When to Seek Emergency Care for your Pet

 As a pet owner, knowing when and how to seek emergency care is crucial to ensuring your pet has the best chance of recovery should an unexpected illness or injury occur.

Prior to experiencing an emergency, you should find out where the closest emergency animal hospital is located to where you live or to where you might be travelling. Emergency hospitals are different from your primary care veterinarian where you go for preventative care and wellness. Emergency hospitals have the experience, equipment and advanced diagnostic capabilities to care for pets who are experiencing life-threatening illness or injuries.

Dedicated emergency hospitals may also have veterinarians, called criticalists, who specialize in providing emergency care for pets. Emergency hospitals also typically have extended hours or are open when primary care veterinarians are closed.

Symptoms that may be life-threatening and require emergency care:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Seizures (loss of consciousness, paddling of limbs)
  • Ingestion of poisons or intoxicants
  • Collapse, loss of consciousness or significant lethargy (dullness)
  • Trauma
  • Straining to urinate or inability to pass urine
  • Nonproductive retching or multiple episodes of vomiting
  • Eye injuries
  • Difficult labor

If possible, call ahead while you are on your way so the emergency team can be prepared for your pet’s arrival.

Other symptoms that may require emergent veterinary attention include the following:

  • severe vomiting/diarrhea
  • pale gums
  • a distended abdomen
  • severe lethargy
  • crying out in pain

How to Safely Transport your Pet in an Emergency

Injured pets can be unpredictable when experiencing a traumatic or painful situation. Keep these key tips in mind as you prepare to transport your animal to our Madison emergency veterinary clinic:

  • Practice caution to avoid injury to yourself and others nearby.
  • Use a blanket to safely move or lift an injured animal.
  • In the case of trauma, keep the injured animal on a firm surface.
  • If you suspect that your pet has eaten or been exposed to a poison or intoxicant, bring along any packaging that might help our staff quickly identify the substance.
  • Bring any medications your pet or large animal is currently taking, so that our team may have a complete picture of their medical condition.

Similar to a human ER, pets that are the sickest are treated by doctors first. While waiting at the emergency hospital can be difficult and frustrating, it usually means that your pet’s condition is not as life-threatening. And remember, the entire emergency team is doing their very best to help you and your pet.

If your animal needs emergency medical attention at UW Veterinary Care, we highly recommend calling ahead to verify availability. ER Status and hospitalization capacity change frequently. We can be reached at 608-263-7600. Any other visit type beyond an emergency does require an appointment.

 Map and directions to UW Veterinary Care


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