Posts in Category: pet emergencies

Bites and Stings: Insects of Summer

So now that the weather is getting a lot nicer, you want to go outside more, take long walks with your four-legged family members, and have all the outdoor barbecues you can have, right? But what are you going to do about all those pesky insects that try to suck, bite, and sting all the fun out of summer nights? Not only are they a nuisance for you, but they can be just as annoying, and potentially deadly for our pets, too! Read on to learn about some of the various harmful insects, and what you can to combat them and the diseases they can transfer.


Mosquitoes: Passing on Deadly Worms

Mosquito bites are no fun for us, but are even worse for our pets Screen Shot 2016-05-14 at 1.25.53 PMbecause of something called heartworms. Heartworms are spread through mosquitoes that carry infective larvae, and are a potentially fatal issue for dogs and cats. The heartworm larvae move from the site of the mosquito bite through a host’s body until they reach the heart and lungs. Once they are mature, adult heartworms can get to be 12 inches long, and will cause a significant decrease in blood flow throughout the body. Depending on the severity of the disease, it can possibly lead to death if not taken care of early on.

Heartworm preventatives such as Heartgard, Revolution, and Sentinel are very instrumental in helping before any bite occurs, but getting a heartworm test and treatment at your local AAHA Accredited Veterinary Hospital will absolutely help if your dog or cat already has heartworms. Signs of heartworm disease can include: mild persistent cough, reluctance to exercise, fatigue after moderate activity, decreased appetite, and weight loss.” These symptoms won’t necessarily show early on in dogs, and in cats they can be very subtle, or very sudden.

Fleas & Ticks: All it Takes is One Bite

Screen Shot 2016-05-14 at 1.25.04 PMFleas: These tiny brown bugs like to hide in cooler, shady areas like shrubs, trees, and under leaves. Despite not having wings, fleas can jump up to two feet high; so when your dog walks by, that’s when they will hop on, latch in, and start feeding on blood. The danger of fleas is that they can bring about tapeworms, skin infections, and other serious diseases. Combating fleas is as easy as using monthly preventatives such as Frontline or Nexgard, avoiding tall grassy/shady areas when walking, using a flea comb, and washing your pet’s bedding often.

Ticks: Ticks also like to hang out Screen Shot 2016-05-14 at 1.25.16 PMin shady, wooded areas, waiting for an unwary host to attach to. Once they are attached, ticks feed on blood (including you), which means they can directly transmit deadly diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease, and babesiosis from just one bite! You can help deter tick bites by also using monthly preventatives, avoiding tall grassy/shady areas when walking, and whenever you are done with your walk make sure to check your dog (and yourself) for any little bumps because it might be a tick!

Bees & Wasps: More than a Sting!

Bee and wasps are a bit easier to avoid because they usually have visible nests and in general they’re the most noticeable bug. If you’ve got a curious pet then you should keep an eye out. Most stings tend to occur on the face or nose because that’s how our pets investigate. They may even get stung in the mouth or throat if they end up catching the bug; and those stings can be dangerous because the poison from the sting can    cScreen Shot 2016-05-14 at 1.24.47 PMause the throat to swell. Other severe reactions to look out for include weakness, difficulty breathing and excessive swelling at the sting site. If you see any of these signs you need to go to your veterinarian ASAP. Most of these severe reactions occur with multiple stings, but always give your veterinarian a call and make sure to monitor the reaction to make sure it does not worsen. All cases will be different, so always consult your veterinarian before administering any medication or remedy, such as a weak water/baking soda mixture or an ice pack.

Tips to Decrease Insect Exposure

  • Ask your veterinarian about monthly Flea/Tick preventatives like oral doses, liquid, and collars.

  • Close screened windows/doors when inside so flying bugs don’t come inside.

  • Use bug repellent on yourself, and only pet-safe repellent on your furry friends.

Cited Sources:

American Heartworm Society
ASPCA: Fleas and Ticks
Hill’s Pet

Contributed by:
Screen Shot 2016-05-14 at 1.47.26 PMTeresa Mundy
Boarding Team Member
Social Media Coordinator

Pet Safety on Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day… a time of love letters, boxes of chocolate, giant teddy bears, and… a sick pet?! It only takes one moment to turn a great day into a disaster, but we’d like to help you avoid that altogether with some quick and easy to remember Valentine’s Day Pet Safety Tips! While you’re celebrating with your better half and showing them how much you care, make sure to show your pets how much you care for them, too. Follow these easy tips and tricks to make sure everyone feels the love this Valentine’s Day.

Valentine HazardHeart Shaped Box Full of Trouble

             Chocolate is a year round hazard to pets, but on Valentine’s Day there always seems to be a lot more of it floating around. While sweet and delicious to us, chocolate contains stimulants called methylxanthines that, if ingested by your pets, will negatively affect their neurological, gastrointestinal, and cardiac function by causing vomiting, hyperactivity, seizures, diarrhea, and an atypically increased heart rate. Milk chocolate and white chocolate are higher in fats which can lead to life-threatening pancreas inflammation, while dark chocolate and baker’s chocolate have some of the highest levels of methylxanthines because of the high cacao percentage.

Don’t Break my Candy Heart

            If you’re planning on getting your loved one gum, candies, or other sweet treats, make sure that they stay far from the reach of your pets!  Candy is never recommended for consumption by our four-legged friends, but it is especially an issue when those sweets contain xylitol. This sugar substitute is very dangerous and potentially fatal to pets. If ingested, xylitol can cause hypoglycemia (a sudden drop in blood sugar), which can cause your pet to suffer from seizures, depression, and loss of coordination.

Flowers Aren’t a Cat’s Best Friend

            Flowers and bouquets of all sorts are everywhere during Valentine’s Day. While not all flowers are toxic to pets, Lilies in particular are toxic to cats. They can cause kidney failure, lethargy, diarrhea, or vomiting. If you are unsure of what flowers are toxic or non-toxic- reference this handy ASPCA plant guide. Another flower that should be mentioned is the Rose. The flower itself isn’t toxic, but the spiny thorns pose a big threat. If ingested, bitten, or stepped on they can cause major infections if they break the skin.

You Got Me a What?!

            Much like on Christmas, birthdays, and other gift-giving occasions, Valentine’s Day seems like the perfect day to surprise your loved one with that dog or cat they’ve always wanted. This can be an amazing experience- for the animal and your loved one, but make sure you are both prepared for what the idea of owning a pet means. Animals are a lifelong commitment that take time, patience, money, and attention. If you do decide to get a pet for someone, drop some subtle hints beforehand and make sure that they would be fully prepared and capable of taking care of a pet. An alternative to the “surprise, take care of this animal!” is to find out if your local shelter offers gift certificates; then you can go with your better half to the shelter and pick out a pet together!

Quick Tips:

  • If you’re getting cozy by the fireplace, make sure your pet is cozy away from any flames!
  • After you’re done opening gifts, make sure you properly dispose of all bows, wrapping
    paper, ribbons, balloons and tape. Fun to look at, but not fun to ingest!

Extra: Show animals how much you love them, too!

Additional Resources:


Contributed by:
Teresa Mundy
Boarding Assistant & Social Media Coordinator

Healthy and Happy Thanksgiving for All

cateatFor most of us, Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday season… a
time filled with family, friends, and lots of food. While we enjoy this special time of year, we need to pay special attention to make sure our non-human family members stay safe. Some often over looked hazards are actually very easily preventable just by remembering that it’s best to keep your pet’s diet as normal as possible- no matter how tempting it is to share! The following are a few of the ASPCA’s Thanksgiving safety tips to help keep our pets happy and healthy while we feast:

Talkin’ Turkey
: If you decide to feed your pet a small bite of turkey, make sure it’s boneless and well-cooked. Don’t offer them raw or undercooked turkey which could contain salmonella bacteria. Do not give your pet the left over carcass either–the bones can be problematic for the digestive tract.


No Bread Dough: Don’t spoil your pet’s holiday by giving them access to raw yeast bread dough. When a dog or cat ingests raw bread dough, the yeast continues to convert the sugars in the dough to carbon dioxide gas and alcohol. This can result in bloated drunken pets, which could become a life-threatening emergency, requiring hospitalization.




Don’t Let Them Eat Cake: If you plan to make Thanksgiving desserts, be sure that your pets keep their noses out of the batter, especially if it includes raw eggs—they could contain salmonella bacteria that may lead to food poisoning.


A Feast Fit for a King:
 While your family enjoys a special meal, give your cat and dog a small feast of their own. Offer them some made-for-pets chew bones or stuff their usual dinner—perhaps with a few added tidbits of turkey (cooked and boneless), vegetables (try sweet potato or green beans) and dribbles of gravy—inside a food puzzle toy. They’ll be happily occupied for awhile, working hard to extract their dinner from the toy.

Making sure you pet doesn’t get access to anything unhealthy from the table is important, but don’t forget about your trash! Sometimes our pets figure out that the best way to get what they want is to get it themselves… straight from the trashcan! If you know you have a trash-curious pet, make sure you keep your bin behind closed doors, or tightly sealed at all times to prevent an unwanted trip to the emergency room. Some of the most hazardous Thanksgiving items often found in the trash (and hopefully not your pet) include: the yummy string that goes around the turkey legs, discarded skin & bones, and fatty grizzle. The potential problems caused by “garbage gut” include gastroenteritis (e.g., vomiting, diarrheaabdominal pain), Pancreatitis (severe inflammation of the pancreas), a gastrointestinal obstruction, or even tremors or seizures.

We all want the best for our pets, and ensuring their health and safety this Thanksgiving will give us something to be thankful for all year long.  For more information and helpful tips from the ASPCA, visit Thanksgiving Safety Tips.


For additional resources visit:

Thanksgiving Safety Tips:

Information about Symptoms:

lindsBlog written by:

Lindsey Vance, Client Care Specialist with her dog Hazel



First Aid Kit for Pets


Animal injuries can occur at any time, and generally occur when least expected (like when you are away from home), so it’s best to prepare ahead of time. Keeping a pet First Aid kit handy — at home and in your car — is a great way to ease the stress of dealing with health issues that occur, wherever you may be. Below is a list of recommended information and items to include.

Important Phone Numbers:

  • Phone number for your veterinarian
  • Phone number for the nearest emergency veterinary clinic (along with directions!)
  • Phone number for a poison control hotline (such as the ASPCA poison control center, which can be reached at 1-800-426-4435)
  • Copy of your pet’s vaccination certificate for proof of vaccines in case an emergency treatment is needed
  • Current photo of your pet (in case he/she gets lost)

Pet-Specific Supplies:

  • Self-cling bandage (bandage that stretches and sticks to itself but not to fur, such as VetWrap, which is available at pet stores)
  • Muzzle or roll of gauze for making a muzzle to prevent biting (don’t use this if your pet is vomiting, choking, coughing, or otherwise having difficulty breathing)
  • Nylon leash

Basic First Aid Supplies:

  • Absorbent gauze pads
  • Adhesive tape
  • Non-prescription antibiotic ointment
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Cotton balls or swabs
  • Disposable gloves
  • Gauze rolls
  • Hot/cold compress
  • Hydrogen peroxide (to induce vomiting — but do this only when directed by a veterinarian or poison control expert)
  • Petroleum jelly (to lubricate a thermometer)
  • Rectal thermometer
  • Scissors with blunt ends
  • Sterile non-stick gauze pads for bandages
  • Sterile saline (sold at pharmacies, or you can use contact lens solution)
  • Styptic powder or sticks, Kwik Stop, or cornstarch
  • Tweezers

Other Useful Items:

  • A pillowcase (to confine your cat for treatment)
  • A pet carrier
  • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl — only use when directed by a veterinarian)
  • Ear cleaning solution
  • Emergency blanket
  • Gatorade or Pedialyte (for rehydrating)
  • Karo syrup (for diabetic pets who may have low blood sugar)
  • Nail clippers
  • Penlight or flashlight
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Tongue depressors (for a makeshift splint)
  • Towels


Taking a Heart Rate or Pulse

Knowing how to check vital signs is also important in the case of an emergency. The heartbeat of a dog or cat can be felt at about the point where the left elbow touches the chest. Place your hand over this area and count the heartbeats while keeping time on a phone or stopwatch.

Pulses can also be felt with a light touch on the inner thigh, approximately halfway between the front and back of the leg, just below the wrist on the front legs or just below the ankle of the rear legs.

Normal Heart and Pulse Rates at Rest

Small breed dogs (under 30 pounds): 100–160 beats per minute
Medium to large breed dogs (over 30 pounds): 60–100 beats per minute
Puppy (until 1 year old): 120–160 beats per minute
Cats: 130–220 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)

Normal Temperatures

Dogs: 100°–102.5°F
Cats: 100°–102.5°F

You can learn more about this topic from the sources below, or contact your veterinarian for advice if your pet has special needs.


American Red Cross Smartphone App for Pet First Aid:

AVMA Pet First Aid Information:

Humane Society First Aid Kit:



Contributed by Janelle Powell, Office Manager (with Charlie)

Some Surprisingly Toxic Substances for Pets

This week is National Poison Prevention Week, which makes it a great time to look at some of the preventable toxicities that we are increasingly seeing in our animal patients. Many of us know how dangerous chocolate, raisins, grapes, certain plants, human medications, fertilizers, and pest control products can be to our pets, but do you know that your favorite chewing gum can be deadly to a dog? Do you know that visits of pets to veterinarians around the United States are increasing due to medical marijuana and legalized recreational usage?

This blog focuses on two fairly new and growing toxicities seen by veterinarians today: xylitol poisoning and marijuana toxicity.


Xylitol Poisoning

Xylitol poisoning is one that our practice has seen twice in the last year. A naturally occurring alcohol, xylitol is found in most plant material, including many fruits and vegetables. It is widely used as a sugar substitute and is used in sugar-free chewing gums, mints, and other candies. Xylitol is also added to many oral healthcare products, such as toothpaste and mouthwash, to help prevent tooth decay and dry mouth.

The problem with xylitol is that a very small amount can be very toxic to some animals. What it does is cause a sudden release of the hormone insulin, which in turn causes a rapid drop in blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia), which can be very dangerous. Signs of hypoglycemia can develop within 30 minutes of ingestion, or may be delayed up to 12 to18 hours if the xylitol is in a material that slows its absorption (such as gum products).

Signs of Xylitol Poisoning

  • vomiting
  • weakness
  • ataxia (uncoordinated movements)
  • depression
  • seizures
  • severe cases can lead to coma, liver dysfunction and/or failure, and death

Treatment and Prognosis

Contact your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your pet has ingested a product containing xylitol. Dogs are the primary victims of this toxicity and specialists suspect this is because cats are typically pickier about what they eat. (It is suspected that ferrets may show the same clinical toxicities as dogs do with xylitol.)

Each animal may react differently, so treatment and prognosis are highly variable and depend on how much xylitol was ingested. The first thing your veterinarian is likely to do is test blood glucose level. After that, the course of action is very dependent on how your pet is doing. If the animal’s blood sugar is low, intravenous fluids containing glucose will be given. Your pet will likely be hospitalized, further lab tests will be run, and treatment will depend on the lab results.

shutterstock_92582179_smallMarijuana Toxicity

The second toxicity that is being seen around the United States with increasing frequency is marijuana poisoning. Dogs and cats can be poisoned by marijuana from second-hand smoke exposure or from direct ingestion of marijuana or baked foods laced with THC (pot brownies, pot butter, etc.). Most cases of marijuana toxicity we see in pets are not the result of inhalation, but are from ingestion of the marijuana itself. Clinical signs can usually be seen within three hours.

Signs of Mild Marijuana Toxicity

  • lethargy
  • altered response to visual or verbal stimuli
  • red eyes, dilated pupils
  • other behavior changes

Signs of Severe Marijuana Toxicity

  • uncoordinated movement (ataxia)
  • slow heart rate (bradycardia)
  • drooling (pytalism)
  • vomiting (emesis)
  • anorexia
  • urinary incontinence
  • diarrhea
  • vocalization
  • coma and death are possible in severe cases


A pet suspected of ingesting marijuana should be examined by a veterinarian. After lab work is done, treatment may include inducing vomiting (depending on the time of ingestion), an activated charcoal treatment, intravenous fluids, or hospitalization, as needed.

Avoiding Toxicity

Ensuring your pet never suffers from one of these toxicities is pretty easy and straightforward since both of these substances are easy to identify and to keep away from pets. Knowing they can be very harmful to your pet is the first step. To learn more about other substances that are toxic to your pets, read these other blog posts: Making Your Garden Safe for Pets, No Halloween Candy for Pets!, 911 for Pets: Recognizing an Emergency, and Your Pets Don’t Know What’s Bad for Them.

Additional Resources:

Pet Poison Helpline: 800-213-6680 or




Contributed by Dr. Rhonda Pierce

Member: American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), Northern Virginia Veterinary Medical Association (NVMA), DC Academy, Ultrasound Society

Rabies: A Deadly Virus, But Easy to Prevent

During Rabies Awareness Week, we want to remind all pet owners of the importance of vaccinating against this fatal disease (World Rabies Day is Sunday, September 28). Rabies is a virus that is most often transmitted through saliva and bite wounds from an infected animal, and it can affect the brain and spinal cord of all mammals, including dogs, cats, and humans. Vaccination is an easy, inexpensive way to prevent this nightmarish disease.


While the most commonly known symptom of rabies is foaming at the mouth, this is usually not the first sign pet owners will see. (See list of symptoms below.) Since there is no treatment or cure for rabies in animals once symptoms appear, animals who are suspected of having the virus are most often euthanized.


Rabies causes the death of more than 50,000 humans, and millions of animals worldwide, and the disease has been reported in every state in the United States except Hawaii, and everywhere throughout the world except tiny island nations.*

Federal law requires that all dogs and cats be vaccinated for rabies once they are 12 weeks old, and that they stay current on the vaccine for the duration of their lives. Only a vaccine administered by a state licensed veterinarian is considered legal. Your veterinarian will let you know the right vaccination schedule for your pet.

Progression of Rabies Symptoms

  • Change in behavior, usually shown by the pet being more reclusive or shy, or a change in the pet’s voice. You may notice excessive licking or scratching the initial bite wound. (1–1.5 days after symptoms start)
  • The animal will seem to become fearless and aggressive and may experience hallucinations. When confined, the pet may attack the bars of its cage.
    (2–3 days after symptoms start)
  • The pet will experience weakness and/or paralysis. Once this stage occurs, death is imminent as the muscles that control breathing will become paralyzed as well.
    (4–5 days days after symptoms start)

One of the most difficult aspects of rabies is that it can take up to one year for obvious symptoms to appear. Call your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your pet has been bitten by an animal (especially foxes, skunks, raccoons, bats, and dogs/cats with unknown vaccination status) that could have rabies or is showing any signs of rabies or abnormal behavior.

Even if your pet is up-to-date with vaccinations, if it has been bitten by a possibly rabid animal, it should receive a rabies booster immediately and be kept under observation for a period of time determined by your local public health department.

If an animal that is overdue or not vaccinated for rabies bites you, there are a number of protocols that must be followed, as listed below.

  • Liz_LabIf the pet has been legally vaccinated for rabies, but is overdue for its booster, it will be quarantined for a period of time (as dictated by the local public health department), observed for symptoms, and vaccinated at the end of the quarantine.
  • If the pet has never been vaccinated for rabies more drastic measures must be taken. The pet must be quarantined for up to six months or will be euthanized to allow testing for rabies.

Animal Control officers and veterinarians working together facilitate rabies testing through the state laboratory system. Testing requires a brain tissue sample, which can only be collected from a deceased animal. For more information regarding animal exposure and prevention, speak with one of our veterinarians.

Rabies in People

If you are exposed to rabies, there are a number of things that must be done:

  • Clean the wound, as quickly as possible, using warm water and soap for at least 1 minute.
  • Report the bite to the health department immediately.
  • Get to the hospital for post-exposure treatment. The wound will be flushed with a hyperimmune serum to hopefully counteract the virus before it penetrates the nerves. Then, a number of vaccines will be administered on a regular schedule lasting about 1 month.

For more info regarding human exposure protocols, you can contact the Centers for Disease Control.


Global Alliance for Rabies

Centreville Animal Hospital is donating a portion of the proceeds from rabies vaccinations on Monday, September 29, to Global Alliance for Rabies. This is an organization that is trying to raise awareness of this fatal disease through education and is working to vaccinate animals and people for rabies in endemic regions. Visit our Facebook page for more info:






Contributed by Eric Fogle
Veterinary Assistant
with Allie



Safety During the Dog Days
of Summer

shutterstock_184091969It’s mid-summer and you and your dog are restless so you want to go outside and spend some quality time together. Great idea! There are so many simple pleasures to enjoy with your dog during the warmer months. Just remember that during these “dog days of summer” you need to take some precautions to ensure your pet’s well being. Below are some activities and tips that will help you keep your dog safe and happy this summer.

ACTIVITY: Swimming and Water Playshutterstock_152357381

For many dogs, swimming is a wonderful way to exercise and have a blast while keeping cool. Not all dogs enjoy the water, though, so take your cues from your pet and don’t force it.


Most beaches have leash laws, but if you’re lucky enough to find a watering hole where you can let your friend off-leash, it’s still important to supervise your dog. Be aware of other dogs and owners to avoid any potential conflicts. A doggy lifejacket can help keep your mind at ease while your pup plays in the water. While the water will keep your pet from overheating, make sure your dog still has access to shade and drinking water so he or she can take breaks and recharge. It also important not to let your dog drink salty water, which will cause vomiting, or stagnant water, which can harbor bacteria that cause dangerous diseases, such as Leptospirosis.

ACTIVITY: Summer WalksiStock_000005141424Medium

Walks can be either a calming or energizing experience for you and your canine, but avoid taking your pet out on very hot days and in the midday sun. 


Hot weather can quickly cause dehydration and heatstroke in pets. Dogs don’t sweat, so adequate water and shade are vital to keep cool. Playing fetch, Frisbee, and tug-of-war are great ways to engage them in outside playtime, but don’t go too hard too quickly. Walking and playing at night or in the morning can reduce your dog’s exposure to the heat. Also, steer clear of hot sand, paved roads, and driveways as these can burn your pet’s paws. At night, don’t forget to make both of you visible to passing vehicles by wearing bright colors and/or reflective material. LED light harnesses, leashes, and collars are also available at most pet stores.

ACTIVITY: Anything Outdoorsshutterstock_200985227

While you and your dog are enjoying the warmer weather, so are the fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes, especially in wet, wooded areas. The easy way to deal with this is to make sure your pet is up-to-date on his or her preventative products.


Only preventatives purchased through your veterinarian are guaranteed, and prevention is often much cheaper than treatment. For instance, treating for heartworms costs more than several years’ worth of heartworm preventatives. Prevention is the much better option.

shutterstock_159484421ACTIVITY: Driving, Traveling

Many dog owners enjoy traveling with their pets, whether to the local park or to the beach on vacation. While this can be a great experience for all, it does require some extra effort to make sure your pet is properly taken care of.



Never, ever leave your dog in a hot car! The temperature in a parked car rises very quickly. Even with the windows cracked or the door open, leaving your pet in the car could result in organ damage, heatstroke, and death. Don’t gamble with your dog’s life. Signs that your dog is overheated include excessive panting and drooling. Make sure he or she gets frequent water breaks (many dogs love ice cubes in their water bowl) and has a cool place to rest out of the sun and heat.

For more hot weather tips for you and your dog, check out the links below:

Pool Safety for Dogs: 

Frozen Yoghurt Dog Treat Recipe: 

Biking with Your Dog:

Dogs at the Beach:

Running with Your Dog:

Making Your Garden Safe for Pets:



Contributed by Melissa Wilmoth, Client Care Specialist 



911 for Pets: Recognizing an Emergency


When Is It an Emergency?

A great owner (like you) brings their pet in at least once a year for annual vaccinations, but would you know if your pet was in need of emergency care? It is not always easy to tell if your pet’s symptoms are life-threatening and require immediate medical attention. Many owners wonder:

“Is my pet merely experiencing the ordinary highs and lows
that all healthy pets experience over the course of their lives?”
“Should I immediately bring my pet in, or
is it OK to grab the next convenient appointment?”

Without an education in veterinary medicine, it can be intimidating and stressful to try to distinguish an emergency situation from a condition that can wait until the next day. To help you start this process, below is a list of some of the common urgent situations we encounter. Knowing the warning signs can help you determine if your pet requires immediate medical attention.

Warning Signs for CATS & DOGS

Bleeding and/or any kind of traumaTime is a huge factor. Bleeding can be internal and/or external. The sooner your pet is able to receive medical attention, the faster your vet can prevent injuries from worsening and start the healing process. Causes: bite wounds, burns, being hit by a car, and broken bones (not a complete list)

Suspected/confirmed ingestion/exposure to particular non-food items—Rodent poisons, insecticides, antifreeze, household cleaning agents, certain human medications, and various plants and flowers

Suspected/confirmed ingestion of dangerous foods—Chocolate, grapes, onions, garlic, fruit seeds, and/or raisins can be toxic (see also Your Pets Don’t Know What’s Bad for Them)

Not eating and/or drinking (24 hours for cats; 48 hours for dogs)—Pets can be picky, but it becomes serious when your pet has not had anything to eat or drink in that time

Distended, swollen, or bloated abdomen—It may become tight and drum-like

Vomiting more than once in 24 hours—Especially concerning if vomit contains blood

Difficulty breathing—Includes choking, wheezing, raspy/labored breathing, and intense coughing or retching; open-mouthed or noisy breathing in cats 

Extreme lethargy and weakness—Seems more lackluster or sluggish than usual

Mobility problems—Cannot use one or more limbs, cannot get up or walk, and/or shows signs of possible broken bones

Seizures and/or markers of neurological problems—Difficulty walking or dragging of the hind limbs

Comatose appearance—Animal is not moving, or his/her eyes stare blankly or blink very slowly

Temperature change—Body temps outside this range are a concern: 99–103 degrees Fahrenheit

Abnormal gum color—Discoloration, such as pale, off-color (dark or yellow), or tacky/dry gums can signal blood pressure or circulation issues

Pus and/or infection

Eye issues—Red, cloudy, or pus-filled eyes, or squinting and pawing at the eye

Difficulty giving birth

Other Warning Signs:

Diarrhea lasting longer than 24 hours

Excessive drinking and urination

Blood present in urine

Hives or facial swelling

Feline-Specific Warning Signs

Straining and/or crying in the litter box—Difficulty going to the bathroom is a symptom of a bigger problem in cats; could indicate internal blockage

Excessive vocalization or howling—Cat is telling you something is wrong

Canine-Specific Warning Signs

Excessive panting—Panting can be a symptom of more serious conditions, including bloat, which is potentially fatal for dogs

Restlessness and/or inability to get comfortable—Humans similarly show discomfort when they are ill or in pain

Many other non-emergency circumstances do not appear on this list—such as urinary tract infections and broken nails—but they can still be extremely painful for your pet and you shouldn’t wait too long for treatment. Your pet will be grateful if you bring him/her in sooner rather than later.

True Diagnosis Requires an Exam

Diagnosing a pet and creating a plan of action without physically evaluating it in person is next to impossible. What happens when you call your doctor about a sore throat? Your doctor requests to see you, right? Based on a verbal description, the doctor may have suspected strep, but the exam might show it to be tonsillitis. Over the phone, any advice a doctor gives is only a well-informed, educated guess.

In pets, for example, excessive scratching could be a sign of fleas, or ticks, or a skin condition, or a food allergy, or countless other possibilities. Similar symptoms can be present for numerous illnesses and conditions. The most reliable way for your pet’s veterinarian to recommend a course of action is to do an exam. He or she wants the best for your “baby,” just as you do!

Better Safe Than Sorry

It comes down to this: If your pet is exhibiting potentially serious symptoms, tell your veterinarian! When it comes to your concern about your pet’s health, there is no such thing as a stupid question. If you suspect the worst, visit the animal hospital or clinic immediately.

At Centreville Animal Hospital, we are always available to talk to our clients when questions arise. We truly care about owners and their pets and plan to make 2014 our best year yet. See you at the front desk! 


Contributed by Melissa Wilmoth, Client Care Specialist

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