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    Pet Ailments: What to Monitor vs. What's an Emergency

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    It’s late at night and you notice that your pet has vomited or is refusing to eat their food. If there’s no 24-hour vet clinic in your area, you may find yourself stressing out over your pet’s symptoms. But while certain symptoms are concerning, they don’t always signal an emergency.

    Knowing what ailments can be monitored at home and which need to be addressed immediately can help you stress less over your pet’s condition. Regardless of the symptoms your pet is displaying, it’s important to keep an eye on their behavior and watch for symptoms that don’t stop over time or after treatment. And, of course, you know your pet best. If something seems wrong, it’s better to be safe and seek help sooner rather than later.

    Here’s a brief guide to help you determine whether your pet is experiencing an emergency or if you can monitor their symptoms at home.

    Stomach issues

    Common stomach issues in dogs and cats include vomiting, diarrhea and constipation. While none of these problems are pleasant, they don’t always signal an emergency. Infrequent stomach issues might just mean your pet has eaten or drank too much too fast or got into the garbage. Allergies and certain medications can also cause mild stomach issues in pets.

    If your pet vomits once or twice or has a bout of diarrhea but is otherwise acting normally, it’s usually okay to keep them at home and monitor them. The same goes for constipation for around a day, as long as there are no other symptoms. You might try a few home remedies to see if their condition improves.

    Stomach issues become an emergency for pets if they are extremely frequent or persistent, or if they’re accompanied by more serious symptoms of illness. Get your pet to the vet immediately if they vomit more than twice in a 24-hour period, have unrelenting diarrhea, are constipated and vomiting, or if you spot blood in their stool.

    Respiratory problems

    Respiratory illnesses are relatively common in pets, but their severity can vary wildly. You’ll want to pay attention if you notice your pet sneezing, coughing and breathing noisily.

    Some pets are just like humans in that they suffer from allergies caused by pollen, mold and household substances. These allergies might cause sneezing and some other respiratory problems. Additionally, pets tend to sniff around a lot and could breathe irritants into their nose. If your pet sneezes once in a while, there is probably an easy explanation that doesn’t require a vet visit.

    If sneezing is coupled with other symptoms, something more serious might be wrong with your pet. If you notice your dog is sneezing and showing signs of fever, then they may be suffering from canine influenza. Constant sneezing in cats could also mean they have an upper respiratory infection. Contact your vet if your pet’s sneezing doesn’t stop or is accompanied by other symptoms.

    What’s really cause for concern is if your pet seems to have trouble breathing. If your pet is showing any signs of labored breathing, choking or gagging, this is an emergency that needs to be treated immediately.

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    Lack of appetite

    Inappetence is something that often concerns pet parents. Sometimes your furry friend just isn’t hungry. Perhaps a family member snuck them too many treats or your pet has had a particularly stressful day. One skipped meal usually isn’t a big deal.

    Before you get stressed, it’s important to remember that your pet may also just be picky about their food. If they are refusing to eat, consider trying a different type of food. Adding water or broth to soften up dry food also entices some pets to eat.

    However, if your pet is constantly refusing to eat, you could have a problem on your hands. There are many serious illnesses that could cause loss of appetite in your pet, from colds and flus to organ failure. If your pet hasn’t eaten anything in 24 hours, you should call your vet.

    Eye problems

    Cats and dogs suffer from eye irritation just like humans do. If your pet’s eyes appear itchy or watery, it might be a result of minor problems like dust or allergies. These problems might go away on their own or can easily be remedied with pet-safe eye drops or ointments.

    However, many eye issues constitute an emergency for pets. Any injuries to the eye—whether scratches or puncture wounds—should be treated by an emergency vet to preserve your pet’s vision. Swelling or major physical changes to the eye should also be examined immediately, since they might be a result of a dangerous condition.

    Must-treat emergencies

    While many pet ailments have varying degrees of severity, there are some problems that are immediately apparent and true emergencies. If your pet experiences any of the following, get them to the vet immediately:

    • Persistent bleeding from a wound, the nose, the mouth the rectum or the urethra
    • Coughing up blood
    • Ingesting toxic or poisonous substances
    • Seizures
    • Paralysis or the inability to move any single limb/body part
    • Heatstroke
    • Loss of consciousness
    • Electric shock

    At the end of the day, no matter how mild your pet’s symptoms are, you’re the best judge of your pet’s health. If you’re concerned about your pet, bring them to the vet as soon as you can. Even when monitoring symptoms at home, it’s smart to give your vet a call to discuss the best treatment options and get a better understanding of what to look for. With the right combination of attention and treatment, your pet will be in good hands!

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    Meet Our Expert

    Dr. Janice Huntingford

    Pet Wellbeing's own Dr. Jan has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years. Since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, she's founded two veterinary clinics and lectured extensively on pet herbal therapy, nutraceuticals, acupuncture, rehabilitation and pain management.

    Dr. Jan has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities, helping us to formulate all of our supplements. She is an essential part of Pet Wellbeing.

    And lucky for us, she's only one of the great team of people who make Pet Wellbeing so special.

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