Please have a safe and enjoyable July 4th. keep your pets safe and do not let them eat anything they normally would not!!!

A Guide for Owners of Sick & Injured Pets

The most important first step in the care of sick or injured animals is recognizing that a problem is or has occurred. It is best NOT to panic as this can lead to bad decisions and provide information which may not help the veterinarian determine the best diagnostic and treatment plans. Once you have a basic understanding of what your pet is experiencing, then call the clinic and seek advice.

Do you have a sick pet?

Do you have an emergency situation?

True emergencies exist whenever a pet’s basic life supporting functions are compromised. Examples of this include the ability to breathe, to drink water and indications on whether the pet “knows” their surroundings. Being aware of your pets current condition and knowing their prior health history as well as any medications they are currently taking is ESSENTIAL. Knowing whether they have been exposed to any medications or substances which can make them sick is crucial. For suspected poisonings, it is best to call an animal poison control center FIRST and relate the information to them about the suspected poison – this can help your veterinarian or emergency center provide specific treatment.

  • Unable to breathe (they are not conscious, they are awake but weak, they are not able to eat or drink) – in many cases, their gum color may be pale to white or gray
  • Head trauma, fracture with bleeding, acute paralysis of the hind legs
  • Acute weakness or collapse, often with pale gums and a very low heart rate
  • Non-productive vomiting or retching with or without a distended abdomen
  • Hyperthermia and hypothermia (although these can start to be treated at home prior to being seen)
  • Suspected electrocution
  • Seizures lasting longer than 10 to 15 minutes or clusters of seizures within several hours
  • Acute eye injury
  • Acute vomiting and diarrhea with blood
  • Skin or ear infections, itching
  • Ruptured tumor, whether it appears infected or not
  • Lameness of one or more legs – whether weight bearing or not
  • Chronic conditions involving changes in appetite, vomiting or changes in stools
  • Anxiety or hyper activity unless thought due to a toxin/substance
  • Urinating or defecating outside of the litter pan or accidents in the house
  • Sudden loss of appetite in a diabetic animal

Does your pet need to see a vet?

If the condition is critical or emergent, they should be seen immediately. Often, it is best to call the emergency centers as there are times they will not see additional emergency cases if their current care load is heavy. If you call True Care during our open hours, we can often have your pet seen under Urgent Care – this means they will receive priority when they arrive at our facility even if there are already scheduled clients in the building. If True Care and all of the emergency centers are too busy, please reach out to any and all veterinary offices which may be willing to have your pet seen (True Care has provided urgent care to many pets of clients who are not clients with us).

Schedule an Appointment

From preventative care and counseling to surgery and emergency services, we offer complete veterinary care services for your pet that are flexible and convenient.

Schedule an Appointment

From preventative care and counseling to surgery and emergency services, we offer complete veterinary care services for your pet that are flexible and convenient.

How can you comfort and care for your sick pet?

There are many instances where pet owners can provide basic, and often life-saving care while they are waiting to be seen or before going to the veterinary office.

If your pet has been injured, keep them in a quiet and stress-free area and restrict their level of activity. Offer water but DO NOT try and feed them as veterinary assessment and care may require sedation/anesthetics. Do not offer food or water if they are not mentally aware! If there is bleeding, place a cloth and apply steady, firm pressure for at least 10 to 15 minutes (unless this occurs at the site of a fracture – applying a tourniquet above the injury can be attempted pending transport to the veterinary center. DO NOT give them any human medications such as Ibuprofen or Tylenol.

Burns are painful. Only use cool water or normal saline to attempt to clean burns. Burns can be coated with moist towels – moist enough so that they do not stick to the wound!

Be prepared to perform some basic CPR care by viewing this helpful video. If the pet is having difficulty getting air into their lungs, check their throat with your finger for an upper airway obstruction

Do not get bit! Do not try and “clear their throat”. Do not try to move the pet unless they are near the top of stairs, etc. Note the date and time and the approximate length of the seizure. If the event is lasting more than 10-15 minutes or there have been multiple events with several hours, your pet needs to be seen

Call Animal Poison Control first at 888-426-4435. Be prepared to tell them about your pets current condition as well as details about the suspected substance or medication involved. This service will use the expertise of toxicologists to direct you and the veterinarian to specific care needed. They may advise you to attempt to get your pet to vomit (induce emesis) – this is usually done by giving doses of 3% hydrogen peroxide based on your pet’s weight. This should not be done under certain circumstances! 

Pets who are hyperthermic are breathing rapidly and noisily and may have rectal temperatures above 105. There should be a history of exposure to high heat and humidity. Taking a rectal temperature is ESSENTIAL. If suspected, begin treating at home while avoiding over cooling or chilling your pet. Squirt rubbing alcohol on their paws. Place them in a cool area and provide a fan near them. The goal is to cool them to around 103.5 while preparing to get them to the clinic. DO NOT hose them down with cold water or place them in a cold or ice water bath as this will result in subsequent shivering which generates more heat. The sooner that a pet can be safely cooled, the less organ damage that will occur 

Low normal rectal temperature for healthy dogs and cats is 99. If their temperature decreases to below 98 degrees, they should be provided with temperature support pending being seen at the veterinary center. Ideal ways to provide warmth include warm towels and rice socks (NOT HOT). A space heater can be placed in the general area – animals can get burned by heat sources or hot rice socks! Pets should not be offered food or water while they are hypothermic. Animals who have low rectal temperatures and which have not been exposed to cold temperatures are likely in shock due to significant organ disease and need to be evaluated at an emergency clinic immediately 

  • Rectal thermometer and lube
  • Hand towels
  • Socks or stockings which could be used as a temporary tourniquet
  • Regular or normal saline rinse for skin or eye injuries
  • Ice packs for insect stings and bruises
  • Normal rectal temperature is 99 to 102.5
  • Heart Rate should never be less than 60
  • Respiration rate should be less than 60 while asleep; hyperventilation due to cooling (panting) is different to that of disease – being able to assess their gum color may be very important
  • Normal gum color is pink and when blanched, the pink should return in less than two seconds; some pets have pigmented gums making this tricky
  • Pets pupils should constrict when a bright light is shone into the eyes

Looking for more helpful information?