As a pet owner, you must be attuned to your furry friend’s wellbeing and know when their condition warrants immediate attention. Recognizing the difference between a situation that can wait and one that demands urgent care can make all the difference in ensuring your pet’s health and safety. To help you determine what type of care your pet needs, our Neighborhood Veterinary Centers of Nederland team covers common issues that can befall pets, and whether they require urgent or emergency care.

Breathing difficulties in pets

When your pet’s respiratory rate or effort changes, you may have difficulty determining the level of care they need. However, significant abnormalities in your furry pal’s breathing patterns are always cause for concern.

Urgent care: Labored breathing, persistent coughing, or wheezing may indicate respiratory issues or another health condition that requires urgent care. 

Emergency care: If your pet is struggling to breathe, has blue or purple gums, or suddenly collapses, seek immediate veterinary attention.

Traumatic injuries in pets

Trauma can occur if your pet is struck by a vehicle, gets in a fight with another animal, or falls from a substantial height. Mild traumatic injuries, such as minor wounds or sprains, can often wait to be treated, but more serious injuries require prompt care.

Urgent care: If your pet has a significant limp, a deep wound, or is exceptionally lethargic or painful after experiencing a traumatic event, they should be seen at an urgent care center.

Emergency care: Unconsciousness, substantial blood loss, bleeding that cannot be stopped, shock signs (e.g., pale gums, rapid breathing), or a severe injury, such as a major fracture, demands immediate veterinary attention.

Gastrointestinal issues in pets

Gastrointestinal (GI) issues, such as vomiting and diarrhea, are common occurrences in pets. While chronic problems generally do not require urgent or emergency care, a significant worsening in your pet’s condition necessitates prompt treatment. 

Urgent care: Mild vomiting or diarrhea, especially an isolated incident, may not be an emergency. However, persistent GI issues, blood in the stool or vomit, dehydration, or other illness signs, make the situation urgent. 

Emergency care: Incessant vomiting, severe diarrhea, or an inability to keep down any food or water may indicate a life-threatening condition, such as poisoning, foreign-body obstruction, or organ failure, and should be addressed immediately. Unproductive retching is also an emergency, especially if your pet’s abdomen is distended.

Behavioral changes in pets

Changes in your pet’s activity level, personality, interactions, or typical habits all indicate something is amiss. However, their condition’s severity varies with the accompanying signs they are exhibiting.

Urgent care: If your pet is less active than usual but is eating and drinking, monitoring them closely may be sufficient. However, sudden lethargy or irritability, especially paired with appetite changes, warrants urgent care.

Emergency care: Sudden behavioral changes, particularly if accompanied by seizures, disorientation, or unconsciousness, could signal a neurologic emergency and require immediate intervention.

Appetite changes in pets

Pets’ appetites often fluctuate, especially if their diet has recently been switched. However, ongoing or severe appetite changes are cause for concern.

Urgent care: A temporary appetite loss may not be an emergency, but if your pet refuses food for more than 24 hours, seek veterinary attention.

Emergency care: A complete aversion to food or water, especially if accompanied by other alarming signs (e.g., vomiting, diarrhea, extreme lethargy), requires immediate intervention. 

Bloody urine in pets

Urinary issues are common in pets, including inappropriate urination, blood in the urine, and straining to urinate. While all these issues require veterinary attention, each condition’s severity dictates the urgency of care.

Urgent care: Pets who have blood in their urine or vocalize in discomfort while urinating need urgent care to prevent their condition from worsening.

Emergency care: If your pet, especially a male cat, is straining to urinate, they need emergency veterinary care. The inability to urinate can rapidly turn into a life-threatening condition.

Body temperature changes in pets

Your pet’s body temperature changes with outdoor weather conditions and their physical activity level. Mild body temperature fluctuations are generally not cause for concern. 

Urgent care: If your pet’s body temperature is higher than 103 degrees or lower than 99 degrees, a fever or hypothermia may be setting in. When these abnormal temperatures are paired with behavior changes or other worrying signs, seek urgent veterinary care.

Emergency care: Extremely high or low body temperatures are red flags, necessitating immediate veterinary care.

Being able to distinguish between urgent and emergency situations is essential for every pet owner. When in doubt, err on the side of caution and seek professional advice from our Neighborhood Veterinary Centers of Nederland team.