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Uh Oh! We Need to Call the Vet!: Urgent VS. Emergent Situations

When your pet is sick, injured, or just "ain't doin' right," it might be difficult to decide if it's something that you can treat at home, something that can wait to be seen, or something that needs to be seen immediately.

Your cat has been vomiting on and off for a few days, but is still eating, drinking, and happily playing otherwise. Do you wait, or take kitty to the doctor? Your puppy started favoring one paw, but still plays and runs around just fine when the ball comes out. Is it a behavioral issue to get the ball to come out, or do you visit the vet?

Gray scenarios like these aren't always the easiest to determine if a vet visit is needed. Obviously though, some scenarios are more black and white than others: large laceration in a dog's neck, cat is having non-stop seizures, puppy is vomiting, has diarrhea and won't move, etc.

So what's the difference between urgent and emergent situations? The answers for these also aren't black and white, but are a bit more easier to define!

Urgent situations refer to health issues or ailments that should be seen by a vet soon, but not immediately. These situations fall between emergency care and routine/preventative care, and because of this, are typically situations that could wait 1-3 days (depending on the severity of the ailment). Anything that causes your pet mild to moderate pain or discomfort should be seen urgently.

Emergent situations refer to nearly everything else. Emergencies typically require immediate surgical or medical care and need to be seen by a vet ASAP (i.e. within the next 24 hours). Depending on the level/severity of the emergency, an animal may need to be seen sooner (i.e. within the hour). If you know the situation is life-threatening, time-sensitive, or would require immediate hospitalization, locate the nearest veterinary ER and take your pet there. If the closest ER is too far away, call local vet clinics in your area and ask if they are equipped to stabilize your pet. (Many general practice clinics do not have the staff or resources for emergencies, but may be able to stabilize a pet to get you enough time to make it to an ER.)

If you’re ever confused or unsure about what qualifies as an urgency versus emergency situation, just contact us and we’ll help you figure it out. Check out this handy guideline to better help you determine urgent vs. emergent situations. This list is not comprehensive by any means, but is definitely something you should have on hand to reference if you ever find yourself questioning "is this urgent or emergent?"


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