We see a lot of distinct types of pet emergencies working in an animal emergency hospital. While many of these cases are unforeseeable, some pet emergencies are preventable! Back in January of 2021, Dr. Anna Morrow, one of our emergency veterinarians, joined us on Facebook Live to discuss the top five preventable pet ER visits and what pet owners can do to ensure these emergencies don’t happen to their pets. For more in-depth information, watch the replay of our video. Otherwise, read below to review Dr. Morrow’s key points!
1. Foreign Body Ingestion (Vomiting & Diarrhea)
When it comes to vomiting and diarrhea, there are a variety of potential causes. The most common cause – foreign body ingestion – is very preventable! This is when a pet eats something that they shouldn’t such as a pet toy, a kid’s toy, articles of clothing, hair ties, tampons, dental floss, items from the trash, etc. No matter what the item is though, if you suspect your pet ate something or catch them in the act, seek immediate veterinary care. Do not wait for your pet to start vomiting as they may require emergency surgery by then. The sooner you seek veterinary care, the sooner the team can induce vomiting and often avoid surgery.
- Always have a lid on the trash can and ensure it’s secure.
- Use adhesive furniture straps to connect the trash can to the wall.
- Consider keeping trash cans in pantry closets.
- Consider keeping trash cans in larger cabinets that you can put a baby-proof lock on.
- Block access to certain rooms by keeping doors closed or by using baby gates. We especially recommend this for kids’ rooms, laundry rooms, and bathrooms.
- For repeat offenders (often dogs), train your dog to wear a basket muzzle (NOTE: This is different than a cloth muzzle) when you’re unable to monitor your dog.
2. Bite Injuries
Unfortunately, bites are common emergencies, but often, they‘re avoidable. There are some types of scenarios to consider though:
- Dog Parks
- For dog owners who choose to utilize the dog park, remember that a dog bite incident is between two dogs. Often, one dog may have been the one to bite, but the other dog may have been the instigator. This may not always be the case, but often, it is.
- Prevention Tips:
- Study and understand your dog’s body language. Watch your dog very closely at the dog park. Know how he responds to other dogs. If your dog’s body language is showing discomfort or stress, it is up to you to remove your dog from the situation before it escalates.
- Before bringing your puppy or newly adopted dog to the dog park for the first time, work on socializing them with a friendly, mellow dog in a more controlled environment.
- Review our “Dog Parks: Are They Right for Your Dog?” to better determine if a dog park is a good option for your dog.
- Most cats that are bitten tend to be outdoor cats. Often, they roam around the neighborhood and then return home with a bite wound.
- Prevention Tips:
- When two pets are not on the best of terms at home, it can be a very tricky situation for the family. If one pet bites another, always have the wound checked by a vet in case it is worse beneath the surface. The two pets should then be separated until professional help can be acquired.
- Prevention Tips:
- Learn what triggers negative interactions. Are pets fighting over food or a favored spot on the bed? Once the trigger is recognized, families can work to manage and avoid these situations.
- In cases where there is a serious, deep bite (not just a nip), pet owners should consult with a board-certified animal behaviorist or trainer to assess the environment, the two pets, the body language of both pets, and the best way to resolve the issue. Know that these behavioral issues can be fixed, but action must be taken to prevent the incidents from recurring.
3. Cat Urinary Issues
A common emergency for cats – typically male cats – is urethral obstructions, which is when there is debris (inflammation, stones, or crystals) blocking the urethra. This causes the cat to be unable to urinate, and this is a serious medical emergency that can become fatal within 24 hours. There are components that are NOT preventable (such as genetics), and cat owners shouldn’t feel blamed. However; cat parents can control their cat’s environment and diet to help reduce the risk of this Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease, also known as Feline Idiopathic Cystitis.
- Some cats may experience “environmental stress,” typically due to a lack of stimulation, a move, or a new addition to the household. This stress can physically affect the cat and cause inflammation in the bladder, leading to an obstruction. Often, symptoms of a chronically stressed cat include straining in the litter box, yowling, and urinating inappropriately.
- Environmental Stress Prevention Tips:
- At a minimum, have one litter box per number of cats in your household, plus one. So if you have three cats, you should have four or more litter boxes.
- Provide enrichment and stimulation for your cats. Place cat perches/cat trees in front of a large window, play squirrel, fish, or bird videos on TV, dangle a feather toy or something your cat can chase, and use food puzzles to turn mealtime into mental stimulation.
- After your cat displays any signs of urinary issues, it’s important to get a veterinarian’s assessment as to whether a change in food may help.
- Prevention Tip:
- Consult with your family veterinarian about switching your cat to a special, prescription diet. Such diets cost more, but they’re designed to prevent future obstructions and emergency visits.
Plain and simple – one of the easiest ways to prevent an emergency is by ensuring your pet’s vaccinations are up-to-date. Your pet should be seen by a family veterinarian at least once a year for a wellness exam and to receive annual vaccinations. Discuss with your family veterinarian which vaccinations are required and which are recommended based on your pet’s lifestyle, as well as preventatives. This is the best way to keep your pets healthy and prevent a variety of health issues.
No matter what type of pet you have, it’s important to know what is toxic to your pet and then to keep these foods and items out of your pet’s reach (or out of your home completely)! Over-the-counter medications are the most common type of toxin we see. Xylitol, chocolate, grapes/raisins, garlic and onions, macadamia nuts, antifreeze, rodenticides, and toxic plants (especially lilies for cats and marijuana), are also common.
If you know your pet consumed something toxic, go straight to a veterinarian to begin treatment. Unsure if your pet ate something toxic? For a fee, you can call ASPCA Poison Control and speak to a veterinary toxicologist. She will be able to reference the product, determine toxicity, and send a treatment plan to your veterinary facility of choice if treatment is advised. When in doubt, contact ASPCA, your family veterinarian, or local animal emergency hospital for guidance.
- Whenever possible, don’t bring toxic items into your home.
- Keep purses, backpacks, lunchboxes, and other bags up high in a closet or somewhere out of your pet’s reach.
- Any items that are toxic to your pets should be kept in a secure location such as a high cupboard or a cabinet with a babyproof lock on it. Again, we will reiterate – secure those trash cans!
- Be on high alert when you have company over – our pets are opportunists and choose to get into trouble whenever they sense we are distracted.
- If able, have pets stay in a separate room during meals or when guests are over.
- Before bringing any type of plant or bouquet into your home, use the PlantSnap app to help you identify the plant or flowers and then cross-reference with ASPCA’s Toxic and Non-Toxic Plant Guide. If anything is toxic, DO NOT bring it into your home!
- Find more tips on how to pet-proof your house here.
Remember, not every emergency is preventable, but we hope this information helps arm you with the knowledge and resources to eliminate certain dangers and help keep your pets out of the ER! If your pet does experience an emergency and your family veterinarian is unavailable, Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota has an Oakdale facility that is open 24/7 and a St. Paul facility that is open 8AM – 8PM. Please call ahead!