What sorts of symptoms represent an EMERGENCY?
The following acronym EMERGENCIES will help you identify the symptoms that probably need to be seen as soon as possible
E – stands for Extensive or Extended bleeding.
M stands for Male cats straining to urinate. Male cats have a longer and narrower urethra within the penis compared the shorter wider urethra that drains the bladder in female cats and are therefore more at risk of blocking. That doesn’t mean female cats don’t squat and strain as if struggling to urinate at times but this is more likely due to cystitis than physical obstruction. If a male cat is squatting and straining, fidgeting in and out of the litter tray and constantly licking its rear end, it could just have cystitis or it could be blocked and if it is blocked this is definitely a medical emergency. We won’t know if it is blocked until we examine it and so it is best to call and get him examined.
E – any animal which repeatedly cries out in Extreme pain should be seen as soon as possible.
R – respiratory distress can be a genuine medical emergency. For example, dogs that are gasping to breathe, cats that have exaggerated rib movements combined with panting. The challenge with respiratory distress is not making it worse during transport. Be gentle and take your time getting the cat into its basket and try not to fight with it because, unfortunately, very, very little struggle and distress can tip a cat over the edge.
GDV or bloat in dogs. GDV stands for Gastric Dilatation Volvulus, which is a fancy name for saying a twisted stomach. It causes a very large bloating of the abdomen. Many dogs with a torsion will retch and gag repeatedly as well as having an enlarged abdomen
E – extended labour. My general rule is, if a patient has been straining unproductively for more than two hours, and hasn’t produced a puppy or a kitten, I would call that extended labour and recommend she needs to be checked.
N – stands for Not able to stand. Any patient that has suddenly gone off its back legs or is collapsed should be considered an emergency. Some patients are not able to get up easily because they’ve been deteriorating for a while, perhaps due to arthritis, or a circulatory problem in their back legs, and one day just can’t get up. Many pet owners panic when this happens but often gently hoisting your pet up onto its hind legs and helping them find their feet will allow the stiffness or the pins-and-needles to pass.
Choking occurs when an animal is unable to clear something from the throat. It is actually a very rare presentation in practice but is of course serious when it does occur. In contrast to choking, a persistent cough-gag-retch is a common symptom but most are not an emergency. Most turn out to be an infection or Kennel Cough. If your dog has had a cough-gag-retch for more than an hour and is only doing it in bouts, it probably isn’t because something is stuck.
I stands for Ingestion of something poisonous, either known or suspected. Many times there is not a specific antidote for poisons and all we can do is to make them sick. There is a relatively narrow time window whereby it is worth making the patient sick in order to expel any poison, obviously the sooner the better, before it’s absorbed.
Eye injuries. Note ‘injury’ as opposed to all and any eye conditions. The eye is a delicate and sensitive organ, so if the eye gets pricked by a thorn, or there’s blunt trauma such as a kick from a horse or hit by a golf ball, this can be serious. Seeing those injuries sooner rather than later can be the difference between saving the eye or losing it.
Seizure or collapse; seizuring means having a fit. Most fits only last 3-4 minutes, if even that long, but they seem like ages when you are watching them feeling helpless. Most people are very upset at seeing a fit for the first time as the patient looks like it is being electrocuted and in agony. It looks much worse than it is. Epileptic people tell us that whilst fits are certainly debilitating they are not particularly painful. Keep the room quiet and dim and be careful of excessive physical contact which can act as too much stimulation for any already agitated animal. Whilst you may be shocked at seeing the first fit, I may decide that your pet does not need to come to the surgery right away as they often recover spontaneously.
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