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Cats and dogs can have a variety of symptoms that may or may not need immediate evaluation and treatment by a veterinarian.

It is helpful to know which cases need to be seen right away vs. which ones can wait until the next day or until an appointment can be made with their primary care veterinarian.

  • Coughing without signs of labored breathing and able to rest (i.e. cough is not affecting quality of life at home)
  • Sneezing, runny nose
  • Not eating anything for less than 24 hours
  • Vomiting once or twice within 24 hours but acting normal
  • One or two episodes of diarrhea within 24 hours but acting normal
  • Limping (NOTE- some forms of lameness are more serious than others, espeically in adult cats, so please call a veterinarian depending on more specific details pertaining to your pet at the time)
  • Itchy skin or ears, or thickness/fluid pocket within an ear

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When To See A Doctor

  • This list is not exhaustive, nor can any one pet be definitively diagnosed based on one-line descriptions as provided below.
  • Before making any determination to keep your pet home or to bring them to the ER, please call a veterinarian for advice (or Poison Control when appropriate).
  • It is always better to err on the side of caution. If you are at all concerned that your pet needs to be seen despite the possible minor or benign symptoms that are being described, never hesitate to just bring your pet to be seen at an emergency veterinary hospital
  • 1. Trouble Breathing

    • Defined as a respiratory rate of 50 breaths per minute or greater that is NOT panting
    • Open-mouth breathing in a cat is always considered an emergency
    • Exaggerated, loud, or noisy breathing in brachycephalic cats or dogs that is new (smushy-faced breeds)
    • Abdominal heaving noted with every breath
    • Neck extended to breathe
  • 2. Weakness, Staggering, Shaking, & Mobility Issues

    • Sudden and profound weakness or collapse
    • Inability to walk or suddenly staggering as if drunk or unsteady on their feet, sudden trouble going up or down the stairs
    • Shaking abnormally, restless, pacing, inability to get comfortable or rest
    • Seizures or tremors
    • Sudden limping or loss of motor function in one or more limbs – ESPECIALLY in a cat
  • 3. Inappropriate Urinating, Defecating, Diarrhea, and Vomiting

    • Straining to defecate or urinate- ESPECIALLY in male cats
    • No urinations noted in more than 24 hours
    • Diarrhea that has progressed to pure liquid, blood, or black and has happened 2 or more times in 24 hours with loss of appetite and/or decreased energy and/or vomiting
  • 4. Bleeding, Wounds, & Trauma

    • Ongoing bleeding- ESPECIALLY bleeding that occurs with every heartbeat (i.e. spurting)
    • Bite or puncture wounds along the neck, chest, or abdomen
    • Severe trauma such as being hit by a car, falling from a high surface, being stepped on

Can Be Safely Monitored at Home

Some symptoms can be safely monitored at home, treated at home, or can wait several days to see a veterinarian. Again, this list is not exhaustive, and sometimes seemingly minor symptoms can be a sign of a more serious problem.

Please always ask the advice of a veterinarian prior to making decisions about waiting to have your pet seen. Below is a list of symptoms that have more specific recommendations based on condition:

  • Torn toenail with minor to no bleeding
  • Small wound or abrasion
  • New lumps or bumps identified on your pet (that do not resemble hives which is an emergency)
  • Ticks found on your pet – this does NOT need to be seen by a veterinarian and can be gently removed via tweezers
  • Fleas
  • Worms seen in stool in absence of other clinical signs (especially in puppies, kittens, and outdoor cats)

You know your pet and if you see anything out of the ordinary, please don’t hesitate to call or go to your veterinarian or the nearest ER. We hope you won’t need our ER services but if you do, we are here.