What to Do in a Pet Emergency

As a pet owner, you never want anything bad to happen to your beloved furry members of the family. Unfortunately, emergencies do sometimes occur. A pet emergency can range from injury to sudden illness to acute allergic reactions and everything in between. Learning how to respond to them can make a huge difference in the life of your pet.

What is an Emergency?

Some things are obviously emergencies (your pet has been involved in a vehicle accident, or they are suddenly limping and crying at the same time, bleeding wounds or deep cuts etc), but other situations may not be so clear cut. We have put together a list of situations which we would consider emergencies and the first thing we want you to do is {CALL THE CLINIC}


  • YOUR PET HAS EATEN SOME MEDICATION NOT DESIGNED FOR THEM – whether it was a single human tablet, a tube of cream or a pack of medications, call us first with as much information as possible.


  • YOUR PET HAS EATEN FOOD NOT DESIGNED FOR THEM – sultanas, grapes, chocolate, macadamia nuts, sugar-free chewing gum, lily pollen, rat bait, e-cigarrettes, onions and garlic…. the list of substances which are toxic to either dogs, cats or both is quite varied and often dose dependent. Call us with as much information as you can gather, including amounts and product names.


  • YOUR PET HAS DIFFICULTY BREATHING, CANNOT CATCH THEIR BREATH, SEEMS TO BE CHOKING OR IS PANTING EXCESSIVELY – Call us and explain you have an emergency situation. The receptionist will get you to talk to a vet or nurse urgently for advice.


  • YOUR PET COLLAPSES OR SEEMS TO HAVE A SEIZURE – make sure they are safe from harm, stay close to them and call us for advice.


  • IF YOU’RE NOT SURE IF IT IS AN EMERGENCY OR NOT – call us and explain what is happening, we can help! The receptionist will get you to talk to a vet or nurse urgently for advice.

Other Emergencies

GDV (Gastric Dilatation Volvulus)

(a bloated, twisted stomach)

What is GDV?

A GDV is when the stomach bloats and twists around itself. Once the stomach twists, it quickly starts to fill with gas, causing severe and life threatening bloat. The only cure for a GDV is an operation to reverse the twist but sadly, due to the seriousness of the condition, even with treatment, some GDVs are still fatal.

What are the Symptoms of GDV?

Symptoms of a GDV tend to start very suddenly, and get worse quickly. Dogs are at more risk after they have eaten or drunk a lot, especially if they exercise straight afterwards.

Blocked Bladder

What is a blocked bladder?

Having a blocked bladder (being unable to urinate) is an emergency and can cause death if left untreated. Contact your vet for an emergency appointment if your cat is struggling to pee. A blocked bladder is often caused by an underlying problem such as stress, inflammation, infection or bladder stones.

What are the Symptoms of a blocked bladder?

Female cats very rarely develop blocked bladders. Male cats are much more likely to develop the condition because their urethra (the tube that drains urine from the bladder) is much longer, narrower and prone to blockage. Blockages are most common in overweight cats, indoor cats, neutered cats, stressed cats and cats that eat dry food.

Reduced Appetite in a Rabbit

Why is my rabbit not eating?

If your rabbit stops eating, this is a serious concern.

Unlike many other species, who can cope with occasionally missing a meal, rabbits need to eat regularly to keep their guts moving.

If your rabbit has stopped eating completely, they are at risk of serious complications such as gut stasis, a gut blockage, dehydration and liver disease.

It’s extremely important to contact your vet straight away if you notice your rabbit is eating less than normal.

There are many different problems that could have caused your rabbit to stop eating, but some of the most common include dental disease, stress, and gut problems.

How will I know if my rabbit isn’t eating?

Contact your vet immediately if you notice your rabbit not eating properly. It’s important to have them examined as soon as possible to prevent them developing any further complications.


The most important thing to remember when you’re dealing with a pet emergency is simply to stay calm. If you panic, you’ll cause your pet to become more afraid as well. Additionally, if you’re panicking, you’re less likely to pay attention to crucial details that may help save your pet’s life.

It can be difficult to keep your cool when your pet is severely injured or very sick. Just remember that you need to remain levelheaded in order to help your pet as best as you can.


Look closely at your pet to see if you can figure out what’s wrong. If they have a badly broken bone or a severe injury, you will probably be able to see this very clearly. On the other hand, if your pet is very sick but you can’t tell why, you should pay close attention to their symptoms and behaviour so you can tell the vet everything important when you arrive.

Don’t spend too much time on this step; simply look over your pet once or twice and see what you can gather from their appearance and actions. Prioritise breathing, bleeding and known or suspected trauma.


There may be something you can do during a pet emergency at home before you ever go to the vet.

If your pet is bleeding a lot, you will need to apply pressure to their injury while you’re still at home. Just be careful, as this may cause your pet to bite.

If you think your pet may be choking, try to stay calm and call your local veterinarian right away. 

Avoid performing the Heimlich maneuver right away, as this may actually cause more harm than good if your pet isn’t truly choking on an object.


Your pet is likely to be extremely agitated if they are conscious during a pet emergency.

If your pet is a dog, approach slowly to prevent the risk of biting. If your dog is fearful and at risk of biting—without causing harm to yourself or any more harm to your pet—muzzle them before trying to interact with them otherwise.

If your pet is a cat, drape a thin towel over their head to keep them from biting you. Do not pull the towel too tightly; the idea is simply to stop the cat from being able to bite while they’re in pain. The draped towel might also cause them to feel safer.


You are probably going to need help with your pet. In some pet emergencies, you are the only one at home or otherwise available to help, so you’ll have to do it all on your own. However, if you can, have a member of the family help you take care of your pet.

The person you choose should be old enough to respond appropriately to the situation and mature enough not to panic as well. They should also be able to get on the phone with the vet and let them know you’re on the way.


If your pet is small enough to lift, you can pick them up and place them in a crate or directly into your vehicle. Additionally, make sure you support their back and do not let their head twist or drop if they are injured or unconscious.

If your pet is too large to pick up on your own, you can lay out a blanket, tuck it under them and swaddle them into the car with another one’s help.

Bring any relevant medications your pet is currently taking or if your pet ingested human food (ie chocolate) or human medications, bring in the packaging or medication bottle so the veterinarian can assess the ingredients.


With your pet in the car, the vet alerted, and hopefully someone along to help you, it is now time to drive to the vet.

Take care while driving and focus on the road, even though you will be concerned for your pet on the way. Getting into a vehicle accident will only make matters much worse.

While you drive to the vet, have your helper call ahead and let them know where you are. Your helper may sit in the back with your pet if they are passive but should sit in the front if your pet is showing signs of aggression during the pet emergency.