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When to Call the Vet

Published by Ellie Phipps on August 6, 2022

When to Call the Vet

No matter what pet you have, from a mouse to a horse, it’s a difficult to know exactly when you need a vet. It can be tempting to ‘wait and see’ and delay a vet visit but this can often be detrimental to your pet and may mean that the condition becomes significantly worse and harder to treat.



So what would vets consider and emergency? Every vet’s practice has to triage their patients and since covid most practices are currently very stretched. But some conditions require immediate attention such as those on the list below:

  • Bleeding – bleeding that doesn’t stop after a few minutes or a significant amount of blood loss (depending on the size of the patient)
  • Difficulty breathing – any significant shortness of breath, laboured breathing or a change in tongue colour from pink to any shade of blue/purple or grey
  • Major trauma – any major trauma such as an impact or fall could have hidden consequences and should be checked over
  • Collapse – any form of collapse such as due to exercise intolerance or neurological condition
  • Sudden bloated abdomen (with or without vomiting) – especially in big dogs as this can be a sign of gastric bloat
  • Inability to urinate – this can be an emergency as it can lead to bladder rupture if ignored
  • Exposure to poison or dangerous chemicals


There are other important symptoms that also shouldn’t be ignored. They may not be an emergency but may be symptoms of a serious condition:

  • Inappetence – stopping eating completely or sudden ‘fussiness’ could be due to a number of issues, most commonly dental disease or a gastrointestinal issue. (Symptoms of dental disease may be as subtle as smelly breath)
  • Vomiting and diarrhoea – often cats and dogs may eat something that upsets their guts, but any persistent or ongoing vomiting or diarrhoea could be due to something more serious and can often lead to them becoming significantly dehydrated
  • Lameness – limping is an obvious sign of discomfort in any animal and may require further investigation
  • Changes in drinking or urination habits
  • Neurological symptoms – seizures, twitching or loss/reduction of control of limbs
  • Change in behaviour – many animals hide pain (especially prey animals) so any sudden change in their behaviour or habits may require investigation

Neither of these lists is exhaustive and often it is best to get your pet checked if you have any concerns about their health.


Ellie Phipps BVSc MRCVS