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7 Reasons to Immediately Bring Your Cat to the ER

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There are many reasons to consider scheduling a visit with your family veterinarian. Maybe your pet is losing weight for no obvious reason, their appetite has grown picky, or they’re due for an annual exam and bloodwork. These are all important reasons to see your family veterinarian, but they don’t necessarily warrant a trip to the animal emergency room.

So, when should you pack Fluffy in the carrier and bring her to the ER? The following is a list of the seven most common reasons a cat should receive immediate veterinary care:

1. Difficulty Breathing

If your cat is breathing faster than normal, harder than normal, with an open mouth, or all of the above – get to the vet! Unsure? Count your pet’s respirations for 15 seconds while they are resting. Multiply that number by 4. If the final number is greater than 40 breaths a minute, go to the ER vet!

Shallow, rapid breathing or very deep, slow breathing are also both abnormal and warrant an immediate trip to the animal emergency hospital.

2. Not Urinating

  • Female Cat
    • If your female cat isn’t producing urine, she should be seen immediately.
    • If she is producing urine, but having difficulty urinating, having accidents outside of the litter box, or peeing frequently, she should be seen within 24 hours by your family veterinarian.
  • Male Cat
    • If your male cat is having urinary tract problems, especially if he’s hasn’t urinated within the last 6-8 hours, he needs to be seen right away. Male cats are more prone to urethral obstructions, which is a life-threatening emergency.

3. Seizures

If your cat is having a grand mal seizure, they are unaware of their surroundings, paddling their limbs, and may urinate or defecate on themselves. More subtle signs of a seizure are face twitching and ear twitching. If your cat has a seizure, grand mal or not (especially if it happens more than once), your cat should be seen.

If possible, use your phone to capture abnormal behavior and subtle twitching. The video can help the veterinarian determine if a seizure has occurred.

4. Toxins

If your cat gets into anything that is toxic, seek immediate veterinary care for safe methods of decontamination. The most common cat toxins are:

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5. Anorexia

If your cat has not eaten in over 24-36 hours, especially if they are normally very food-motivated, then they should be seen.

6. Vomiting and Diarrhea

Often, these symptoms can wait to be seen by your family veterinarian the next day. However; if there is blood in the vomit or if your pet is vomiting multiple times in a short period of time, they need to be seen as soon as possible. If you know your cat ate something other than food (such as string, a sewing needle, etc.), they should also be seen immediately, whether they are vomiting or not.

7. Trauma

If your cat is hit by a car, attacked by another pet or animal, falls and isn’t bearing weight on a limb, or any other traumatic situation, your cat needs to go to the emergency animal hospital immediately.

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Although a number of problems can wait until the next day to be addressed by your family veterinarian, the situations listed above are critical and need to be seen immediately. If you’re ever questioning whether or not to bring your pet in, call your family veterinarian or local animal emergency hospital and ask. In the end, you know your pet better than anyone else. If you feel something suddenly isn’t right and it can’t wait, then have your pet checked out!

Still not sure if you should go to the ER vet or not? Check out this list by Dr. Justine Lee, one of Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota’s board-certified veterinary criticalists and a board-certified veterinary toxicologist.

Dr. Bruns, ER vet, emergency veterinarian, Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota


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