When To Call Your Vet?

Your pet isn't acting quite right but you're not sure what's wrong. Should you call your veterinarian or wait a few days? The following are a few examples of when it is important to call a vet without delay:

  • Is your pet unconscious, unresponsive or difficult to awaken? This is perhaps the most important signal to phone your veterinarian. Dazed behaviour can occur with fever, metabolic disease, poisonings, ingestion of medications meant for people, changes in blood sugar levels, or diseases of the brain. If your dog or cat is not responsive to calls for play or favourite treats and seems weak or unable to stand, you should get them to a vet quickly.
  • Is your pet losing blood? Bleeding from the mouth, nose or rectum demands immediate attention. If your pet is bleeding from a wound, apply pressure while you call and bring in your pet to help reduce the amount of blood lost. Try to stay calm and reassure your pet - keeping them calm will help with controlling blood loss.
  • Is your pet having trouble breathing? Laboured breathing or noise when breathing is a sign of trouble. If these symptoms occur, or if your dog passes out/faints call your vet immediately. Constant coughing or gagging also needs to be checked.
  • Is your pet having seizures? Seizures are a serious neurologic condition that must be monitored. Call your vet immediately. Signs of a seizure include shaking, lying on the floor and paddling the legs, sudden behaviour changes, loss of awareness of surroundings, possible loss of bladder and bowel control, excessive salivation, and a clamped jaw.
  • Does your pet have a sore eye? Eye problems should always be seen immediately as many eye conditions can become very serious very quickly. Symptoms to watch out for include: discharge from the eye, redness, cloudiness on the eye surface, rubbing at the eye, holding the eye closed and avoiding bright light.
  • Is your pet lethargic? Reduced activity, sluggishness, sleeping more than usual etc. can signal anything from pain to an electrolyte imbalance or metabolic disturbance. It's important to have your pet examined as soon as possible.
  • Is your pet in pain? No animal should have to put up with pain, no matter how old they are or what conditions they have. Remember though, that very few animals will cry out when they are in pain, especially if they have chronic pain such as arthritis. While some animals do cry out in pain (especially from acute pain such as trauma), more common symptoms of pain in our pets include:
    • reduced movement or reluctance to perform certain movements (such as reluctance or difficulty jumping up on the couch, preferring to sleep out on the lawn instead of in a kennel or nesting box),
    • dullness,
    • lethargy or sleepiness,
    • excessive panting, especially when it isn't hot or they haven't been doing very much (excessive panting is also a symptom fear or anxiety which is also something that our pets shouldn't have to live with),
    • reduced appetite,
    • anti-social behaviour - preferring to keep to themselves instead of interacting with the family,
    • licking, rubbing or scratching at any wounds or particular areas (for instance, dogs with arthritis will sometimes lick at certain joints).
  • Is your pet lame? Limping that persists more than a few hours warrants a call to the veterinarian. A pet with a limb that is sore to touch (even if they don't seem to be limping) also need to be seen. Paralysis, usually indicated by your pet having difficulty standing or dragging a leg, with or without pain, needs emergency care as well.
  • Is your pet unable to go to the bathroom? Male cats seen straining in the litter box may have a dangerous urinary tract blockage. If your dog or cat seems to be straining to urinate, they need to be seen immediately. Straining to defaecate, diarrhoea, or any blood in the faeces also should be reported as soon as possible.
  • Is your pet suffering from vomiting or diarrhoea? These symptoms could indicate anything from a simple stomach upset to a serious disease. Call your vet immediately. Even if your pet is not seriously ill, ignoring these symptoms could lead to dehydration.
  • Has your pet lost any weight for no reason? Unexplained weight loss (i.e. weight loss with no changes in appetite or amount of food being fed) often means something is going on that we need to investigate.
  • Is your pet refusing to eat or drink? Different animals have very different needs with regards to food and water. Water (in an appropriate dish) should be available at all times no matter what the species, but some animals (especially those on dry diets such as biscuits) will need to drink more frequently. Dogs and cats should never go more than a day without drinking. Some animals also need to eat more frequently than others. So if your dog's or cat's appetite has reduced for more than two or three days then you need to call us. Reptiles are a bit different: many of these animals don't normally eat every day, so we need to be a bit more vigilant to pick up any changes in appetite. Smaller pets (guinea pig, mouse, rat, or bird) must eat very regularly, so if these animals refuse to eat for even a few hours they can become very ill. Call us if you have noticed any changes in your pet's appetite and we can help work out how serious the problem is.

The bottom line is this: If you're worried about your animal's health, call your vet. We are here to help you with your pet's care and can identify potential problems. It's always better to report a minor problem than it is to let things escalate to an emergency.