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Signs Your Pet Needs Emergency Care

Signs Your Pet Needs Emergency Care

While we try our best to keep our pets safe, things happen and emergency care can be needed. Our Santa Barbara vets are here to help you identify emergency situations and provide tips for what you can do.

Does My Pet Need Emergency Care?

Situations that warrant emergency or urgent care can happen unexpectedly and at any time, and it is wise to be prepared for and when it might happen to your pet.

Knowing when your cat or dog is in need of emergency care from their vet isn't always obvious, so you'll need to be aware of some signs and symptoms that indicate a trip to the emergency vet is necessary. If you're in doubt, contact your vet or emergency vet clinic for help.

Signs Of A Pet Emergency

  • Uncontrolled bleeding
  • Bloated, swollen or painful abdomen
  • Lameness or inability to walk
  • Dilated pupils
  • Vomiting or blood in diarrhea
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness
  • Severe injury (falls, car accidents, broken bones, open wounds)
  • Inflammation or injury to the eye
  • Obvious pain
  • Unable to deliver puppies or kittens
  • Difficulty breathing, extreme coughing or choking
  • Loss of balance
  • Inability to urinate or defecate
  • Sudden blindness, staggering or stumbling
  • Ingestion of poisonous foods, substances, plants, or bones

Basic First Aid

Please keep in mind that administering first aid to your pet does not replace the need for veterinary care. It is simply a way to stabilize your pet for transport to the emergency vet.


Start by muzzling your pet for your safety and theirs. Place a clean section of gauze over the injury and apply pressure with your hand until the blood clots. This can take several minutes depending on the severity of the injury. Severe leg bleeding may require a tourniquet of gauze and an elastic band to secure it, bring your pet to the vet immediately. 


Remove objects that may hurt your pet. Do not attempt to restrain your pet if they are having a seizure. Keep your pet warm once the seizure is over and phone your vet.


You will need to muzzle your pet because they may be in severe pain. Lay them on a flat surface that can be used as a stretcher to transport them to the vet. Secure them to the stretcher if possible, avoiding the injured area.


Be cautious, your pet may bite out of panic. Look for objects in their mouth and try to remove them if possible, but be careful to not accidentally push the object further into the throat. Don't waste time on this if it's difficult, you could be losing precious time. Bring your pet to the vet immediately.

Being Prepared For Emergencies

What You Should Know in Advance

Our vets recommend preparing and having the following available in case of an emergency:

  • The phone number for your vet's office
  • The phone number for the closest Emergency Vet Clinic
  • Directions to the Emergency Vet Clinic or ER for pets
  • The phone number for the Animal Poison Control Center
  • Knowledge of basic CPR for pets
  • Knowledge of how to stop bleeding
  • How to muzzle your dog when they are in pain so they don't bite others

Financial Responsibilities

Emergency care can become really expensive because it often requires a lot of diagnostic testing, monitoring and ongoing treatment. Pet owners are fully financially responsible for pet care in emergency situations. 

Planning ahead for unforeseeable circumstances can be beneficial. You can have savings set aside for emergencies, or invest in pet insurance plans. Delays in care to avoid emergency fees may put your pet's life at risk, so it's important to take this into consideration when becoming a pet owner.

If your pet has sustained an emergency injury or developed a severe illness, contact our Santa Barbara vets for urgent care or get to your nearest emergency animal hospital immediately. 

Welcoming Cats & Dogs to Our Animal Hospital 

San Roque Pet Hospital welcomes cats, dogs, and their people to our clinic! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Santa Barbara companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's appointment.

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Book Online (805) 682-2647