Unfortunately, emergencies don’t always happen during regular business hours.

We are proud to announce that we have recently added the full-service VETS Toronto emergency hospital to our network of clinics in downtown Toronto to better serve our clients after-hours!

VETS Toronto is located in The Beaches at 1025 Kingston Road that provides a range of emergency services from endoscopy, laparoscopic surgery, ultrasonography, orthopedic surgery, and much more.

In light of this new addition to our family, we wanted to review some of the most common symptoms of distress in pets, what they could indicate, and what you should do about them.

Dogs and cats can be masters at hiding pain and illness. Often times, you may not notice they are feeling unwell until their medical condition is quite advanced. This is why it is so important to be able to recognize behaviours and symptoms that may not may seem too concerning as signs that your pet is beginning to feel unwell. Just like any human illness, early intervention is key, especially when it comes to medical emergencies.

  • Is their appetite normal?
  • Are their mobility and reflexes normal?
  • Are they bright, alert, and responsive?
  • Is their breathing normal? Is their airway obstructed?
  • Are there any wounds or cuts present?
  • Are they having vomiting and/or diarrhea?
  • Are they urinating normally?
  • Do their eyes look normal? (Are the whites yellow, and/or are they able to focus?)
  • Is there a chance they ingested a toxic substance like chocolate, Advil, a household cleaning product, recreational drugs, etc?

If your pet is exhibiting more than one of these symptoms, they most likely need medical attention. Below are some (but not all) of the most common conditions/injuries that can turn into life-threatening conditions in your cat or dog:

1 – BLOAT:
Also called GDV, this condition is one of the most serious emergencies in dogs and requires IMMEDIATE attention. GDV tends to affect larger deep chested breeds such as great Danes, Standard Poodles, Chow Chows and others. The stomach gets twisted around which causes it to bloat, which, in turn, affects the intestinal blood supply to the organs and affects the dogs ability to breathe.

The symptoms include a distended bloated belly, pacing in discomfort, trying to vomit, and salivation.

This is a common condition and it can affect both dogs and cats, although it is most common in male cats. The main signs are straining/inability to urinate, producing small amounts of urine, drops of blood in the urine, and general discomfort. This condition also requires immediate emergency veterinary care, as it is painful and a distended bladder can eventually burst.

If your dog or cat eats anything that is potentially toxic, please call your vet. If it is a rat poison please try to bring the container with the name of the toxin. Toxic substances can include, but are not limited to:

  • Chocolate
  • Household cleaners
  • Human medications (anti-depressants, birth control, Advil/Tylenol, etc.)
  • Recreational drugs

Vomiting and diarrhea are common, however they may constitute an emergency in younger or older animals.  If the vomiting and diarrhea persists it can lead to dehydration, which can be life threatening. If there is severe bloody diarrhea this is a sign that the condition is more serious and requires immediate attention.

Dog and cat bites are common, and injuries can range from a scratch to deep penetrating wound. In general, if the bites or scratches have punctured the skin there is a high likelihood of infection, and, in some cases, injury to an organ. Sometimes it is difficult to see the wounds under the pet’s hair so make sure to perform a close inspection of the whole body on you pet after a fight.

The eye is a very delicate organ and any injury to it should be addressed immediately. Dogs and cats will frequently rub or scratch their injured eye, making the pain worse. If the eye is red, swollen, squinty, or has any injury to it, it is crucial to have it seen by a veterinarian immediately.

These can be truly life threatening. Causes are varied from choking to asthma to a heart condition. If you see your cat open mouth breathing or your dog panting excessively while at rest, if their gums are pale in colour, or if they are pawing at their mouth in attempt to free a possible obstruction from their airway, this can mean they are having problems getting enough oxygen and need to be seen by a vet immediately.

If your pet suffers a serious accident they should be evaluated. Like people dogs and cats can go into shock, get concussions, break a bone, or incur serious soft tissue damage. Sometimes injuries are not visible but can be extremely serious like organ damage or internal bleeding. Even if your pet seems okay after getting hit by a car or undergoing another serious trauma, always seek immediate veterinary attention.

You know your pet better than anybody else, so trust your instincts if you think something is not right. If you are unsure, VETS Toronto is happy to answer questions about your pet’s health and let you know if his symptoms constitute an emergency.

– Dr. Edison Barrientos