What Type of Veterinary Hospital Does My Pet Need: Urgent or Emergency?

by | Apr 6, 2023 | Our Blog, Vet Hospital Henderson | 0 comments

When your pet is sick, injured, or simply not feeling themselves, you often know they need care, but it can be difficult to determine if they need care right now (emergency), today (urgent care) or if it can wait for an appointment with your primary care veterinarian. While some symptoms such as bleeding, open wounds, or continuous vomiting are clear indicators, others may not be as obvious. It can be helpful to call your primary care veterinarian for triage to determine how soon your pet may need to be seen. 

So, how do we, as veterinary professionals, distinguish between emergency and urgent care? While there’s no definitive answer, emergency care is typically crucial for any life-threatening injury or illness that needs immediate hospitalization and treatment, whether that be for a few hours or a few days. Urgent care, on the other hand, is less severe, but often a condition that is painful or uncomfortable, and addresses the somewhat ambiguous territory of “I know that something is wrong with my pet and it needs to be examined by a veterinarian today, but is not life threatening at the moment”. Typically Emergency hospitals are open after normal business hours, do not perform primary care services, and permit overnight hospitalization.  Urgent Care hospitals are typically open during normal business hours, can perform primary care services, and do not offer overnight hospitalization. 

Identifying your pet’s current symptoms and understanding their conditions can help you in promptly determining whether an urgent vet care center would suffice or whether you require more critical care, such as an emergency vet hospital. Writing down all of your pets symptoms, as well as, when they started and/or the frequency of them will be helpful to your veterinary care team at the time of your appointment too. Here are some examples to help guide you between the choice of urgent care vs. emergency care:

Urgent Care Situations:

  1. Wounds (bites, lacerations, etc.)
  2. Diarrhea and/or vomiting
  3. Constipation
  4. Runny nose, coughing or sneezing
  5. Urine/Stool changes/difficulties
  6. Blood in urine/stool
  7. Dehydration
  8. Weight loss/gain
  9. Loss of appetite or overeating
  10. Consuming a foreign body (toy, rawhide, etc.)
  11. Itchy skin or rashes
  12. Ear infections (redness, itching, peculiar smell, etc.)
  13. Eye issues (redness, excessive discharge, etc.)
  14. Changes in behavior (lethargic, aggressive, etc.)
  15. Pain or limping
  16. Ingrown nails
  17. Stomach bloating
  18. Pale gums
  19. Abscesses
  20. Allergic reaction with hives and swelling
  21. Toxin ingestions

Emergency Situations:

  1. Collapse or loss of consciousness
  2. Paralysis
  3. Seizures
  4. Choking
  5. Excessive bleeding
  6. Severe or persistent diarrhea or vomiting, particularly with blood
  7. Fractures
  8. Penetrating wounds
  9. Allergic reaction with difficulties breathing, collapse, and/or pale gums
  10. Heatstroke
  11. Stopped breathing
  12. Cardiac arrest
  13. Trauma or accident, such as falling or being hit by an object or car
  14. Distressed mother in labor/inability to deliver kittens or puppies

Having a primary care veterinarian for your pet is a crucial step in ensuring their overall health and wellbeing. Regular check-ups and appointments not only help maintain your pet’s health but also help establish a relationship with the veterinarian and their team. This relationship can come in handy in times of medical urgency or emergencies, as the veterinarian already has an understanding of your pet’s medical history and can provide personalized care. Additionally, having a primary care veterinarian ensures that your pet’s records are on hand and readily available should an emergency arise, allowing for prompt and effective treatment.

In addition to having a primary care veterinarian, it is also a wise idea to prepare for emergency situations by compiling a list of urgent and emergency pet care centers in your area. Knowing where to go in case of an emergency can save precious time and potentially save your pet’s life. This list should include the location, hours of operations and contact information for each center. It’s also important to know the types of services each center offers, such as overnight care, surgery or diagnostic imaging, so that you can choose the most appropriate one for your pet’s needs. By being prepared and having a plan in place, you can help ensure that your pet receives the best possible care in the event of an emergency.

Highlands Animal Care

Highlands Animal Care is Henderson’s newest veterinary hospital that not only provides primary veterinary care but also same day urgent care. Our staff is also trained to handle emergency situations within our normal business hours. Our facility is equipped with the latest veterinary technology (such as cardiac and abdominal ultrasound, dentistry equipment and a variety of advanced in-house laboratory testing machines) so that your pets have access to quality and convenient care whether it is primary care or urgent and emergency services.

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