Pet ownership has ups and downs. While some of the downs are unavoidable, many dangerous, heartbreaking, and painful experiences are completely preventable. Ensure you and your pet share a long, healthy, and safe life together by following our Liberty Veterinary Hospital team’s emergency prevention tips. 

Recognizing a pet emergency

Despite our best efforts, accidents can happen. When you act quickly and appropriately, you have an opportunity to de-escalate your pet’s life-threatening emergency, offering the possibility of a good outcome. When you understand and recognize your pet’s distress, you can access the veterinary care they need. Keep an eye out for these pet health emergency signs:

  • Uncontrollable bleeding, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Unproductive vomiting (i.e., retching)
  • Traumatic injury
  • Labored breathing
  • Distended abdomen
  • Straining to urinate
  • Multiple seizures
  • Pale or discolored gums (e.g., white, grey, blue)
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Paralysis 
  • Excessive weakness

If your pet demonstrates any of these signs, immediately contact Liberty Veterinary Hospital or the nearest emergency veterinary facility. If you are uncertain whether your pet needs emergency care, call our veterinary professionals, and we will  triage your pet’s condition via the phone, instructing you how to proceed.

Four preventable pet emergencies

Always pay close attention to your pet and their environment to help avoid a preventable emergency. Be a responsible guardian of your pet’s health and wellbeing by ignoring the temptation to allow them to run free and untethered.

#1: Lost pets

When pets are unrestrained, unsupervised, or separated from their owners, they are commonly hit by cars, or attacked by another pet or wildlife. Some may experience accidental falls, intentional poisoning, or petnapping. 

Curious or frightened pets can easily escape. The most frequently reported causes for lost pets include:

  • Loose collar
  • Retractable leash slipping from owner’s hand
  • Open door or window 
  • Fence gap 
  • Ejection when unrestrained during a vehicle accident

Ensure you never lose your four-legged friend by always following these safety precautions:

  • Ensuring your pet wears a well-fitted collar or harness, with your current identification information
  • Using a four- to six-foot non-retractable leash
  • Training your pet to come when called
  • Monitoring your home’s exits, especially when hosting visitors
  • Securing your pet during travel (e.g., seat belt, crate, carrier)
  • Checking fences, gates, pens, and crate doors for gaps, damage, and faulty locks
  • Keeping your pet indoors at home in a secure location during loud events such as fireworks, concerts, construction, or holiday gatherings

#2: Dog fights and dog attacks

Dog-related violence can result in deep puncture wounds, extensive lacerations, and—for small dogs and cats—life-threatening trauma. Detecting the subtle warning signs that may precede a dog fight or dog attack can be difficult, so assume all unfamiliar dogs are unfriendly until proven otherwise. 

In addition to keeping your cat indoors and your dog leashed, practice the following safety tips to avoid dog-related aggression:

  • Say “No thanks” — Do not let your dog say “Hello” to unfamiliar dogs, who may be reactive when on leash and may lash out.
  • Muzzle up — If your dog does not like other dogs, train them to wear a muzzle in public to discourage other pet owners from approaching, which will help your dog feel safer too.
  • RSVP no to the dog park — Avoid dog parks and off-leash areas. Most dog fights and attacks occur at these facilities.
  • Know how to respond — If you and your dog encounter a free-roaming dog while outdoors, pick up your small dog, and try to leave the area. If your dog is larger, you may try to distract or shoo away the approaching dog, or use pet-repellent citronella spray. For additional tips on safely avoiding or repelling an approaching dog, check out this article.

#3: Poisoned pets

Many everyday household items are toxic to pets. Become familiar with these potentially life-threatening products, and ensure your curious pet has no access. Many of the ASPCA’s Top 10 Pet Toxins of 2021 can be found in common places, such as:

  • Purses, backpacks, and work bags — Over-the-counter and prescription medications, supplements, xylitol-containing gum and candy, and nicotine products
  • Kitchen counters — Dangerous foods including chocolate, xylitol, alcohol, onions, raisins, and grapes
  • On floors or shelves — Toxic house plants
  • In the garage — Antifreeze, windshield wiper fluid, rat and mouse bait, and pesticides

Know where all potentially pet-toxic products are around your home, including in the garage and out in the yard. Secure these items, and keep them out of your pet’s reach by:

  • Installing wall hooks for bags and purses
  • Keeping medication in its original containers or a child-proof container
  • Restricting your pet’s kitchen access by installing a pet gate
  • Replacing toxic house plants with nontoxic alternatives
  • Storing hazardous chemicals in closed cabinets 
  • Using pet-safe rodent traps

#4: Heatstroke and heat-related injuries in pets

During warm weather, pets struggle to regulate their body temperature, which can result in life-threatening heatstroke (i.e., hyperthermia). Help your pet avoid heat stress and heatstroke by limiting their outdoor access when temperatures are 70 degrees and higher. Additional heat-related precautions include:

  • Never leaving your pet unattended in a parked car
  • Replacing your pet’s strenuous exercise with a leisurely stroll during the cooler early mornings or late evenings
  • Always making fresh cool water accessible
  • Never leaving your pet unsupervised outdoors
  • Immediately bringing your pet to a cooler area if they show heat-stress signs (e.g., excessive panting, rapid heart rate, drooling, lethargy)

None of us want our pets to experience a heat-related health emergency, and by following our tips, you can minimize your pet’s preventable injury risk, and ensure you share many happy and healthy years together. To learn more about keeping your home pet-safe, or your pet needing emergency veterinary care, contact the Liberty Veterinary Hospital team.