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As a veterinarian, I have the luxury of not having to wonder “Should I call the vet?” regarding potential health issues that may crop up in my pets. But as a mom of a toddler, I feel all pet owners’ pain when something like a fever crops up and I don’t know what to do. Should I call the doctor? Should I go to the emergency room?


These are also questions dog and cat parents everywhere struggle with, especially in difficult economic times. To help you out, I thought it would be a good idea to talk about what types of things constitute a veterinary emergency – and also to reiterate the importance of carrying veterinary pet insurance, which can help alleviate costs and make the decision to get your pet treated easier.

The very best advice I can give you is this: if you are worried, call the vet. The receptionists are usually knowledgeable and will be able to give you some advice regarding whether you should bring your pet in to be seen by the veterinarian. You may also be able to talk to a veterinary technician or leave a message for the vet to get their opinions as well.

 Sometimes just in talking with a client over the phone, we are able to determine that a problem is not really a problem, and this saves that client a visit, but sometimes it’s hard to discern much over the phone. In these cases, it’s best to schedule an appointment so your furry friend can be seen in person.

Let me reiterate – if you are worried, just call! You are not “bothering” the receptionists or veterinarian – we are here to help you!

 Ok, enough of that. Let’s get down to brass tacks. Here are some things that ALWAYS need to be seen by your veterinarian.


The following conditions need to be seen the same day they happen:


  • Wounds, especially when they are the product of a fight.

  • First time seizure. Prolonged seizures are an emergency.

  • Prolonged inappetence

  • Prolonged vomiting/diarrhea (more than 24 hours)

  • Altered mental state

  • Insect stings, if generalized facial swelling or hives accompanies

  • Persistent mild to moderate lameness (over 24-36 hours)


 These conditions need to be seen immediately, as soon as you can get to the vet.

  • Hit by car

  • Trouble breathing

  • Rapid swelling of the abdomen/bloating

  • Heat stroke

  • Straining to urinate

  • Snakebites

  • Paralysis of the front or back legs

  • Severe, sudden lameness

  • Exposure to or ingestion of toxins

  • Trouble with birthing of puppies or kittens

  • Extreme lethargy


 This list in no way includes every emergency situation, but is pretty comprehensive of the most common situations. Again, if you are worried about your pet, just call the office. If the receptionist can’t help you, he or she will find someone who can!

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