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Emergency Versus Urgent Veterinary Care

Put an end to your what-ifs by understanding the difference between emergency and urgent veterinary care.

Dr Treat
Emergency Versus Urgent Veterinary Care

Key takeaway

When your pet is injured, sick, or otherwise out of sorts, you may wonder if you should act now, or wait until their regularly scheduled appointment. These what-ifs can compel you to seek costly emergency care for a minor condition—or cause you to delay care when your pet may be critically ill, compromising their recovery opportunity. Understanding the difference between your pet’s emergent and non-emergent condition can save you unnecessary heartache, veterinary bills, and precious time.

W
hen your pet is injured, sick, or otherwise out of sorts, you may be tempted to rush them to the veterinary hospital for immediate answers and treatment.

Other times your pet’s illness may seem vague or intermittent—making you wonder if you should act now, or wait until their regularly scheduled appointment.

These what-ifs can compel you to seek costly emergency care for a minor condition—or cause you to delay care when your pet may be critically ill, compromising their recovery opportunity. Understanding the difference between your pet’s emergent and non-emergent condition can save you unnecessary heartache, veterinary bills, and precious time.

Plan for a veterinary health emergency before your pet is in the midst of one. Our Dr. Treat team puts an end to your what-ifs by explaining the difference between emergency and urgent veterinary care, and sharing examples of each.

What defines a veterinary emergency?

Simply put, veterinary emergency care is for life-threatening conditions. While you can recognize a classic emergency—your pet is bleeding excessively, has been hit by a car, is unresponsive, in respiratory distress—many critical situations and conditions may begin with somewhat general clinical signs.

Although our Dr. Treat team is proud to provide full-service general and urgent care, we are not a 24/7 emergency facility. However, as a committed partner in your pet’s health and safety, we do our utmost to ensure they have access to the best possible around-the-clock care. If your pet is experiencing an emergency, contact our clinic during business hours, and our virtual care services at all other times for consultation or a referral to your nearest veterinary emergency facility.

What are some pet emergency examples?

Pets experiencing a health emergency are often in obvious crisis, or have recently experienced a life-threatening trauma or event. These include:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Respiratory distress (i.e., labored breathing, rapid respiratory rate, gasping, or choking)
  • Respiratory or cardiac arrest
  • Collapse  
  • Unconscious
  • Disorientation
  • Heat stroke
  • Allergic reactions (e.g., facial swelling, hives, respiratory difficulty)
  • Inability to urinate
  • Persistent vomiting or diarrhea
  • Unproductive vomiting (i.e., retching)
  • Sudden pronounced weakness or paralysis
  • Continuous or multiple seizures
  • Toxin ingestion
  • Hit by a car
  • Fall from a height
  • Dog attack
  • Penetrating wounds
  • Visible fractures

After a traumatic event, adrenaline and shock can override your pet’s pain—making them appear unharmed. Although your pet may be walking and behaving normally after an accident (e.g., hit by or ejected from a car, or blunt trauma), they may be suffering serious internal injuries. Always seek emergency veterinary care to rule out internal bleeding, bone fractures, and organ damage.

“After a traumatic event, adrenaline and shock can override your pet’s pain—making them appear unharmed. Always seek emergency veterinary care to rule out internal bleeding, bone fractures, and organ damage. ”

What defines veterinary urgent care?

Veterinary urgent care involves a promptly scheduled appointment for pets experiencing non-life-threatening illness, injury, or chronic condition, who are stable (e.g., having normal vital signs, non progressive symptoms). While care should be timely, urgent conditions often do not require immediate veterinary attention.

Although your pet may not need emergency care, you may still want to ensure you can get your pet in promptly to be seen. Our 24/7 virtual care team can help book your pet’s exam for urgent care should you struggle to find an appointment.

What are some pet urgent care examples?

Urgent veterinary care is a relatively broad category that includes major and minor non-emergent conditions. Although your pet may be uncomfortable, in pain, or feeling sick, their life is not considered to be in immediate danger, and they can wait until the next business day for treatment.

Our Dr. Treat team will ask you to describe your pet’s condition when we are scheduling their appointment to ensure they receive the soonest—same-day when possible—available appointment. Pets’ common urgent care signs include:

  • Occasional vomiting or diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Skin issues
  • Ear infections
  • Urinary accidents
  • Minor abrasions and wounds
  • Broken toenails
  • Impacted anal sacs
  • Eye irritation or injury
  • Changes in behavior, appetite, or elimination habits
  • Limping
  • Respiratory signs (e.g., sneezing, coughing, runny eyes or nose)
  • Parasites
  • Single seizure that resolves on its own

If your pet needs urgent veterinary care, Dr. Treat One™ members can use the Dr. Treat app to schedule an in-clinic visit.

What should I do if my pet is having an emergency?

If your pet is experiencing a health emergency, go to your nearest emergency veterinary hospital. Although not typically required, alert the veterinary emergency hospital and personnel—saving precious seconds that can make the difference between your pet’s life and death. Contact our virtual care team and we will forward your pet’s records to the emergency hospital

What if I’m still unsure about my pet’s condition post emergency hospital visit?

Feel empowered when it comes to your pet’s health by becoming a Dr. Treat One™ member, and access our 24/7 help line, virtual assistance, and personalized veterinary care.

At Dr. Treat care providers too are empowered to be their best, in a healthy environment that nurtures, encourages and uplifts them. Personalized medicine demands a narrow and hyper-detailed focus, and each of our clinics offer a limited number of memberships for this same reason. It helps us to maintain the highest customized care standards while also helping our veterinary team maintain their own well-being.

Written by:

Dr Treat

A veterinary practice that is reimagining the approach to the health and wellbeing of companion animals.

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