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Emergency Pet Care

Find out what to do in an emergency

If you have an emergency or are worried about your pet, it is always best to phone us first.

The following notes may help prepare you, but are not comprehensive nor a substitute for individual advice or treatment. We strongly recommend that any injured or poorly animal be brought to us for examination and treatment.  Here are some more common queries:

Is my pet in pain?

Any injured pet is likely to be in some degree of pain, so for your own safety and not to cause more discomfort to your pet, always handle with care – even the most reliable dog or friendly cat may react aggressively when in pain. A muzzle, if available, is a sensible precaution (even for the friendliest of dogs) to avoid being bitten. With cats the use of a thick towel can be helpful. Try to stay calm and confident – if you are feeling
anxious this may be transmitted to the patient. Try to use a calm soothing voice and avoid sudden movements.
Some severe injuries may cause shock, the mouth and tongue looks whiter than normal and the patient may feel cold.
Any of the following can be signs of pain, although some dogs and cats will disguise these signs:

  • Vocalising
  • Huddled up
  • Lameness or unable to stand
  • Heartbeat very obvious in chest
  • Panting
  • Shivering
  • Hiding
  • Unexplained aggression and growling

How do I deal with bleeding?

Severe bleeding is an emergency. Apply some padding material e.g. folded tea towel, bandage in place firmly and bring in immediately. If bleeding through the bandage just add another pad and bandage. TOP TIP – it is always helpful if you can contain the blood in some way. If it is practical, put a plastic bag over a cut paw; try using clingfilm on tail or ear. You may need to use some sticky tape to keep things in place. This keeps you and the car clean and we also get a better idea of how much blood is being lost. Blood in urine may appear red or dark brown.

How do I deal with wounds?

Any large wound that is deep or gaping needs to be seen the same day. Wounds caused by dog bites should always be treated as an emergency – they may look superficial but often are deeper, tissues may be severely crushed, and this type of wound readily becomes infected.  For simple superficial wounds, clean with salt water (1 teaspoon salt to 1 pint warm water).  Do not use antiseptics or disinfectants. It is often a good idea to remove and cut away any hair that is stuck to the wound.  If there are signs of swelling, redness, pus or pain seek veterinary attention. Try to stop the patient scratching or licking any wound.  Protection collars, vests, socks and bandages may all help

Pulled nails can bleed a lot but are not life-threatening, so cover with a plastic bag and seek veterinary attention. Often the remaining nail needs to be removed under sedation or anaesthetic. Pulled or torn nails are often very painful.

Poisonings and swallowing objects

If you suspect your pet has swallowed something it shouldn’t have, veterinary attention is advised straight away.  Balls, toys, string, underwear and plastic bags are frequently swallowed and can be life threatening.  Chocolate, grapes, raisins and chewing gum can be toxic and many plants can also cause problems.  Antifreeze and slug bait as well as weedkillers are dangerous hazards in the shed. Keep any packaging to bring with you and seek attention as soon as possible. Click here for more information on pets and poisons. You can download the Animal Welfare Foundation Pets and Poisons leaflet here.

Sudden lameness or collapse

Mild lameness may resolve simply by restriction of exercise. If your pet is not bearing weight, there is swelling of any part of the leg, or if your pet is in severe pain, veterinary attention is needed the same day. If lameness is mild, your pet should be examined if there is no improvement within 48 hours.  If a limb looks misshapen or there is an obvious fracture, bring in immediately.  Pain in the neck and/or back region is an emergency and needs to be seen as soon as possible.


If not involving the mouth, nose or throat area, and your pet looks comfortable, these can be treated at home.  Wasp stings are alkaline so treat with a vinegar compress. Bee stings are acid so treat with a bicarbonate of soda compress.  If mouth, nose or throat is involved this could become an emergency if the region becomes very swollen and starts to obstruct the airway. Your pet will start to struggle to breathe and breathing may become noisy.   Life threatening anaphylactic shock is extremely rare but if your pet collapses soon after a sting, urgent veterinary attention is needed for any chance of survival.

Adder bites

It is dogs that mostly get bitten and this is an emergency. If you are out walking your dog in an area where adders are found and your dog suddenly yelps, or jumps back and comes back to you very subdued, they may have been bitten by an adder. Seek veterinary attention immediately.  Smaller dogs are more likely to be more severely affected. We keep anti venom at the hospital for this emergency.

Eye injuries

Any injury to the eye is an emergency and need to be seen as soon as possible. Possible signs of damage needing urgent attention are:

  • Squinting, excessive tear production, red eye, pain, pawing at eye, avoiding light
  • Foreign body visible or an obvious traumatic incident e.g. cat scratch
  • Loss of shiny surface to the front of the eye or cloudiness noticed
  • Eye-ball looks to have popped out (very alarming)

Vomiting and diarrhoea

If the dog or cat is showing normal lively behaviour and is drinking and keeping fluids down, the situation can be monitored. Food can be offered little and often – a bland prescription food from the surgery is best.  Electrolyte mix can also be added to the water (available at the surgery).
If a dog is showing any one of the following signs it needs to be seen reasonably quickly:

  • Drinking water and vomiting it back up
  • Lethargy
  • Retching, producing saliva, or producing nothing (unproductive vomiting)
  • Painful or swollen abdomen
  • Bloody diarrhoea

Unproductive vomiting, often with salivation or gulping, abdominal discomfort and lethargy, or swelling of the abdomen is an urgent surgical emergency as it may be a stomach torsion.
Any pet with diarrhoea needs to see a vet if the diarrhoea is combined with vomiting, it is very bloody, or if your pet is lethargic.


Dogs, cats or any pets left in a car, conservatory, or greenhouse in warm weather, even for short periods of time, can suffer from heatstroke. Exercise in hot or humid weather can also cause heatstroke. Signs include excessive panting, anxiety, very dark red mouth and eyes and ultimately collapse. Heatstroke is always an emergency. Put your pet in a cool area, try to cool your pet with cold water or wet towels will help and call us immediately for advice. If transporting your pet, use an air conditioned car. Monitoring your pet’s temperature is vital and admission may be essential for on-going treatment. If your dog is collapsed this is an extreme emergency and you need to try and cool the dog immediately then bring them to the hospital. Rabbits also suffer from heatstroke, particularly if confined without shade.


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