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Common Pet Emergencies That Need Immediate Attention

Every pet parent hopes to never have to deal with an emergency situation involving their furry companion. Unfortunately, it is likely that you will experience at least one urgent situation over the course of your pet's life. Here, our St. Louis vets share some situations that may require the assistance of our emergency clinic.

We always want the best for our pets. This includes living a long, happy and healthy life. Unfortunately, there may be times when emergency assistance is required. Emergency situations will come on suddenly and it is important you are aware of what you should do to help your pet in these situations, as well as knowing what is considered an emergency. If you are unsure of how you should react to a certain situation to treat your pet, the best plan is always to contact your veterinarian or bring them in for immediate emergency care. Below are some instances that would require emergency care from a veterinarian. 

Breathing Difficulties

If you are noticing that your pet is having a difficult time breathing, the first step you should take is to contact our St. Louis emergency clinic. There are many possible causes for breathing difficulties in pets, our emergency veterinarians can perform diagnostic testing to diagnose the underlying cause of these respiratory issues.

Unable to Urinate or Defecate

One of the most common causes of the inability to urinate or defecate. It is crucial that you bring your pet to have them accessed by our emergency veterinarians if they are showing signs of pain while attempting to pass urine or feces. If you have a male cat and notice that he is straining or is in pain while attempting to urinate this will be especially concerning. Male cats have narrow urethras that can possibly develop crystals or mucous plugs in their urine that could potentially get stuck. With these conditions, the risk of having the bladder rupture increases drastically as the urine has no way to pass and will build up. The inability to pass urine can also lead to toxicity levels elevating to a dangerous level causing great harm to your pet as well as being potentially fatal.

Bloated or Distended Abdomen

Dogs may experience a potentially fatal condition known as a GDV (Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus). Some of the signs of GDV are a bloated abdomen accompanied by discomfort, stretching, or gagging. If your dog is experiencing the symptoms of GDV, the stomach will twist as it expands from food and gases which will in turn stop the flow of the contents and restrict the blood flow. This condition will lead to shock and sudden death if left untreated. It is crucial that your pet receives care immediately, contact our emergency vets in St. Louis. Treatment for GDV always requires surgery and it is important to seek treatment as early as possible. 


If your pet begins to experience seizures then it is important to contact your emergency vet immediately to have your pet examined in order to determine the cause of the seizures. Typically a single seizure will be no cause for concern but there are various conditions that cause your pet to experience multiple seizures which can, in turn, cause hyperthermia. While idiopathic epilepsy is a common cause of seizures in younger dogs, brain tumors, trauma, and toxins should also be ruled out. If you have a cat you should have them seen by an emergency vet as soon as possible as it is extremely uncommon for cats to experience seizures.

Eye Injuries

Eye injuries will always require medical attention. Eye injuries require timely emergency veterinary attention as most injuries and conditions will continue to cause damage the longer they go untreated. While many injuries to the eye are treatable, the sooner they are treated, the more likely that your pet will make a full recovery.

Excessive Vomiting or Diarrhea

While we have all had a pet exhibit gastrointestinal discomfort from time to time, vomiting or diarrhea that does not resolve will lead to dehydration. Several episodes of vomiting or diarrhea need to be evaluated for the underlying cause, and a dehydrated pet may need to be hospitalized for supportive care.

Heat Stroke

If your pet becomes too warm and they don't have the opportunity to cool down they will risk experiencing heatstroke. Heatstroke can have a devastating effect on your pet and has the potential to quickly become fatal. Symptoms of heatstroke are: excessive panting, reddened gums, excessive drooling, vomiting/diarrhea, weakness, and lethargy. It is important to cool your pet down immediately if they begin to experience these symptoms and contact an emergency vet immediately. 

Hit by a Car

Having your pet get loose and get hit by a vehicle is a traumatizing experience, but not every accident will result in visible injuries. Some injuries may be internal and can be life-threatening and so it is important to have your pet seen by an emergency vet as soon as possible. Bring your pet to our vets at our St. Louis emergency clinic to have them thoroughly examined. 

Inability to Move Rear Legs

The most common cause of the inability of your dog to move their legs is IVDD (intervertebral disc disease). It is possible for a ruptured disc to cause spinal cord compression which can cause your dog to experience difficulty walking or paralysis in their rear legs. your emergency vet will perform thorough diagnostic testing in order to determine the extent of the damage and if surgery will be required. IVDD is very uncommon in cats but there are other conditions that may cause your cat to lose the ability to use their hind legs so it is important to have them evaluated if this happens. Feline aortic thromboembolism (also known as a saddle thrombus) is a very serious condition in which a blood clot becomes lodged in the arteries that supply blood to the back legs. Cats suffering from saddle thrombus will also seem painful, and the affected rear limb(s) will be cold to the touch.

Toxic Substance or Foreign Object

If you are concerned that your pet may have come into contact with a substance that is toxic to them then you must contact your St. Louis emergency vets immediately. They may or may not instruct you to contact the Animal Poison Control Center before heading to the hospital. Common toxins seen in dogs are: chocolate, antifreeze, grapes, pharmaceuticals, and rodenticide. This list could go on and on however, since dogs tend to be mischievous and apt to ingest just about anything. Cats are not as prone to eating things but are commonly seen to treat toxicities for: various ingested plants (lilies are a big one), rodenticide, and exposure to canine flea/tick prevention. If your pet consumes something out of the ordinary, don’t assume that it is safe. Many are surprised to learn of all the different foods and plants that are toxic to our pets. When in doubt, always contact the Animal Poison Control Center.

If your dog or cat consumes a foreign object, there is a possibility that it can cause a gastric or intestinal obstruction. Cats will commonly ingest string, tinsel, and hair ties while dogs enjoy socks and toys. Catching this situation early can sometimes prevent surgery. Some patients will benefit from being given a medication that will induce vomiting and remove the object from the stomach. If the object is too large or dangerous to vomit, an endoscope may be used to retrieve the object while the patient is under anesthesia.

Our veterinarians at Animal Emergency Clinic in St. Louis are available to help with all your emergency pet care needs, please contact us

Compassionate Emergency Care for Pets

Animal Emergency Clinic is an after-hours emergency animal hospital providing urgent care to cats and dogs from St. Louis and surrounding areas. Contact us right away if you are experiencing a veterinary emergency.

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