Most of the time people are really good about knowing their animal’s normal behavior and picking up on when they are just not themselves. It is ALWAYS ok to call and talk to the vet on call about what is going on. We are more than happy to tell you what we think might be going on and if it needs to be seen.
One of the true emergencies that I wish owners would not wait on is a urethral blockage in a male cat. This is a pretty common occurrence. Unfortunately, people assume their cat has a urinary tract infection, and that is the reason why it is frequently going into the litter box. A urinary tract infection is painful, but not as life threatening as the urethra being blocked by a stone or “sludge”. When this happens the cat can’t void urine and it quickly trashes the kidneys and makes the cat very sick.
Quite frankly, the sooner you bring your cat in to be unblocked the longer it will live. If it is voiding urine in the litter box, it is probably not blocked. It likely has a urinary tract infection or an inflammatory process going on in the lower urinary tract that makes it feel the urge to go small amounts frequently.
Another example of not waiting is if you have a dog who is dull and lethargic. If it is still eating treats, is willing to walk around a bit, and it’s gum color is pink and not pale, it can probably wait until the next day to bring it in. If it is vomiting multiple times it is probably a good idea to bring it in. It could be a foreign body (piece of a toy, bone, cloth etc.) stuck in its digestive tract. If it is just reacting to something it ate food-wise that didn’t agree with him/her we can give it a medication to stop the vomiting and nausea.
Dogs can get a type of cancer called hemangiosarcoma, which is a tumor of blood vessel origin. One of the common places for this to occur is the spleen. The tumor in the spleen gets so big that it starts leaking blood into the abdomen. Dogs are dull and lethargic for a couple of days before they die from it usually. Their lives can be lengthened by removing the whole spleen. This sometimes is an emergency surgery. A symptom of this condition is very pale gums. Your dog will also be very dull and lethargic.
If your dog ate a medication that was not for him, call us or the Pet Poison Hotline. If your dog had a seizure or is having difficulty breathing give us a call. It is probably best to be seen sooner than later. Intact females that acutely are dull, lethargic, inappetent, and running a high temperature could have a pyometra, which is an infection in the uterus. This can quickly make a dog very sick and can be life threatening.
On the contrary, here are a few issues that I think can wait until the next day to discuss with a veterinarian: weight loss, scooting their rear end on the ground, a little coughing or diarrhea as long as they are bright, alert and have a normal appetite.
You know your animal the best. You spend the most amount of time with it. If it is not acting right and you are concerned, give us a call. You are your animal’s advocate.
— Dr. Jessica Hafemann, DVM