If you are unsure what to do in an emergency, phone us on the numbers below:
Daytime Emergencies: 01534 730521
After 6pm: 07797 711585
Below are some examples of emergencies and what you can do:
Important aspects of dealing with a road traffic accident
Remove animal from site and risk of further danger eg onto roadside. Be careful to avoid further injury to the animal and avoid danger to the handler(s), either from passing traffic or from the animal, which may bite from pain or fear. You may need to use a makeshift muzzle.
Protect any wounds by covering with clean cloths and applying gentle pressure to any sites of bleeding.
Telephone the veterinary hospital for advice and inform them you are on your way in or make your way there directly if you cannot contact them first. Ideally, one person should look after the animal while the other drives. Support the animal, especially if there are any obvious broken bones or if it is unable to use any of its legs. Continue to apply pressure to any points of bleeding if possible.
If you suspect your pet has eaten, drunk or licked any kind of poison you should immediately telephone the veterinary surgery.
You will need to take the animal to the vets for immediate attention.
Some types of poisoning may be less obvious, eg perhaps a scattering of pills on the floor, the dog eating something in the corner of the garden or on the beach.
Signs of poisoning can include excessive salivation, vomiting, strange behaviour, sleepiness or fitting. Anything suspicious should be investigated and the animal taken to a veterinary surgeon for advice.
It is helpful to either collect a sample of the poison if at all possible, or any information sheets you can find and take these with you to the surgery. If the animal has been sick collect a sample of this too.
If possible, quickly clear away any remaining poison to prevent another animal coming in to contact with it.
An animal fits as a result of abnormal brain activity. The animal has a mixture of unconsciousness and rapid muscular and limb movements.
When an animal is fitting, you should darken the room if possible and remove any objects that could harm them. The environment should be quiet and where possible the animal gently reassured or left alone and not stimulated by voice or physical contact until the fit has passed. Telephone the Hospital for advice. It is very useful if possible to time how long the seizure lasts for.
Do not try to insert anything into the animal’s mouth.
Most fits will last just a few minutes, but some can last 15 – 20 minutes. Leave the animal alone for this time, but comfort it as soon as it has recovered. The animal should then be taken to the surgery for an assessment.
Diagnosis and management with drug therapy will often control this condition.
Bites & fights
If your animal has been involved in a fight, the risk of infected wounds are high as animals’ teeth, especially cats, are covered in all kinds of nasty bacteria.
Because wounds from teeth are deep and narrow, they easily become pockets of infection, sealed by a scab at the top. This is how abscesses form.
Small fights, where observers are able to clarify the type and extent of damage caused, can be treated as non-urgent. Gentle cleansing of small wounds with mild salty water may be all that’s needed. Where tooth marks are seen then deep cleansing may be required, along with a course of antibiotics, therefore a check up with the vet is required.
Any bruising is a sign of tissue damage, especially if it is present soon after the event.
Emergency treatment is needed following fights when skin has been torn into flaps, where there is a lot of bleeding or bruising, or if a crush injury has occurred; this can happen when a dog is attacked by a larger dog and hidden internal injuries have been inflicted. Neck trauma and abdominal injuries are common and can be severe, maybe even life threatening.
If the animal’s neck or chest has been injured then breathing difficulties are possible, so care should be taken to observe the animal as it is transported to the surgery. Any wounds should be covered with a clean material, and any point of bleeding carefully covered and gentle pressure applied.
These can occur as a result of a medical condition, during a fight or trauma, such as an RTA. Running into undergrowth or through long grass or crops can also cause eye problems.
Signs of eye injury include pawing at the face, excessive blinking or holding the eye closed, a fluid or jelly like substance on the surface of the eye or running down the animal’s face. The eye will also often look red.
Eye injuries are generally very painful. In most cases of eye injury, you should be phoning your vet immediately, without touching the area or investigating further.
The exception to this is when the animal’s eye is out of its socket. The eyeball needs careful protection to prevent damage to it. It is also important to reduce the pull on the nerves and blood vessels, and to keep the inside of the socket clean. A clean cloth, dampened with clean water or ideally sterile saline should be carefully placed over the eyeball and the socket area, if possible slightly, gently, lifting the eyeball towards the socket and then held in place against the side of the face. Immediate veterinary attention is required.
Animals should not be left in a car during warm weather, even if the windows are open. Pets should be kept out of the full heat of sun in summer. This is especially important for dogs taken abroad to a much hotter country. Free access to water is as important as access to shade.
Heat stroke is where the body overheats, reaching temperatures as high as 108 Fahrenheit or 42.2 Celsius (normal dog body temperature is 100.9 – 101.7 F, or 38.2 – 38.7 C).
Signs of heat stroke are lethargy, difficulty in breathing and fitting. The animal will also feel very hot to the touch.
Immediate action is required to save the animal’s life:
- Remove from hot area.
- Cool the animal with cold water, especially head, neck, abdomen between legs and feet.
- Place ice cubes on feet, neck, abdomen and wrap cloth around to hold in place. Keep area cool and wet.
- Transport the animal to a veterinary surgery, keeping the animal and environment cool and the animal out of direct sunlight.
Burns & scalds
A burn is caused by direct contact with a hot substance, fluid or chemical. A scald is caused by heat from steam.
- Remove cause of heat or remove animal.
- Place area under cold water flow and keep there for at least 10 minutes. Because heat penetrates and damages deep tissue layers, it is important the cooling method is applied long enough to cool the deep layer.
- Cover area with cloth soaked in cold water or with some ice cubes wrapped in a cloth, if possible.
- Seek veterinary attention.
- Burns and/or scalds are very painful. Open burns also lose fluids and proteins; these losses need addressing, often with intravenous fluid therapy and special diets. Pain relief may be needed as well as wound treatments and infection control.
Bloat, Gastric Torsion and Gastric Dilatation Volvulus
Bloat can be a sign of Gastric Dilatation (volvulus), also known as Gastric Torsion. Usually a problem in large dogs with deep chests, such as Irish Setters, Great Danes, Irish Wolf Hounds, Rottweillers etc. However, sometimes smaller dogs can be affected. Gas accumulates in the dog’s stomach to such an extent that the dog looks visibly distended. They are often very depressed and miserable, and might be trying to be sick without actually producing any vomit.
This is a very serious condition and it is vital that you seek veterinary help immediately. Without treatment this condition can become rapidly fatal.
Difficult labour (Dystocia)
A difficult whelping or kittening can be caused by problems with the mother’s anatomy; for example, the birth canal is too narrow, exhaustion of the mother at the end of a difficult and long labour, or because the kitten/puppy is stuck, dead or very large.
A labour can be long for a number of reasons and there may be fairly long pauses between the appearance of offspring. However, usually a puppy or kitten should have been delivered within an hour of the onset of active straining. The mother may even snooze between deliveries, but the indicator that things are not well is the presence of a green-brown discharge without a puppy/kitten arriving. This is a sign that the amniotic sac surrounding the young is ruptured. A clear blood-coloured discharge is normal.
Prolonged straining, a stuck or partially exposed kitten/puppy, or green discharge are all indicators of problems and veterinary assistance is needed.
Most vets will give advice on the phone, but will need you to attend the surgery if any problems occur, especially as a caesarean section may need to be carried out.
This occurs particularly in middle aged, neutered male, sedentary, and often overweight cats (but can occur in other species as well). The signs to look out for are straining to urinate and not producing urine, small blood spots when trying to urinate and generally looking painful and off colour or very lethargic. It is caused by a plug of material getting lodged at the end of the penis, and if left untreated can be life threatening.
If you notice any of these signs you should contact the vets and have your pet examined, although cystitis signs can also mimic this condition.
If your pet has this problem he will need to be admitted to pass a catheter into his bladder, as well as blood and urine tests plus a drip, and may be in the hospital for at least a few days.
This occurs when an animal has a soiled coat and flies have been able to lay eggs on it. It most commonly affects rabbits and other small mammals. The fly larvae (maggots) hatch and begin to feed on the debris and skin flakes on the animal’s coat. They irritate and damage the skin, introducing infection, and soon begin to burrow into the animal’s skin and tissues, causing intense irritation and pain. They can cause considerable damage to the animal, which may, in turn, need extensive care or even euthanasia.
It is best to avoid the problem by correct husbandry methods, i.e. cleaning out the animal’s enclosure daily, checking the animal for fly eggs at the end of every day, grooming with a fine tooth comb or washing off in an antiseptic bath.
If you find your pet with maggots then a full and careful groom is needed including clipping the coat to reveal any obscured larvae. This is best carried out by the veterinary surgeon, who can clip and wash the animal, and assess the extent of any damage. Antibiotic treatment may be required.