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Pet Emergencies - When does my dog or cat need to see an emergency vet?

Pet Emergencies - When does my dog or cat need to see an emergency vet?

It is not always obvious when a situation qualifies as a pet emergency warranting a trip to an emergency vet. Today, our Bakersfield vets discuss signs that your dog or cat needs a visit to an ER for pets.

If your dog or cat is suffering from a pet emergency, contact an emergency vet right away

How do I know if my pet is having a dog emergency or a cat emergency?

At any time, day or night, a pet emergency that requires care from an emergency vet could occur. 

Pet owners aren't psychic, it is difficult to determine what does and does not constitute a pet emergency. That is why it is important to know what signs and symptoms make a trip to an emergency veterinarian advisable.

If you ever aren't sure whether or not a situation qualifies as an emergency, contact an emergency vet hospital immediately for advice.  Emergency vets would much rather pet owners be safe, erring on the side of caution by seeking help in non-pet emergencies, rather than being sorry they did not.

Signs of a Pet Emergency

  • Lameness or inability to walk
  • Bloated, swollen, or painful abdomen
  • Dilated pupils
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness
  • Severe injury (falls, car accidents, broken bones, open wounds)
  • Uncontrolled bleeding
  • Vomiting or blood in diarrhea
  • Difficulty breathing, extreme coughing, or choking
  • Inability to urinate or defecate
  • Ingestion of poisonous foods, substances, plants, or bones
  • Unable to deliver puppies or kittens
  • Obvious pain
  • Loss of balance
  • Sudden blindness, staggering or stumbling
  • Inflammation or injury to the eye

Basic First Aid to Perform For Your Dog or Cat during a Pet Emergency

Often it will be beneficial to perform first aid on your dog or cat, vet care will still be needed, but first-aid can stabilize your animal for a trip to your emergency vet.  Below are first aid techniques you can apply during common pet emergencies.


Muzzle your pet before beginning. To help stop the bleeding, place a clean gauze pad over the injury, applying pressure with your hand for several minutes until blood clotting begins. A tourniquet of gauze with an elastic band to secure it will be required for severe leg bleeding. Immediately bring your pet to the veterinary clinic.


Do not attempt to restrain your pet. Try to remove objects that may hurt your pet. After the seizure is over, keep your pet warm and phone your vet.


Muzzle your pet. Lay your pet on a flat surface that can be used as a stretcher to transport them to the vet. If possible, secure your animal to the stretcher, avoiding putting pressure on the injured area.


Your pet may bite out of panic, so it's important to be cautious. Check your pet's mouth for objects and try to remove them if possible. Be careful to not accidentally push the object further into your animal's throat. If this is too difficult, don't waste precious time trying. Immediately transport your pet to the vet's office or emergency veterinary clinic for care.

Is there a way to be better prepared for a pet emergency or unforeseeable trip to the emergency vet?

Yes, Here is What You Should Know in Advance

You never know when an emergency might strike, but being prepared for a pet emergency may help you to provide your animal with the best possible care quickly. Our Bakersfield vets suggest keeping the following at hand in case of an emergency:

  • The phone number for your vet's office
  • The phone number for the closest Emergency Vet Clinic
  • The phone number for the Animal Poison Control Center
  • How to muzzle your dog when he's in pain so he doesn't bite others
  • Directions to the Emergency Vet Clinic
  • Knowledge of basic pet CPR
  • Knowledge of how to stop bleeding

Financial Responsibilities

Due to the amount of diagnostic testing, monitoring, and treatment required, emergency veterinary care can be expensive. It is a pet owner's responsibility to ensure that they can financially care for your pet in a time of crisis.

For owners who are unable to be sure they will have additional financing available on sudden notice, signing up for a pet insurance plan can be a smart way to ensure your pet can receive the care they need

If your pet is in need of emergency care, contact an emergency veterinary hospital immediately.

New Patients Welcome

Stine Veterinary Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vet is passionate about improving the health of Bakersfield companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

Contact Us

(661) 398-7121