Pet 911: Emergency Prep and Prevention

Know Where to Take Your Pet in an Emergency

Now that you have a better idea of what warrants a trip to the emergency room, the next step is to learn where to take your pet in an urgent situation. How do you do this? Find out more about your regular veterinary practice—inparticular, whether the practice offers after-hours or 24-hour care. If the practice doesn’t offer emergency care, ask which facility your pet’s health care team recommends.


Remember, in the case of an emergency, sometimes the facility that’s closest to you and your pet is the best place to go, since the goal is to get medical care for your ill or injured pet as quickly as possible. Other times, your pet might benefit from waiting a little longer to reach the facility that best fits your values as a pet owner.

Once you’ve worked with your veterinarian to identify emergency pet care facilities, make a note of the clinics’ phone numbers along with driving directions. Keep this information in an easily accessible place, like in your smartphone, on the refrigerator or in the glove box of your car. This ensures that the information is handy if you need to access it quickly.


In the unfortunate event your pet does need immediate care, call the clinic ahead of time or en route to let the staff know you’re on your way. Some facilities are equipped to handle multiple emergencies simultaneously, while others may not be. Depending on the clinic’s capacity and the nature of your pet’s emergency, you may be diverted to another facility. When you arrive at the emergency clinic, keep in mind that just as in the ER of a hospital for people, the most critical patients get treated first. So if your cat or dog isn’t immediately whisked away for treatment, that could be a good sign — it may mean your pet is not the most critical in the hospital.

Emergencies are scary, and any time something appears wrong with your pet, it’s concerning. But by investing some time in your pet’s wellness care beforehand, you and your pet’s veterinary team can work together to keep your pet in the best possible health.

Accident Prevention

It’s unfortunate, but emergencies happen. Pets get injured, become ill and eat things they shouldn’t. Still, many accidents can be avoided simply by taking some precautions. While the following tips might appear to be common sense, they help prevent some of the most frequent accidents that send pets to veterinary ERs.


Pet-proof your home and outdoor environment. Make sure your pet doesn’t have access to electrical cords, open windows, high balconies or walkways, sharp lawn-edging or jagged rocks, garbage, household toxins, or over-the-counter or prescription medications. When outdoors, take care that your pet is allowed to run loose only in an area that is fenced in and devoid of any holes and potential escape routes. When out for a walk, keep your pet on a leash at all times.

Cook with caution. It’s no surprise that cats and dogs may want to join you in the kitchen or at the table, but take care when cooking or feeding your pet table scraps. Besides the fact that too much people food can add inches to your pet’s waist, abrupt changes in diet can lead to gastrointestinal upset, and fatty or greasy foods may contribute to pancreatitis. Some human foods are also toxic to pets. Specifically, avoid giving your pet chocolate and onions, because they can be dangerous and even deadly in certain amounts. Grapes, raisins and macadamia nuts should also be avoided in dogs.


Be seasonally smart. When the weather is warm, make sure you provide your pet with shade and plenty of fresh water to avoid heat exhaustion and any associated illnesses. In the winter months, make sure your cats and dogs have access to a water supply that won’t freeze and a shelter that’s warm and dry to prevent ­hypothermia and frostbite.

Fido's First-Aid Kit

You’ve probably created a people-focused first-aid kit, but do you have one for your pet? It’s worthwhile to prepare a first-aid kit specifically for your furry friends — before you need it, of course. Below is a list of what should be inside it. However, if an emergency occurs, you should always call your veterinarian first, if possible, to ask for guidance in helping your pet.

  • Clean towels
  • Rectal thermometer
  • Saline irrigation solution (like you would use for contact lenses)
  • Gauze and cotton bandaging material
  • White medical adhesive tape
  • A muzzle appropriate for your pet’s mouth
  • Antibiotic ointment (like Neosporin)
  • Hydrogen peroxide

More on Vetstreet:

Join the Conversation

Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!