Dealing with Pet Health Emergencies While on Vacation

The holidays are a busy time, often filled with family and friends, holiday events and travel or guests. Most pet owners enjoy involving their four-legged family members in their festivities, which can change their pet’s routine, diet, and environment. This can cause a pet to experience stress or develop various health problems that may need to be treated. Your regular family veterinarian may not be open during the holidays, so a trip to the emergency veterinary clinic may be necessary.

Should I go to the emergency vet?

During busy holiday periods, this may seem unnecessary costs and take the time to go to the emergency veterinary clinic if your pet becomes ill or has an accident. After-hours care at an emergency clinic often costs more than a visit to your family veterinarian during office hours. However, some conditions can be severe enough to cause permanent damage or even death. The best plan is to contact your veterinarian immediately for help.

Most veterinary practices have an answering service or recorded information on how to obtain emergency services. You may be able to go to your regular veterinarian or they may be able to direct you to a nearby clinic that caters to emergency veterinary needs. So, even if your regular veterinary office is closed, you should start by calling their office.

Once you speak with a member of the veterinary staff, you will be able to describe the problems so the veterinarian can determine if an emergency visit is necessary. If not, the veterinarian can suggest the next steps to properly care for your pet.

Typically, these nine conditions require an immediate visit to the veterinarian.

Open wounds, burns or broken bones

If your pet has had an accident, fought with another animal, or been hit by a car, it should be taken to the veterinarian immediately.

Discolored gums

Gums that are pale, white, or have a blue tint may mean your pet is in shock, hypoglycemia, anemia, poor circulation, or internal bleeding.

Exposure to Toxins

If your pet eats bone and is exposed to anything toxic, human medications, certain plants or foods, it should be examined by a veterinarian immediately.

High or low body temperature

A dog’s normal body temperature is 101 to 102 degrees, and a cat’s is 100.5 to 102 degrees. If you are able to check your pet’s body temperature and it’s outside of these ranges, a trip to the vet is in order. An animal with an abnormal body temperature may feel hot or cold to the touch. The animal may tremble or shiver and act lethargically due to the fever or low temperature.

Excessive vocalization

When animals cry continuously or loudly, it may be a sign of pain. Even if you cannot determine the cause of the pain, a veterinarian should be consulted.


Coughing can be a sign of heart problems or breathing problems.

Distended abdomen

Abdominal problems and internal bleeding can cause a bloated abdomen. Vomiting often occurs with these problems. Left untreated, these problems could lead to the death of your pet.

Difficulty breathing

Heavy breathing or difficulty breathing may indicate heart or breathing problems. Of course, this may be a much less serious problem, so a call to the veterinarian will help decide if a visit is necessary.


Seizures can cause permanent nerve or brain damage. Contact your veterinarian and prepare to go to the emergency clinic immediately.

How to Prevent Pet Emergencies While on Vacation

Your family’s schedule is usually different during the holidays. People have time off from work, there are events to attend, travel may be required, and friends and family may visit. This may mean that your dog is offered special foods and treats. All this activity creates many changes for your pet. Try to keep your pet’s feeding, sleeping, and activity schedule as close to normal as possible. Make sure they are not fed table scraps and treats by well-meaning guests who are unfamiliar with your dog’s dietary needs.

Keep an eye on your pets. Check on them periodically to make sure their behavior, attitude and appetite are good. Check that they are eating well, urinating and defecating regularly, and being active as usual.

If you notice any major changes in your pets, are involved in an accident, or meet any of the conditions listed here, contact your veterinarian immediately.

If you think your pet is sick, call your veterinarian immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know their health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.


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