When to Bring Your Pet to a Vet

Is your pet in a life threatening situation?

If your pet displays any of the following – call/take it to the vet IMMEDIATELY as it could be a life-threatening situation and waiting until the next day could mean it may not survive:

Respiratory distress
  • Open-mouthed breathing (cats)
  • Respiration rate over 40 breaths per minute while sleeping/resting
  • If you can hear/feel crackles and pops over its chest area with every breath
  • Your pet may fall over, walking in the air, does not respond when its name is called, repeats the same motion over and over again, etc – can be one or more symptoms
  • Any seizure that lasts longer than one minute will cause permanent brain damage, so treat them as early as possible. If in doubt, go to the vet. Also take a video to show the vet if someone is free to do so.
White or blueish mucous membranes
Straining to urinate
  • But unable to, or producing very little urine
  • Especially if you have a male cat
Dry retching/trying to vomit
  • But unable to; has abdominal discomfort, loss of appetite, and/or general unhappy demeanor.
  • Especially if you have a large deep-chested dog breed like a German Shepherd Dog, Golden Retriever, Labrador, Great Dane, Rottweiler, Greyhound, etc.
Bloody diarrhea and/or vomit
  • Blood can be either fresh (red) or partially digested (dark, can look like coffee grounds).


My pet has a skin problem/mass.

Skin problem, growth, sore, injury, lump, bump, mass, growth, wound, itchy

Skin lesions are near-impossible to diagnose over the internet. Many conditions look exactly the same but can differ greatly in severity. Even in person, diagnostic tests like skin scrapings, tape preps, fine needle aspirates, blood tests, etc, often need to be performed in order to get closer to a diagnosis. The most accurate way to diagnose what the skin lesion may be is to have your vet perform a biopsy.

  • Please take your pet to a vet to have the problem looked at.

Is it time to put down my pet?

End of life, hospice, palliative care, euthanasia

Animals have no concept of their own mortality; however, they most definitely have a concept of feeling lousy without knowing why. Quality of life is more important than quantity in veterinary medicine, and you should evaluate your pet’s situation with this as your primary concern.

A good way of assessing your pet’s quality of life is the HHHHHMM Scale. You can also talk to your vet about palliative care options. In the end, the ability to end suffering painlessly is one of the great advantages veterinary medicine has over human medicine, and taking advantage of this option is often the kindest thing you can do for your pet.

  • Evaluate your pet’s quality of life using the HHHHHMM Scale, discuss palliative care options with your vet, and keep in mind that euthanasia may be the kindest option.


My pet has an eye problem.

Eye, injury, trauma, cut, problem, swollen, red

Eye injuries will need to be seen by your local vet or eye specialist ASAP. There are many problems that we can’t diagnose over the internet because they need to be physically examined. A lot of major injuries can’t be seen easily and will need staining to be able to see the lesion. For example, the area around the eye may be swollen and there’s a cut on the eyelid, and you may think that is the issue, but there could be an ulcer/laceration on the cornea which can be quite serious and can’t easily be seen without the proper instruments. Another common eye problem is glaucoma, which can’t be detected without a tonometer and is rather painful, so will need to be diagnosed by your vet.

  • Go to the vet ASAP.


Why is my pet scooting?

Dog, cat, rubbing, scooting, dragging, bum, bottom, behind, rear, ground, carpet, floor, odour, anal, glands, worms, parasites, infection

Your pet may have full anal glands, where they are unable to express them the normal way due to many different factors. Usually they are expressed when solid faeces pass through the anus, thus squeezing out the glands as they defecate. Soft faeces, diarrhoea, aging (muscles weakening), and stress are common causes of full anal glands.

They could also have a parasite infestation. Worms are very common parasites that can cause scooting.

  • Simply take your pet to the vet for an examination, diagnosis and treatment.


My pet has fleas/lice/mange.

Flea, lice, mange, parasite, infection, itchy, hair fur loss, losing weight, weight loss

Best to make a visit to the vet to ensure your pet does not have any underlying health issues. Your vet will then prescribe you an appropriate parasite treatment. Products that can be bought in supermarkets or some pet shops may not be very effective, and some species of animals may have severe reactions to different products, so make sure you seek veterinary advice beforehand!

  • Give your pet a topical flea treatment in accordance with your vet’s instructions
  • Hot-wash any bedding and thoroughly vacuum your whole house, then repeat this after two weeks to get the fleas that hatched from the eggs you missed the first time.
  • 80% of flea populations will live in the environment and only jump onto a pet for feeding, so only finding 1 flea on an animal is enough to warrant proper flea control.

Treating your pet is an important part of flea control, but it will not usually get rid of a flea infestation in itself.


My cat isn’t using his litter box.

Cat, urinating, defecating, defaecating, peeing, pooping, litter box, problem

If your cat is trying to urinate but unable to, or if he is straining to urinate but produces very little urine, take him to the vet immediately. This is often a sign of a life-threatening emergency.

If your cat suddenly started urinating and/or defecating outside the litter box, this could be a symptom of an underlying medical issue. Take your cat to the vet.

If you have multiple cats, the rule of thumb is to have one litter box per cat plus one more litter box, which should not be next to each other.


My pet has cataracts.

Eye, opacity, cataracts

There are many eye problems that lead to increased eye opacity that are not cataracts and need to be seen by a vet immediately. Cataracts itself is not harmless – it can lead to other eye diseases like glaucoma. Senile nuclear sclerosis is also common in the lens of dogs and looks very similar to cataracts, but won’t affect their vision.

  • Unless your pet has been diagnosed by a vet to have cataracts, do not assume that it has cataracts.
  • Do NOT diagnose eye problems yourself – doing so can cause a lot of pain and suffering for your pet.
  • Make an appointment with your vet if you notice any changes in your pet’s eyes.


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