Locally-Owned in Oakdale and St. Paul, Minnesota

5 Most Common Non-Toxin Pet Emergencies

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At Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota, our ER sees many distinct types of pet emergencies. Toxicities are one of the most common, but we also see a lot of other non-toxin pet emergencies. In July 2022, Dr. Wolf, one of our emergency veterinarians, joined us on Facebook Live to discuss the five most common non-toxin pet emergencies. Below, you can read a summary of her answers, or watch the full video for Dr. Wolf’s review of each emergency plus extra preventative tips!

1. Bite Wounds & Lacerations

During the summer and early fall, our ER sees an increase in bite wounds that occurred at dog parks, boarding facilities, and doggie daycares, as well as lacerations or puncture wounds from sticks while hiking, camping, or hunting. 

 Tips for this Type of Emergency: 
  • Apply pressure to stop bleeding. (Find pet first aid tips here.) For heavy bleeding, you can place a torniquet, but DO NOT cut off the blood supply for more than 5-10 minutes. Seek immediate veterinary care.  
  • Some bite wounds may appear like a straightforward puncture, but especially with cat bites, there could be pockets or abscesses beneath the skin. Bites have a high potential to become infected. It’s important to seek veterinary care because the damage can be worse than what is visible.  
  • If you have an Elizabethan collar (“e-collar”) at home, employ it so your pet cannot lick or scratch the wound.  

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2. Allergic Reaction 

When pets get outside, they may get stung or bitten by insects, including bees and spiders. Often when pets experience an allergic reaction to a bite or sting, they break out into hives or have a facial swelling. In severe cases, a pet’s throat can also swell, and they can experience respiratory distress – this is especially dangerous for squished-faced breeds like pugs and French bulldogs. Learn more about allergies in pets here. 

 Tips for this Type of Emergency: 
  • When it is a bee and you can see the stinger, pull it out!  
  • Symptoms like hives may come and go over the next day or so. It’s a good idea to call your family veterinarian or local animal ER because some pets are more at risk of severe hives and may require a steroid injection.  
  • Please do not give Benadryl unless directed to do so by your family veterinarian. There are several potential risks that depend upon your pet’s unique medical history. Also, diphenhydramine (Benadryl) doesn’t always cut it – some pets need a course of steroids to help relieve symptoms.

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3. Foreign Bodies 

Pets, especially dogs, tend to eat many strange things! Common foreign bodies include socks, string, small toys, coins, & tin foil. If you know your pet ate something they shouldn’t have, seek immediate veterinary care. Don’t wait for symptoms to appear or wait to see if your pet will naturally pass the item. 

Tips for this Type of Emergency: 
  • The sooner you can get to the vet, the sooner the veterinary team can induce vomiting or perform an endoscopy to retrieve the item. However, if too much time passes (typically more than 2 hours), the item will travel into the small intestinal tract and emergency surgery will then be required.  
  • Do not reach for the hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting at home – this may cause more harm! Instead, call your family veterinarian or local animal ER for next steps. If your pet ate something toxic, contact ASPCA Animal Poison Control 
  • If your pet swallows something round such as a ping pong ball, there’s a risk of that coming back up and obstructing your pet’s airway. Bring your pet to a veterinary professional so they can safely remove the object.  

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4. Seizures 

Witnessing a pet’s seizure can be scary, especially if this is your pet’s first. Seizures are complex because there are different types of seizures. Grand mal seizures are what most people think of when they hear the term seizure; the pet may fall over, paddle his or her legs, and lose consciousness. Focal seizures may just involve some facial twitching, and the pet typically does not lose consciousness. If a seizure lasts more than a minute, carefully crate your pet and seek immediate veterinary care. If your pet experiences a seizure for the first time and it lasts less than 30 seconds, it may not warrant a trip to the animal ER. Depending on the age of the pet and if pet is stable afterwards, it may be okay to wait to be evaluated by your family veterinarian. 

Tips for this Type of Emergency: 
  • Do not put your hand in your pet’s mouth during your pet’s seizure. Your pet isn’t aware of its surroundings and may bite.  
  • Keep your pet safe during & after a seizure by placing a blanket or pillow under their head, gating stairways, and keeping them off furniture. Note that after a seizure, your pet may be confused, disoriented, or lose vision. 
  • After a seizure, your pet may be nauseous or foaming at the mouth. Do not feed your pet immediately after a seizure, as this may cause vomiting.  
  • Do not give your pet medications unless there is a history of seizures, and you have specific instructions from your vet or veterinary neurologist to do so.
  • When able, log what was happening before and after the seizure to help determine potential causes and the best course of treatment. You can also use your phone to record the seizure to show it to the vet. 

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5. Vomiting, Diarrhea, Anorexia, & Lethargy 

GI upset like vomiting and diarrhea, as well as not eating and lethargy are common primary symptoms in the ER, and they can have a lengthy list of potential causes, varying in severity. When in doubt, call your family veterinarian or local animal emergency hospital to determine if your pet needs immediate care or can wait for an appointment.  

 Tips for this Type of Emergency: 
  • To help prevent GI upset in pets with sensitive stomachs, do not give new treats/bones. Another dietary tip is to not immediately switch from one type of food to another – slowly transition to avoid GI symptoms.  
  • If your pet is persistently vomiting or vomiting is paired with loss of appetite and diarrhea, veterinary care is advised.

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Remember, the best way to avoid a pet emergency is to make sure you keep up on your pet’s primary care visits. This includes vaccinations, regular bloodwork, teeth cleanings and dental x-rays. We hope being familiar with these common types of potential emergencies and Dr. Wolf’s tips will help your pet stay safe at home where they belong, and not in our ER!  

Please remember to always call ahead of your visit to our ER so our team can help properly triage your pet and guide you on the best course of action. 

Content provided by Chelsea Wolf, DVM.  

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