When to Call Your Veterinarian

Your pet isn’t acting quite right but you’re not sure what’s wrong. Should you call your veterinarian or wait a few days? The New Jersey Veterinary Medical Association offers the following tips to help you know when your pet needs to be seen by a doctor.

    1. Is your pet lethargic?
    This is perhaps the most important signal to phone your veterinarian. If your dog or cat is not responsive to calls for play or favorite treats and seems weak or unable to stand, you should not delay.
    2. Is your pet in pain?
    Pain, indicated by crying, panting and restless pacing, should not be ignored. Pain can also be indicated by a reluctance to move around.
    3. Is your pet lame?
    Limping that persists more than a few hours warrants a call to the veterinarian. A pet will often bear its weight on the affected leg, or the leg will become painful to touch. Paralysis, usually indicated by your pet unable to stand or dragging a leg with or without pain, needs emergency care as well.
    4. Is your pet losing blood?
    Bleeding from the mouth, nose or rectum demands immediate attention, as does a painful eye held closed.
    5. Is your pet unable to go to the bathroom?
    Male cats seen straining in the litter box may have a dangerous urinary tract blockage. If your dog seen straining or having urinary or bowel movement more often than usual it should be reported to your veterinarian as soon as possible.
    6. Is your pet having trouble breathing?
    Steady labored breathing is a sign of serious trouble. If these symptoms occur, or if your dog passes out/faints call your veterinarian immediately. Constant coughing or gagging also needs to be checked.
    7. Is your pet having seizures?
    Seizures are a serious neurologic condition that must be monitored. Call your veterinarian immediately. Signs of a seizure include shaking, lying on the floor and paddling the legs, loss of awareness of surroundings, possible loss of bladder and bowel control, excessive salivation, and a clamped jaw.
    8. Is your pet suffering from excessive vomiting or diarrhea?
    These symptoms could indicate anything from a simple stomach upset to serious disease. Call your veterinarian immediately. Even if your pet is not seriously ill, ignoring these symptoms could lead to dehydration.
    9. Is your pet unconscious or difficult to awaken?
    Dazed behavior can occur with fever, metabolic disease, ingestion of medications meant for people, changes in blood sugar levels, or diseases of the brain. It’s important to have your pet examined that day.
    10. Is your pet refusing to eat or drink?
    Your pet should not go more than a day without drinking. If your dog or cat won’t eat their usual meal but will hungrily scarf down treats or table food, this may mean a problem exists. Call your veterinarian if food is vomited more than once in a day, the normal appetite does not return in two to three days, or if your pet acts well but refuses to eat for more than 24 hours.

    Sometimes your pet may not act very ill but problems persist for more than a day or two. Coughing frequently, vomiting or diarrhea more than twice or limping and walking gingerly all merit a call to the veterinarian.

    The bottom line is this: If you are worried about your animal’s health, call your veterinarian. They are there to help you with your pet’s care and can identify potential problems specific to your dog or cat. It is better to report a minor problem and not let it escalate to an emergency.

    If you need a veterinarian, please visit the Find a Veterinarian page for a list of NJVMA veterinarians in your area.