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Expert Advice on Pet Health and Nutrition

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WebMD Expert Discussion: When Is It Time to Go to the ER?

Your pet can’t talk. He can’t tell you when he’s sick. So how do you know when it’s time to take him to the emergency vet? In the WebMD online discussion, Caring for Your Pet, guest veterinarian Will Draper, DVM, says that our furry friends tell us very clearly when they need emergency care, even though they may not say it in words.

Just as with people, pets need a doctor when they have severe pain, nausea, or difficulty breathing. You can spot the signs of a real problem by watching your pet’s behavior and physical condition. Look for abdominal swelling and loss of appetite in larger dogs, which can be a sign of a dangerous condition called bloat. Hives may mean an allergic reaction. Limping or swelling might be the result of an injured ligament.

As any cat owner will tell you, cats tend to hide their illnesses and injuries more than dogs. Watch for lack of appetite, which can point to an abscess, or a musculoskeletal issue, or even feline anorexia.

A woman who’s had multiple dogs in her lifetime says she’s been lucky, and has not had too many veterinary emergencies. She once brought her dog to the vet thinking that he’d eaten a tube of toothpaste. But the tube was later found in another room. Years later, she rushed the same dog to the vet after he collapsed in the yard. The problem turned out to be severe anemia, and the lack of oxygen to his brain meant he had to be euthanized.

Her only trip to the after-hours emergency vet was with a chocolate Lab who had torn the entire outer coating of his toenail off in the wire door of his crate. The ER cleaned it up and prescribed antibiotics. But she had to return to her regular vet to get the entire “quick” cut back under anesthesia.

What’s been your experience with vet ERs? Are they worth it?

Discussion led by William Draper, DVM Guest Expert
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Dr. Will opened Georgia’s first accredited small animal emergency room in 2000. He’s been named Best Vet by Atlanta Magazine since 2004... More

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Pet Health and Nutrition Advice

Veterinarian Will Draper gives tips on the best nutrition and health care for your dog or cat.
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