In Case of Emergencies
Veterinary emergencies are unpredictable. That’s why All Pets Emergency & Referral Center operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There is always a veterinarian and experienced technical staff on duty.
24-Hour Emergency and Critical Care
When your family veterinarian is unavailable to handle your dog or cat’s emergency needs, All Pets Emergency & Referral Center is just a phone call away.
Please call ahead at (678) 366-2500 so that a veterinary professional can advise you about your pet emergency. Get directions to our veterinary hospital.
Our highly-trained, professional, and compassionate staff, along with state-of-the-art facilities and equipment not found elsewhere, means that your pet will get world-class veterinary emergency and critical care.
Recognize Urgent Problems
Prompt veterinary care gives your pet the best chance of a successful outcome and recovery. If you have a question about your pet’s health, don’t delay seeking veterinary care. Here are some indications and situations when you should always seek urgent treatment:
- Bleeding in volume, or doesn’t stop, or from a body cavity
- Foaming at the mouth
- Hit by car
- Seizure or Tremor
- Blue, purple, or pale gums or tongue
- Cat open-mouth breathing
- Ingestion of snail bait, rat bait, anti-freeze, pills, medications, vitamins, or any suspect substance.
- Your pet has been involved in an animal attack
- Bite wounds
- Snake bites
- Spider or insect bites
- Respiratory emergency
- Cardiac emergency
- Allergic reactions
- Heat and cold emergencies (heatstroke, excessive panting or salivation, shivering, etc.)
Poison Control Hotline
- Stay calm, for your sake and your pet’s sake. Animals can sense if you are upset and may become even more fearful, distressed, or aggressive.
- If your regular veterinarian cannot be contacted, when possible call ahead to the All Pets Emergency & Referral Center (678) 366 – 2500. Our clinical staff will be able to advise you.
- Be prepared with basic information – your pet’s type/breed, age, the problem, time when the problem happened, and changes since then. We will give you instructions specific to your situation.
- Please be aware, even gentle pets may bite or become aggressive when ill or injured. A muzzle may be used to secure an injured animal, but it’s not recommended if the animal has breathing problems.
Prep for Emergencies
10 Easy Steps to Prepare for Pet Emergencies
- Post your veterinarian’s number near your phone.
- Post the number of All Pets Emergency & Referral Center near your phone.
- Know the location of All Pets Emergency & Referral Center.
- Post the phone number of Poison Control (888-426-4435)
- Make sure your pet always wears an identification tag.
- Microchip your pet so that it can be identified electronically if lost.
- Since emergencies are an unexpected cost for owners, consider getting pet insurance or qualifying for credit plans like Care Credit.
- Keep a muzzle for dogs. Ask your family veterinarian or us about guidelines for its use.
- Consult with your regular veterinarian or us about pet first-aid preparations that makes sense for you and your pet.
- In case of a natural disaster or other large emergency, have a plan to evacuate your pet. Government shelters and hotels often prohibit pets. Get a list of pet-friendly hotels or shelters, and their rules.
10 Easy Steps to Prevent Pet Emergencies
- Keep all dangerous and poisonous substances away from your pet, in a pet-proof cupboard or container. Anti-freeze is especially tasty, and deadly, to pets. Secure containers and clean up any spills in your garage or driveway.
- Pick up any pills or capsules that fall to the floor.
- Cats are far safer kept indoors. Keep dogs on leashes when outside and not fenced-in.
- Transport pets in kennels, especially cats.
- On warmer days, limit your dog’s activity outdoors, and watch for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke (such as excessive panting, hot skin, weakness, etc.) The risk of heat stroke is especially great when the seasons are changing.
- Ask your veterinarian about plants that may be toxic. When you acquire plants, you should ask your landscaper or nursery person about the toxicity of those plants. Keep your house and yard free of these dangers.
- Ask your veterinarian about wildlife threats in your local areas. These dangers may include poisonous insects and snakes, toads, and wild animals like coyotes.
- If you know your pet has a fear of storms, keep the animal indoors if bad weather is likely.
- On the Fourth of July and other holiday celebrations, keep pets away from fireworks, preferably indoors, away from excessive noise and stray explosions.
- Maintain an ongoing relationship with a family veterinarian. Heed his or her advice about routine check-ups and other steps to keep your pet safe and healthy.
Frequently Asked Questions
This information is intended to help you deal with emergency situations that arise with your pet. It is not intended to replace professional veterinary care. The information presented will help you handle your pet’s condition well enough to get them to a veterinary clinic for an exam and further treatment. The best way to manage an emergency is to be prepared – know where to take your pet and what numbers to call when you have questions. Click on any of the links below to find out what you can do if your pet is having an emergency
- How do I approach an injured animal?
- Should I keep a first aid kit in the house for my pets?
- Should I give my pet household medications?
- Abdominal Pain
- Allergic Reactions
- Bite Wounds
- Cardiac Emergencies
- Cold Emergencies
- Ear Emergencies
- Eye Emergencies
- Heat Emergencies and Dehydration
- Insect Bites and Tick Removal
- Neurologic Emergencies
- Removing Skunk Odor
- Respiratory Emergencies
- Snake Bites
- Urinary Emergencies
- Whelping/Queening during Labor
- Tips on checking vital signs
- Traveling with your pet
- Important telephone numbers
How do I approach an injured animal?
Approach the animal slowly while talking in a calm, soothing voice. ALWAYS muzzle an animal in pain or have someone restrain the head before examining the injured area. Try to assess the nature of the emergency as quickly as possible.
Should I keep a first aid kit in the house for my pets?
Carrying a few basic items can ease the stress of simple emergencies when away from home. Start with a small collection of the following:
tweezers, sterile saline (contact lens solution), roll gauze and gauze sponges, adhesive tape, antibiotic ointment, nylon leash, and latex gloves
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Should I give my pet household medications?
DO NOT give your pet any medications (Advil, Tylenol, aspirin, etc.) without checking with a veterinarian first. Many human drugs are toxic to animals and could preclude use of important medications to help your pet.
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What are the signs of abdominal pain and what actions should I take?
Signs of abdominal pain include whining, listless/restless, lethargic, arching back, unable to get comfortable, vomiting/diarrhea, bloated or distended abdomen. If your pet is experiencing abdominal pain, DO NOT give your pet food or water — this may induce vomiting and make the condition worse. Abdominal pain can be very serious and is often life threatening if not addressed. Limit the activity of your pet, carry them if possible. You can put small pets in a box or carrier. Call a veterinarian and seek professional help as soon as possible.
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How do I know if my pet is having an allergic reaction?
Signs of an allergic reaction include fever, vomiting/diarrhea, hives, scratching, chewing at feet, swollen face or puffiness around eyes, and trouble breathing. If your pet is having an allergic reaction, call a veterinarian IMMEDIATELY. Allergic reactions should be treated as soon as possible to prevent shock. An exam by a veterinarian should still be performed on your pet, even if the reaction gets better. Allergic reactions can result from a variety of causes including insect bites or stings, food reactions and environmental issues.
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My pet has been bitten. What steps should I take?
As always, approach the animal slowly. Injured animals communicate their pain through aggressive or defensive actions. MUZZLE the animal or have someone restrain the head. Examine the entire animal for bleeding, lacerations or pain. Multiple bite wounds can be hard to find under thick coats and even bite wounds that appear superficial can cause extensive internal injuries (snake and spider bites are particularly dangerous). Wounds that penetrate the abdomen or thorax require immediate veterinary care as they may cause serious internal injuries; such as organ laceration and bleeding. Bite wounds often need to be flushed extensively or sutured to help prevent infection. Wounds that are managed within 6 hours require less intensive care. If you cannot quickly reach help, flush each wound with saline (clean water will do). Wrap large wounds, small wounds can be left uncovered. DO NOT use tourniquets to stop bleeding — use firm pressure if needed.
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What should I do if my animal has been burned?
For chemical, electrical or thermal (heat) burns, immediately flush the area with cool water for 5 minutes. After flushing, apply a cool compress to the area for 10 to 15 minutes. NEVER apply an ice pack directly to the skin. Wrap the pack in a thin towel or available material. Call a veterinarian and seek professional help and examination. Burns need to be addressed immediately and can be life threatening when severe.
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How do I know if my pet is experiencing a cardiac emergency?
Signs of a cardiac emergency include collapse, weakness, bluish or gray gum color, rapid/slow heart rate, increased respiratory rate or respiratory distress. If your pet is going into cardiac arrest, call and seek veterinary care IMMEDIATELY. Such emergencies should not be taken lightly as they are often life threatening. Limit your pet’s activity, carry them if possible.
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What are the signs of a cold emergency?
Signs of a cold emergency include shivering (excessive, relentless), lethargy, weakness, and inability to use limbs. If your pet is experiencing a cold emergency, remove your pet from the wind and cold into a warm place. Wrap your pet in warm (woolen) and dry blankets or clothing. DO NOT rub your pet with the blankets, this can damage cold tissue and make frostbite worse. Try to raise your pet’s body temperature slowly over the course of 20 minutes. Warm water bottles (wrapped in towels to avoid direct contact with skin) can be used under the blankets to help increase your pet’s temperature. To take your pet’s temperature, use only an approved rectal thermometer. Normal temperature should be 100 to 102.5 degrees. If an area is discolored (bluish or pale), the body part or skin may have been frozen and is exhibiting signs of frostbite. Take the animal out of the cold and transport to the nearest veterinary hospital. DO NOT use electric heat in any form.
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What should I do if my pet has diarrhea?
Diarrhea can be due to stress or change in the animal’s diet. It can often be a symptom of a more serious illness or disease. Make sure that your pet continues to drink water. If the diarrhea persists for more than 24 hours, seek veterinary care. If your pet is showing other signs of illness (vomiting/lethargy/weakness) do not wait, seek veterinary care.
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What should I do if my pet has an ear emergency?
Signs of an ear emergency include scratching at ears, shaking head, whining, head tilting, swollen/puffy ear flap, strange odor or discharge from ear(s). If your pet is exhibiting signs of an ear emergency, MUZZLE your pet or have someone hold the mouth closed while you examine the ears. Look for signs of redness, swelling of the ear flap, discharge or unusual odor. Look for any obvious foreign body (plant material, etc.) and pull it out if possible. If the problem persists, call a veterinarian and have your pet seen as soon as possible to obtain the appropriate solution. If your pet is experiencing frequent ear infections, please discuss this with your veterinarian as there are usually underlying causes, such as allergies. Try to prevent your pet from scratching at the ears or shaking the head excessively as this can make the problem worse. Always avoid getting water in your dog’s ears.
What should I do if my pet has an eye emergency?
Signs of an eye emergency include squinting, discharge/tearing, redness, swelling, bleeding, and different pupil size. If there is an obvious laceration or foreign object in or around the eye, seek veterinary care immediately. DO NOT try to bandage the laceration or remove the object. If the source of the irritation is known to be chemical or fine debris/dirt, flush the eye(s) with sterile saline (or clean water) immediately for 5 to 10 minutes and then seek veterinary care. Eye injuries and infections can get worse very quickly. IMMEDIATE diagnosis and treatment is critical in the preservation of your pet’s eyesight.
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What are the signs of a fracture?
Signs of a fracture include pain, not using a limb, and/or the limb looks bent or swollen. If your pet is exhibiting signs of a fracture, MUZZLE the animal or have someone restrain the head. Check the limb for open wounds or bleeding. If excessive bleeding, apply pressure with a towel or other available material while trying not to move the limb. DO NOT pull on the limb in an attempt to align the fracture, such action can result in further injury and increased bleeding. Stabilize the limb as best as possible (carry your pet if possible) and seek professional help. DO NOT give any pain medications to your pet (some are toxic to animals) unless instructed to do so by a veterinarian. Avoid wrapping the leg, as it is easy to impede blood circulation.
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How do I know if my pet is experiencing a heat emergency and/or dehydration?
Signs of a heat emergency and dehydration include excessive panting or salivation, lethargic, unable to stand, lack of coordination, vomiting, diarrhea. If your pet is experiencing mild discomfort, move your pet to a cool area as soon as possible. Keep them calm, DO NOT try to get them to stop panting, this is how your pet expels heat. If water is nearby, encourage your pet to stand or lay down in cool water. Put small amounts of water on the tongue, or offer them ice cubes. If not vomiting, your pet should respond rapidly (10 to 15 minutes).
If your pet does not respond to the cooling therapy, is depressed or anxious, great difficulty breathing, loss of consciousness or significant discomfort, seek veterinary care IMMEDIATELY. Dehydration of any cause can lead to shock or organ damage. Temperatures in your pet above 105.5˚ can be life threatening. Also, light colored animals can get sunburned just like people. Encourage them to stay in the shade.
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What should I do if my pet has a tick or has been bitten by an insect?
Like people, animals vary in their reactions to insect venom. The response can range from mild irritation to allergic shock. Check the area for any remaining stinger or insect, remove them and cleanse the area with soap and water. Cool wet towels or gauze can be used (for 20 to 30 minutes) to soothe the area. Watch your pet for signs of allergic reaction (see allergy section and follow the instructions if needed). Be particularly mindful of difficulties breathing. When returning from a park or a hike, check thoroughly for ticks by running your fingers through your pet’s entire coat, and inspecting the paws, pads, between toes and inside floppy ears. If you find a tick, place a small amount of tick spray (alcohol, mineral oil or petroleum jelly can also be used) on a cottonball and hold it over the tick. Typically the tick will back out in 30-60 seconds allowing you to grab it with a tweezers and dispose of it. Never directly handle a tick as diseases can be transmitted during handling.
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What should I do if my pet has a laceration?
As always, approach the animal slowly. Injured animals are often aggressive or defensive. MUZZLE the animal or have someone restrain the head. Examine the entire animal for bleeding, lacerations or pain. Multiple lacerations can be hard to find under thick fur. Flush each laceration with saline (clean water will do). Wrap large lacerations, small wounds can be left uncovered. DO NOT use tourniquets to stop bleeding, use firm pressure if needed. Seek veterinary care IMMEDIATELY. Lacerations can involve extensive internal damage and often need to be flushed extensively or sutured to help prevent infection.
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How do I know if my pet is having a neurologic emergency?
Signs of a neurologic emergency include Inability to use limb(s), unable to stand, circling, seizures, head tilt, and abnormal behavior. If your pet is exhibiting these signs, seek veterinary care as soon as possible. Neurologic disease is difficult to treat and is often very serious. If your pet is unable to walk, carry them to the car. If they are too big to carry, use a towel (under the abdomen, in front of rear legs) to support the hind end or use a heavy blanket as a stretcher to carry them to the car. Professional diagnosis and treatment is recommended as soon as possible.
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How do I know if my pet has come in contact with a poisonous substance?
Signs of poisoning include disorientation, vomiting, seizures, weakness, retching, salivating (excessive), tremors, and decreased mentation. Call a veterinarian IMMEDIATELY. If the source of the poisoning is known, have the container with you when you call. You will need information on the packaging to determine the appropriate treatment. If the source is unknown, seek emergency assistance IMMEDIATELY. Anti-toxin treatment should be started as soon as possible to minimize absorption of the poison. If professional medical help is unavailable, veterinary Poison Control offers assistance at (888) 426-4435 for a fee. Please make a note of the case number provided by poison control, your veterinarian will need it for reference. If possible, bring the toxic agent with you to the doctor.
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How do I know if my pet is experiencing a respiratory emergency?
Signs of a respiratory emergency include collapse, weakness, bluish or gray gum color, labored, rapid or shallow breathing. Call and seek veterinary care IMMEDIATELY. Difficulty breathing can result from heart failure, lung disease, and blockage of the airways. Such emergencies should not be taken lightly as they are often life threatening. Look in your pet’s mouth; look for any foreign object that may be obstructing the airway. ONLY try to remove the object (with tweezers or pliers) if it is COMPLETELY stopping your pet from breathing. If they can still pass some air (wheezing) get them to a veterinary hospital as soon as possible. Limit your pet’s activity, carry them if possible.
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How do I know if my pet is having a seizure?
Signs of a seizure include shaking (uncontrollably), tremors, strange facial movements, unable to stand, paddling (swimming action) with paws, loss of bowel or urinary control, and loss of consciousness. DO NOT try to restrain your pet during an episode. Move objects away that may cause injury during the seizure. Call a veterinarian immediately. Try to get your pet to the veterinary hospital as soon as possible.
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What should I do if my pet has been bitten by a snake?
In Georgia we have 6 species of medically significant venomous snakes. They are the Copperhead, Cottonmouth/Water Moccasin, Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake, Canebreak/Timber Rattlesnake, Pigmy Rattlesnake and Coral snake. Bites from these snakes should be treated as medical emergencies. Identification is important, but not essential.
If your pet has been bitten by a snake, look for bleeding from the bite area, localized swelling and edema, edema of the muzzle and face, restlessness, agitation, painful to the touch, difficulty breathing. Be sure to keep your pet calm, wipe any excess venom away from the site of the bite. DO NOT cut, bandage or place hot/cold packs on the bite area. Avoid the snake that has caused the wound and DO NOT attempt to catch or kill it. The majority of human snake bites result from people trying to catch or kill snakes.
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What are some common household toxins I should be aware of?
There are several items commonly found in many households that are toxic to pets. Make certain that these items are removed from ALL areas to which your pet has access.
- Antifreeze (ethylene glycol): Pets love the sweet taste. The ingestion of a small amount can be fatal as the antifreeze will cause neurological and kidney damage. Signs of poisoning include staggering, lethargy, excessive drinking and seizures. An antidote exists but must be given soon after ingestion.
- Snail and Slug Bait: Signs include nervousness, hyper-excitability, drooling, tremors, rapid heart rate, and seizures.
- Chocolate: Candy chocolate usually causes only GI upset. Baker’s or bittersweet chocolate is much more toxic and if ingested may cause nervous stimulation, tremors, rapid heart rate and seizures.
- Raisins/Grapes: Even in small quantity, can cause renal damage.
- Macadamia Nuts: Causes neurological disorders.
- Rat Poisons: Some rat poisons cause bleeding whereas others cause severe neurological damage.
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol): Causes red blood cell and liver damage, especially in cats.
- Plants: There are many potentially toxic plants to pets. Some cause only mild gastrointestinal upset, whereas others can cause severe organ damage. Some common plants which may be toxic to pets include:
- Easter Lilly, Tiger Lilly: Kidney damage to cats, GI signs.
- Rhododendron: GI upset, slow heart rate and shock.
- Dumbcane, Diffenbackia: Intense burning and swelling of the mouth and tongue.
- Mistletoe: GI upset, Liver damage.
- Oleander: GI upset and heart damage.
- Castor Beans: Severe GI upset, death.
- Sago Palm: Liver damage.
- Rhubarb: Neurologic disease.
- Iris: GI upset.
- Larkspur: GI upset and neurologic stimulation.
What are the signs of a urinary emergency?
Signs of a urinary emergency include frequent urination or straining, blood in urine, difficulty urinating, and vomiting. Animals can develop urinary blockage and infections just like people. Once you have detected the signs of a problem, call your veterinarian and take your pet in as soon as possible. The problem most likely has been going on longer than you realized. DO NOT wait and observe the pet to see how they do.
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What should I do if my pet is vomiting?
Look for signs of foreign material or strange food in the vomit. When you call the veterinarian, let them know if your pet has eaten any foreign objects or new foods. Rest the stomach for 4-6 hours by offering no food or water. Then try small amounts of water and bland food every two hours. If there is no further vomiting you can return your pet to a normal diet. IF THE VOMITING PERSISTS, or your pet has unproductive vomiting (retching) or abdominal distension, is lethargic, depressed or has severe diarrhea, see your veterinarian immediately.
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My pet is in labor. What are the signs of a whelping or queening emergency?
Dogs: If your dog experiences the following while in labor, call your veterinarian immediately;
4 hours of labor without puppies, 30 minutes of straining or 2 hours between puppies.
Cats: If your cat experiences the following while in labor, call your veterinarian immediately;
4 hours of labor without kittens or 30 minutes of straining.
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Tips on checking vital signs:
Taking a Heart Rate or Pulse: The heartbeat of a dog or cat can be felt at about the point where the left elbow touches the chest (about the fifth rib). Place your hand or stethoscope over this area and count the heartbeats for one minute. Pulses can also be felt with a light touch on the inner thigh approximately half way between the front and back of the leg.
Normal Heart and Pulse Rates at Rest:
Small Breed Dogs ( 30 lbs.): 100-160 beats per minute.
Medium to Large Breed Dogs (30+ lbs.): 60-100 beats per minute.
Puppy (until 1 year old): 140-200 beats per minute.
Cats: 160-220 beats per minute.
Normal Breathing Rates:
Dogs: 10-30 breaths per minute and up to 200 pants per minute.
Cats: 20-30 breaths per minute. (Note: Panting in a cat can be a sign of serious illness and requires immediate veterinary attention.)
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Tips on traveling with your pet:
- Have your veterinarian examine your pet prior to traveling to make certain he or she is physically able to handle the associated stress.
- Familiarize yourself with any pet-related restrictions or requirements imposed by airlines, hotels and destination sites prior to traveling.
- Remember to pack your pet’s food and supplies (leashes, medications, water dishes, bedding, and litter).
- Make certain that your pet is wearing identification tags at all times in case he or she becomes lost. Permanent identification microchips which are injected under the pet’s skin are available from most veterinarians to be used to identify lost pets. Also carry a photo of your pet with you. Bring this emergency information, a first aid kit, and the phone number of your veterinarian in case an emergency should arise.
- Dogs should not be allowed to stick their head out of a car window as flying debris can damage their eyes. Never leave the car window low or the door open when driving with your pet as an escape can occur. Never transport your dog in the back of an open pickup truck. Never leave your pet unattended in a parked car especially on hot days when heat stroke can occur.
- When you arrive at your destination evaluate your pet for illness or injury. Seek veterinary advice immediately if something seems wrong.
Leaving your pet at home:
If someone is taking care of your pet while you are away, be certain to leave a phone number where you can be reached as well as the phone number of your veterinarian and APERC (678) 366-2500. Make certain the pet-sitter is aware of any health issues. Finally, “permission to treat letter” which states your financial limitations should be signed and made available to the pet-sitter in case you are not available when an emergency occurs.
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Important Numbers for Your Pet
ASPCA – Animal Poison Control Center: 888-426-4435
All Pets Emergency & Referral Center – 678-366-2500
Lost Pet Information Programs – 1-800-HELP-4-PETS www.help4pets.comBack to Top