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An unexpected emergency can happen at any time.  In all of the following cases, you should call your veterinarian immediately.
However, here are some things you can do at home to help until they can be seen.

  •     Trauma - hit by car, gunshot, long fall
  •     Difficulty breathing
  •     Seizures
  •     Excessive bleeding that won’t stop
  •     Deep cuts or gashes that expose internal organs or bones
  •     Heat stroke
  •     Hypothermia
  •     Ingestion of poisons, antifreeze, rat poison, human medications, some plants
  •     Burns
  •     Bloat
  •     Unconsciousness
  •     Ataxia (stumbling, staggering)
  •     Straining to urinate (especially male cats)


Be careful when approaching an injured animal.  Even your own pet might try to
bite or scratch you if they are in pain.     You can use a muzzle unless they are having difficulty breathing or if they are vomiting.

Carefully pick them up to transport them to the vet....Use a board if you suspect a back or neck injury.  Put cats and     small dogs in a box to carry them safely.
Use a towel or gauze to control bleeding.
Stabilize any limbs that appear broken (swollen, deformed, exposed bone)
Keep warm - they will often be in shock.

Difficulty breathing

Loosen or remove any collars

Look for any foreign objects in mouth or back of throat - be careful not to get bit !
Move head or body into a position to make it easier to breath
Look at mucus membranes and tongue - they may turn blue if the animal isn’t getting enough oxygen.


Take note of the following characteristics:

What was he/she doing before the seizure?       
Was it a sudden collapse or did it come on slowly?
Is there violent thrashing, slight trembles, head shaking, or stiffness?  Whole body or just one part?
Did your pet lose consciousness?
How long did it last?    
How did they act afterwards...totally normal, or were they disoriented and confused
Take body temperature when seizure is over.
For diabetic, very young or very small animals you may have to administer corn syrup or honey.
Excessive bleeding

Use a towel or pack of gauze to apply direct pressure.

If possible, wrap wound with vetwrap.  If blood oozes through bandage, apply more bandage

     material on top of the existing bandage - do not remove as this disrupts any clot that may have started.

Only use a tourniquet as a last resort.

Deep cut/gashes

Treat similar to excessive bleeding

Wrap the area in moist gauze or a towel to help keep internal parts from becoming exposed

Heat stroke

Look for:                                                                

Excessive panting or difficulty breathing
Increased heart rate and respiratory rate
Body temp over 104
Red mucous membranes
Stupor or Seizures
If outside, spray with cool water from a hose
Cover neck, chest, head and feet with water-soaked towels
Turn a fan directly on the animal
Retake temperature and stop cooling process after temp is below 104


Look for:

Stupor or unconsciousness
Weak pulse / decreased heart rate           
Body cool to the touch
May or may not be shivering
Pale or blue gums
Body temp below 95
Wrap in a blanket
Place warm (not hot) water bottles next to the animal
If you use electric warming pad, do not place directly against animal


Some common things for an animal to swallow that can cause serious problems are:

Rat poison
Household chemicals
Human or pet medications (prescription and over the counter)
Poisonous plants   
Sugar free gum (with xylitol)
Chocolate (bakers chocolate is worse than milk chocolate)

For rat poison, antifreeze, human medications, chocolate or sugar free gum, induce vomiting by using a turkey baster or syringe to give hydrogen peroxide.  For other poisons contact the National Animal Poison Control Center 800-548-2423, the ASPCA Poison Control (888) 426-4435  or your vet.

Keep the container so your vet knows exactly what was ingested.


Apply cool water to burned areas

Place a sterile non-stick pad or moist towel to burned area to keep it clean.  Do not apply any ointments or creams


Painful , enlarge abdomen

Retching (trying to vomit with nothing coming out)

Call and take to your veterinarian ASAP


Take body temp and administer appropriate treatment

Position carefully so they can breath easily

Straining to urinate

Especially critical in male cats

Yowling in the litter box - going frequently with nothing coming out
May be blocked from stones and in danger of rupturing bladder

Call and take to your veterinarian ASAP


Stumbling, weaving, staggering

Many causes - head or spinal trauma, poison or anti-freeze ingestion, seizures, hyperthermia,  metabolic disorder
Keep them away from stairs so they don't fall and injure themselves