The following signs can all be symptoms of a life-threatening emergency. Pets exhibiting any of these signs should be examined by a veterinarian immediately:

  • Difficulty breathing. Increased respiratory rate and/or effort, wheezing, or bluish gums are all signs of respiratory distress and poor oxygenation.
  • Retching unproductively, with or without abdominal distension. Particularly in large breed, deep chested dogs, these signs can indicate Gastric Dilatation and Volvulous (GDV), a life-threatening condition that usually requires emergency surgery.
  • Straining unproductively to urinate. Most often seen in male cats, but can be seen in dogs, cats, and exotic mammals such as guinea pigs. This may indicate a blockage of the urethra.
  • Trauma. Even if you cannot see any evidence of external injuries, trauma such as a fall or hit by car can cause internal injuries that are not immediately evident. Any pet that has sustained a traumatic injury should be evaluated by a veterinarian.
  • Bite wounds. Like other traumatic injuries, bite wounds from other domestic or wild animals may be more severe than they appear initially. Bite wounds can also quickly become infected, therefore any pet that has been bitten should be examined by a veterinarian as soon as possible.
  • Bleeding.
  • Frequent vomiting. Regardless of underlying cause, frequent vomiting can lead to severe dehydration and electrolyte imbalances that will need to be corrected.
  • Toxin ingestion or contact. If you are unsure if the substance your pet came in contact with is toxic, please contact the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center immediately at (888) 426-4435.
  • Seizure. Particularly if a single seizure is lasting longer than 5 minutes or your pet has had more than 2 seizures in the last 24 hours.
  • Difficulty delivering puppies.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, only a list of the most common signs of life-threatening emergencies.  If you have any concerns about your pet’s behavior, contact your veterinarian immediately.  You know your pet better than anyone, and if you are concerned, then it is an emergency.