Early detection of these injuries can mean the difference between life and death.

Missing From This List

Readers may be scratching their heads and asking themselves why vomiting and diarrhea or bleeding did not make my top five list. While these clinical signs might require an emergency room visit, good judgment should prevail and if these signs persist, are substantial or accompany any of the five symptoms on the list, an ER visit is definitely in order.
Here are the numbers for animal poison control:
ASPCA Animal Poison Control
Pet Poison Hotline

Tags: amcny, animals, ann hohenhaus, ER, hospital, pet emergency, pets, poison, poison control, veterinary,

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