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Emergencies can happen when you least expect them, but knowing which steps to take and how to manage the situation safely and efficiently can save your pet's life. Here, we discuss situations that warrant a trip to our emergency vets in Halifax.

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Caring for Your Pet in a Veterinary Emergency

In some cases, it can be difficult to know whether your dog or cat needs to see an emergency veterinarian, especially if it means visiting an emergency veterinary hospital late at night or when away from home.

While some situations can wait until you can see your primary veterinarian, others can have potentially fatal complications if not treated quickly.

When do you need to take your cat or dog to the emergency veterinarian?

Seeing your furry companion in pain is difficult. That being said, it is important to know what the signs of a medical emergency are so that you can act quickly. If you notice any of the following symptoms, we recommend seeking emergency veterinary care as soon as possible:

Breathing Difficulties 

Panting while running or playing is not a concern, but if your dog or cat has trouble breathing when sitting still, there may be an issue. When your companion is breathing well, their gums will be bright pink. If you've noticed their gums have turned blue, red or grey, it could indicate trouble with oxygenation, blood flow, or internal bleeding.

If your pet is coughing up pink, frothy liquid in addition to experiencing laboured breathing, this is also a sign that your four-legged friend should visit your nearest emergency veterinary hospital in Halifax right away.

Excessive Vomiting or Diarrhea

Dogs and cats may experience mild vomiting or diarrhea if they have gastrointestinal upset. This can be caused by illness or even eating the wrong food. While this isn't a pet emergency, it can be when the vomiting and diarrhea are persistent or excessive.

Unfortunately, a common side effect of vomiting and diarrhea is dehydration, which can lead to complications affecting the heart and other organs. Excessive vomiting and diarrhea can be a sign of poisoning from toxin ingestion or indicate an intestinal blockage. 

Distended or Bloated Abdomen

Gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV), also known as bloat, can be an extremely serious health concern and is most common in dogs. One common cause behind this condition is a buildup of gas that leads to the stomach and/or intestines twisting. 

This condition typically requires surgical intervention, and while it can be fatal, quick diagnosis and treatment can provide your companion with the best possible outlook.


Several situations, such as a fall, being hit by a vehicle or attacked by an animal, or being involved in any type of accident, can result in trauma or serious injury. This trauma could include lacerations, broken bones, internal injuries, blood loss, shock, or other symptoms.

It's important to seek emergency veterinary care and have your dog or cat examined, even if they seem to be okay. Sometimes the trauma isn't obvious.

Foreign Body

Dogs and cats sometimes decide to eat something that isn't their food. While this may not always cause immediate issues, it can lead to potentially fatal intestinal blockages.

If your dog has become lethargic, is vomiting, or suddenly losing weight, they may be experiencing an intestinal blockage. This is a pet emergency and you should seek veterinary care right away.


A seizure occurs when the cerebral cortex of the brain malfunctions, resulting in a loss of control over the body. They can be very subtle or cause violent convulsions. Seizures in dogs or cats can occur once and never occur again, or they can occur repeatedly.

The symptoms of seizures include muscle contractions, jerking, or a sudden collapse and loss of consciousness. If your companion shows signs of having a seizure, it's imperative to contact your vet to let them know and to request a visit. 

Difficulty Urinating

If your furry family member strains to urinate, they could be experiencing a health issue like stones or crystals in the bladder, inflammation, trauma, prostate disease, cancer, or even stress.

Urination issues should not be ignored. Take your cat or dog to your nearest emergency vet in Halifax immediately if you note these symptoms.

Not Eating or Drinking

While your companion will go through times when they don't feel particularly hungry or thirsty, you should speak with a veterinarian if it has been more than 24 hours since they've eaten at all.

These symptoms may sometimes have a simple explanation, but they may also point to more serious internal conditions.

What steps should you take in an emergency?

It can be difficult to see your family friend struggling with pain or illness. Managing the situation efficiently will allow for an ideal outcome:

  1. Call our team of emergency veterinarians and board-certified specialists in Halifax right away for guidance and advice.
  2. Follow our staff's advice and apply any recommended first-aid.
  3. Be careful around your pet, since they can become scared in emergencies and bite or scratch anyone trying to provide comfort or first aid.
  4. Calmly and safely visit our veterinary clinic for medical emergency care.

How much does a trip to an emergency veterinarian cost?

The truth is, that any emergency vet visit can be expensive. In large part, this is due to the amount of diagnostic testing, monitoring, and treatment that's needed on short notice. As a responsible pet owner, it is down to you to ensure that you can financially care for your pet when emergency treatment is required.

Setting aside savings to pay for emergency veterinary visits in unpredictable circumstances can make managing these situations less stressful. For example, your pet may need an emergency c-section or other surgery with little notice, but having money in the bank to pay for this procedure would take care of one large concern. Conversely, delaying care to avoid emergency fees may lead to serious long-term health problems for your pet, or put their life at risk.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your cat, dog, or exotic pet is experiencing a veterinary emergency in Halifax, Dartmouth, and the surrounding areas, please reach out to our veterinary specialists at Coastal Care Veterinary Emergency & Referral Hospital.

When to Visit an Emergency Veterinarian

Caring for Pets in Atlantic Canada

Our specialists are pleased to accept new patients by referral from primary care veterinarians. Our emergency service welcomes all clients – 24/7/365. 

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