No one likes to think about their pet needing emergency care—but knowing how to prevent emergencies may save you and your pet from unnecessary suffering, heartache, and loss. Check out our LaGrange Veterinary Hospital guide on protecting pets from five of the most common pet emergencies. 

If your pet is in an emergency situation, or you’re not sure if their condition needs emergency care, immediately contact our hospital. Our caring team can triage your pet’s status over the phone and provide prompt, personalized instructions.

#1: Pets hit by a car

According to a State Farm analysis, in a 12-month period between 2020 and 2021, 92,924 dogs and an untold number of cats—most likely included in the 185,715 “unidentified animals” category—were struck by vehicles. Knowing each individual pet’s circumstances is not possible, but many of these unfortunate—often deadly—accidents likely could have been avoided.

Hit-by-car accidents can result in critical internal injuries and bleeding, broken bones (e.g., the pelvis, ribs, femur), and emotional trauma. Despite extensive surgery and hospitalized care, pets may experience permanent injuries. 

Because the pets who are hit by cars are often unrestrained and unsupervised, prevention involves safety measures that include:

  • Keeping your dog on leash or in a fenced yard — Confinement is not about restricting your dog’s freedom, but about keeping them safe.
  • Keeping your cat indoors or in a carrier during travel — Cats may be easily startled or become prey for another animal.
  • Training your dog — Boundary training, a reliable recall, and a solid “Stay” command can save your dog’s life.  
  • Spaying or neutering your pet — These procedures may help reduce the pet’s desire to roam. 

#2: Bloat in dogs

Considered the “mother of all emergencies,” bloat (i.e., gastric dilation volvulus [GDV]) is an emergency condition commonly seen in deep-chested or large-breed dogs. The dog’s stomach fills with gas (i.e., gastric dilation) and may be followed by volvulus, in which the stomach rotates on its axis, cuts off normal digestion and blood flow, and often entraps the spleen. 

Because bloat’s cause is poorly understood, a surgical procedure (i.e., gastropexy) that tacks or attaches the stomach to the body wall to minimize rotation is the only effective prevention. Otherwise, a fast response and emergency treatment (e.g., stomach tube, surgery) is critical to ensure the patient’s full recovery. 

Bloat signs include:

  • Dry heaving
  • Unproductive vomiting
  • Distended and painful abdomen
  • Anxiety 

Any of these signs are a cause for concern. Do not wait—seek emergency veterinary care if you suspect your dog is suffering from bloat.

#3: Urinary blockage in pets

Urinary blockage is a time-sensitive, life-threatening emergency in which the urethra (i.e., the passageway from the urinary bladder to outside the body) is obstructed by a mineralized stone (e.g., bladder or kidney stone) or a mucus plug (i.e., an accumulation of gritty debris and thick mucus). 

Male cats are most commonly affected with a urinary blockage, but female cats and all dogs can experience this emergency. Signs include:

  • Straining to urinate
  • Producing little, bloody, or no urine
  • Vocalizing 
  • Lethargy or collapse

Trapped urine can quickly lead to toxin-accumulation in the bloodstream, resulting in organ damage, heart arrhythmias, and death. Emergency surgery to remove the obstruction is essential for survival—especially in cats. 

For pets with a previous urinary health history (e.g., recurrent urinary tract infections, bladder or kidney stones), diet, hydration, exercise, and litter box hygiene play an important role in reducing urinary obstruction risk. Seek prompt attention at LaGrange Veterinary Hospital if your pet’s urinary habits change, and follow our veterinarian’s recommendations. 

#4: Toxin ingestion in pets

Many everyday items, including common foods, household cleaners, medications, and house plants, are toxic to pets. Some are so potent that only a few bites or licks can trigger an emergency health crisis. Side effects can include kidney failure, clotting disorders, dangerous arrhythmias, seizures, severe hypoglycemia, or liver damage. 

Toxicity signs aren’t always immediate, but timely treatment may help prevent life-threatening injury. If you know or suspect your pet has encountered a toxin, don’t wait—contact LaGrange Veterinary Hospital or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center for prompt guidance, including after hours.

Prevent toxin ingestion by familiarizing yourself with the top pet poisons. Then, pet-proof your home by storing poisons safely out of reach—or better yet, replace toxic items with pet-safe alternatives.

#5: Heatstroke in pets

Heatstroke is a silent but serious emergency that affects countless pets every year. Pet owners often underestimate heat-related dangers and their pet’s ability to keep cool, and leave their pets without adequate water or shade, or worse—alone in a parked car. 

The heat doesn’t need to be oppressive—heat stress and heatstroke can affect pets in seemingly mild 70-degree weather. Old, young, brachycephalic, and overweight pets are especially vulnerable to heatstroke and heat-related death.

Protect your pet from this completely preventable tragedy with special warm weather precautions, including:

  • Providing access to fresh water and shade when outdoors
  • Limiting outdoor time for at-risk pets, or in extreme heat
  • Leaving pets at home—never in the car
  • Rescheduling outdoor exercise to cooler parts of the day
  • Watching for early heatstroke signs (i.e., heavy panting, drooling, glazed eyes, mental dullness) and taking your affected pet indoors.

With thoughtful consideration and proactive precautions, these five common pet emergencies can become uncommon. For help addressing your pet’s health needs, or to determine if your pet is experiencing an emergency, contact LaGrange Veterinary Hospital.