Pet Emergencies, when do I call the Vet?

We encourage all pet owners to have a plan in case of an emergency. Have available the number and location of your nearest 24-hour care facility in addition to the information of your regular veterinarian.

Trouble Breathing 

You should be familiar with the colour of your pet’s gums. The gums should be pink at all times. If the gums become pale, purple, grey, red or blue, this is an emergency. Your pet may not be receiving enough oxygen or may be bleeding.

It is very normal for dogs to pant, but if the panting becomes excessive, you should see a vet. Panting in cats is unusual so seek care. A persistent cough, especially with frothy or pink sputum is a cause for concern.

Vomiting and Diarrhea

When a pet is experiencing repeated vomiting and/or diarrhea, they should be seen. If the vomit or diarrhea contains blood, the urgency of a visit increases. Prolonged vomiting and/or diarrhea can cause dehydration.

A Bloated Abdomen

Bloat is a very serious emergency! The stomach generally bloats with food or gas and is accompanied by unproductive retching. If left, a stomach full of air can twist, putting pressure on blood vessels and restricting the flow of blood.


Accidents happen. Situations, like being attacked, falling or being hit, can cause serious injury. After a trauma, a pet may appear normal, with clinical symptoms appearing in the hours following the incident. Any trauma or accident should be followed by a vet visit immediately.

Ingestion of a Toxin or Foreign Body

Pets are tempted to eat the strangest things. If you see or have a suspicion that your pet has eaten or chewed ANYTHING not meant to be ingested or swallowed, please contact a veterinarian for direction. Many unsuspecting things are toxic or can cause a blockage. Many vets will provide a list of common toxic items during a first puppy or kitten visit.


Seizures are one of the scariest things for an owner to witness. If your pet is having a seizure, make sure they are in a safe, secure spot away from stairs with low stimuli. Do not put your hands near their head/mouth. Call your vet immediately.

Trouble Urinating or Defecating

It is important to monitor your pet’s elimination patterns. Straining to pass either urine or stool should not be ignored.

Not Eating or Drinking

If your pet has no interest in food or water for an entire day, please see your veterinarian. Prolonged periods without food or water can lead to dehydration and systemic issues that complicate managing/determining the cause of the anorexia.

Eye Injuries

Eye injuries can escalate quickly. Any issue with the eye should be evaluated on the day it is detected. Excessive rubbing, squinting, discharge, cloudiness and a bulging eye are some of the symptoms of concern.

Allergic Reactions

Dogs and cats can develop allergies via contact, ingestion, injection or inhalation of an offending substance. The most common symptoms of allergen exposure are hives, itching, swelling on the body, particularly of the face and tongue, and trouble breathing. Much like a person experiencing an allergic reaction, fast action is required to prevent it from progressing to anaphylaxis.

Written by: Michelle Saydack, DVM

During regular business hours, please come to our hospital. Outside of regular hours, please visit the Winnipeg Animal Emergency Clinic at 400 Pembina Highway. They can be reached at 204-452-9427.