As a pet owner, the well-being of your furry family member is always a top priority. However, sometimes emergencies can arise without warning, causing panic and uncertainty.

In such situations, knowing the most common pet emergencies and when it is time to visit the emergency vet can help you be better informed and prepared. While our furry friends can be excellent at hiding their pain, knowing the signs of a potential emergency is vital for their well-being.

In this post, we will discuss some of the most common pet emergencies so you are equipped with the knowledge about what constitutes an emergency and when it is time to seek professional help.

1. Difficulty Breathing

One of the most critical pet emergencies is difficulty breathing, which can be a sign of various serious conditions. Respiratory distress can be caused by allergies, asthma, heart failure, or even a foreign object lodged in the throat. 

As soon as you notice your pet struggling to breathe, along with wheezing, coughing, or gasping for air, it is essential to visit an emergency vet immediately.

2. Seizures

Seizures are neurological disorders that can affect pets of all ages. They can be caused by various factors, such as epilepsy, low blood sugar, or exposure to toxins. 

If your pet experiences a seizure that lasts longer than a few minutes or has multiple seizures in a short period, it is critical to urgently seek veterinary attention. 

3. Persistent Vomiting or Diarrhea

While occasional vomiting and diarrhea can be relatively common, persistent vomiting or diarrhea can be indicative of a more severe issue.

Dehydration, gastroenteritis, pancreatitis, or even an intestinal obstruction can be causing these symptoms. Whenever your pet is experiencing persistent vomiting or diarrhea, it is crucial to visit an emergency vet for proper diagnosis and treatment.

4. Ingestion of Toxic Substances

Sadly, one of the main reasons pets end up at the emergency vet is due to consuming toxins. Our furry friends can quickly devour a whole chocolate cake when we’re not looking or happily eat grapes given to them by their unsuspecting owners. 

Once you discover that your pet has consumed something toxic, it’s important to take them to the vet immediately. If caught within the first few hours, the vet can induce vomiting to minimize the absorption of the toxin. Symptoms of poisoning can vary widely and may include vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, seizures, or hyperactivity.

5. Trauma

Traumatic injuries, such as being hit by a car, falling from a height, or being attacked by another animal, are among the most common reasons pets are brought to the emergency vet. Cats and dogs are often unaware of the hazards posed by roads. 

They tend to cross the road carelessly, particularly when they are following a smell or are preoccupied. These incidents can result in broken bones, internal injuries, or even life-threatening conditions. 

If your pet is struck by a vehicle, be cautious while transferring them, as improperhandling could worsen any injuries they may have. To safely move your pet, gently slide them onto a flat surface like a plastic bin lid or a tightly-held towel.

6. Difficulty Urinating

If your pet is struggling to urinate or is not producing any urine at all, it could be a sign of a urinary tract obstruction. This urgent situation is typically observed in male cats rather than female cats because of their longer and narrower urethra. 

Male cats that are primarily indoors, overweight, and consume only dry food are more likely to experience this issue. The condition can rapidly turn fatal, as it can lead to kidney failure or bladder rupture. So if you see these signs, take them to the emergency veterinarian right away: 

  • Throwing up
  • Repeatedly entering and exiting the litter box
  • Overly cleaning the genital area
  • Making noises when using the litter box
  • Displaying either sluggishness or agitation

7. Uncontrolled Bleeding

Whether caused by an injury, surgery, or an underlying medical condition, uncontrolled bleeding is a serious concern for animals. If your pet is bleeding excessively and you are unable to stop the bleeding with pressure, it is essential to seek emergency veterinary care. 

A pet experiencing uncontrolled bleeding may require blood transfusions, surgery, or other treatments to stabilize their condition.

8. Eye Damage

Eye injuries can be common in cats and dogs, particularly in flat-faced breeds like pugs that have protruding eyes. These animals struggle to get rid of irritants in their eyes, which can lead to painful ulcers. 

If your pet displays symptoms such as excessive discharge, redness, squinting, swelling, or rubbing their eyes on surfaces or with their paws, it’s vital to take them to a veterinarian immediately.


Being aware of the most common pet emergencies can help you recognize when your pet requires immediate veterinary care. Remember that it’s always better to err on the side of caution and seek professional advice if you’re unsure about your pet’s condition.

Regular check-ups with your veterinarian can also help detect and prevent potential emergencies, ensuring your furry friend stays healthy and happy.

paw icon, pet

Trust the experts at Birmingham Animal Hospital + Resort to provide your furry friend with the best possible care. Whether it’s a routine checkup, boarding, daycare, grooming, or emergency vet services, our compassionate staff is dedicated to keeping your pets healthy and happy. Visit our veterinarian in Birmingham, AL, and give your pet the care they deserve!

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