8 Tips to Prepare for any Pet Emergency
Emergency preparedness and prevention is so important during these times when pets can be turned away from busy and understaffed animal emergency rooms due to COVID. I personally encountered two emergencies in less than two weeks with my own pets and this made me think about things from a pet owner’s perspective. I remembered just how important it is to have a plan for emergencies especially when you are out of town. I want to help YOU be prepared for emergencies. Below you'll find some things you can do that will save time and help you be ready in the event of an emergency. I’ve even got a PDF for you to download to be as prepared as possible.
There are two kinds of emergencies: Immediate and Urgent. The first type is akin to 911 in human terms. You are the ambulance trying to get care ASAP. In the second, your pet is ill but it is not an emergency. It’s important to distinguish between the two as emergency rooms are overwhelmed and understaffed.
Here are some examples of 911 types of emergencies in pets. This is when you need to visit the ER right away:
- Allergic reaction: bee sting, snake bite
- Actively bleeding wound, bite wound, or laceration
- Blunt trauma of any sort/HBC
- Bruising of skin
- Possible bloat: unproductive or persistent vomiting/distended abdomen
- Trouble breathing/gagging
- Possible fracture
- Pale gums/collapse, marked lethargy or weakness
- Uncontrollable vomiting and/or diarrhea
- Ingestion of prescription medications or toxins (call poison control), or foreign bodies
- Heat stroke or hypothermia
- Inability to urinate or defecate
- Sudden loss of vision, painful eyes, rubbing eyes
- Neurological signs/seizures/imbalance/loss of control of limbs
- Uncontrolled back or neck pain especially with loss of control of limbs
Here are some cases where the best plan is to call ahead to try to get care for your pet:
- Anal gland problems/scooting
- Mild back pain/neck pain or lameness
- Minor wounds
- Eye, Ear infections, Very red/inflamed eyes should be looked at ASAP, call ahead when in doubt
- Hot spots
- Urinating frequently/urinary tract problems (unless NOT urinating)
- Torn toenail
Here are my top tips for being prepared for pet emergencies:
Keep a list of pet ER’s, proximity/address, and phone numbers handy (in your phone contacts) especially if you are traveling. It’s important to have a list as there is a possibility you could be turned away from the first one you try. You can also find a link in the description to download our fillable and printable PDF that will help you keep this information handy.
- Call ahead to see if they can accommodate or if they can reroute you elsewhere. Calling ahead also allows them to get ready for your arrival and prepare appropriately.
- Know where there are specialty ER’s if your pet has a chronic condition such as heart failure, or they are prone to neurological problems where they can see a specialist and how far you might have to travel.
- Be prepared to wait potentially hours and be as patient as you can. Be prepared to sit outside in the heat. Bring water for yourself and your pet. Your pet may be taken in quickly but there’s no guarantee and you may not have access to water or a bathroom.
- Pet emergencies are expensive. Look into health insurance and know what you would do in the event of an emergency.
- Keep a list of all medications and diet your pet is on to give the ER staff. Bring whatever it is your pet got into with you so it can potentially be identified. Keep animal poison control’s number in your phone.
- Be proactive so that you don’t encounter an emergency. Keep your dog on a leash safe from dog fights, cars, snakes, and unforeseen emergencies. Make sure your dog is secure in the car. Do not let your dog hang out the car window. If you are rear-ended or hit your dog will become a projectile and can get seriously injured and could injure you. Don’t let your pet overheat or get hypothermia. If you have visitors make sure they secure their medications and anything else your pet might get into. They won’t know things are potentially dangerous to your pet so you need to “vet” the situation. If there ever was a time to be proactive, it is NOW. So what if your friends accuse you of being a helicopter mom or dad.
- Make sure you have identification on your pet.
- If you travel without your pet, leave a signed waiver with the caregiver authorizing a certain amount of payment or deposit in the case of an emergency and make sure they know where and how to seek medical attention on your behalf and how to pay for it.
I had two recent emergencies with my own pets, one when I was out of town and unfamiliar with the area and one locally.
Make sure you watch my other video about water toxicity. I lived through an emergency with my dog recently and had trouble getting the help we needed.
Another urgent pet medical situation I lived through recently was with my Papillon. He herniated a disc in his back and needed specialty emergency care by a neurologist, I drove much farther (passing at least 3 ER’s) to get to a specialty center/ER that had a neurologist on staff that could see him the next day.
Dachshund, miniature poodle, long-backed doggy moms and dads take note!
If your pet has health issues that are related to cardiac, internal medicine, or neurological issues you can take a lesson from this as well. You will want to know what veterinary centers near you have specialists on staff for these sorts of problems. Remember this is also important to know when you are traveling!