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Top 10 emergencies for cats and dogs

Vladimir is a regular contributor to PetMD, the largest global source of pet health information. PetMD's content is created by veterinary professionals and covers 9 different species.

Pet emergency

Be prepared in a crisis by knowing the top 10 household pet emergencies and how to handle them.


Insecticide toxicity

This is caused by overuse and misuse of insecticides, both in the home and yard. Poisoned cats and dogs will display vomiting, fever, diarrhea, weight loss, appetite loss, seizures, depression, trouble breathing and tremors.

What to do: If you see such signs, or suspect your pet has been exposed to an insecticide, go to the vet immediately, preferably with a sample of the product. Treatment will likely include the use of fluids and activated charcoal to induce vomiting, or a special external wash if your pet's skin was exposed to the insecticide. Just be sure to limit insecticide use in and around your home, and follow the product's instructions carefully.

Ethylene glycol toxicity (anti-freeze poisoning)

Cats and dogs find the aroma and taste of anti-freeze delicious (this is because of the ethylene glycol, a common ingredient in anti-freeze brands). Unfortunately it is deadly, and only a small amount (a few tablespoons, depending on the animal's size) can kill your pet. It's best to know the early signs since survival depends on speedy treatment; these include vomiting, excessive thirst, seizures and drunk-like behavior.

What to do: A vet may suggest giving your pet activated charcoal, plenty of fluids and a gastric lavage (stomach wash) to prevent any more toxin from being absorbed into the animal's blood stream. Curiously, alcohol has been shown to block the metabolism of the ethylene glycol, although it should only be administered under veterinary supervision.

Gastric foreign body

Like kids, you can't leave cats or dogs alone, because there's no telling what they might put in their mouths. While dogs will eat anything, including your remote control and new Jimmy Choo pumps, cats tend to be more fussy and go for things like tinsel, string and ribbons. Either way, it is dangerous for cats and dogs, as the presence of a foreign object in the body can make the animal's intestine fold in like a fan, leading to complications and even death from the lack of blood flow.

What to do: If this occurs, surgery is required to remove the dead part of the intestine. Symptoms to watch out for include vomiting, fever, shock and a refusal to eat. Avoid the worry and make sure you pet-proof your home, placing all objects that may be swallowed in a safe and secure place.

Gastric torsion (bloating)

This is an emergency you can relate to: trapped gases that cause the tummy to swell like a balloon. A little gas usually goes away on its own, but sudden bloating is something to watch for in your pet, as just six hours of tummy-twisting can cause the animal's blood supply to be cut off, eventually leading to death.

Gastric torsion is rare in cats but common in dogs, especially large, deep-chested dogs such as the Great Dane and German Shepherd. Symptoms include a drum-like tummy, an inability to eat or drink, excessive drooling and dry heaving (or failed attempts at vomiting).

What to do: Get your pet to the vet or emergency clinic immediately, as it will need surgery to correct the twisted tummy and restore blood flow.


The most common causes of fractures in cats and dogs are automobile accidents and falling from great heights. There are many types of bone fractures, ranging from hairline fractures (a crack in the bone) to a complete shattering of the bone.

The most obvious signs of fractures are limping, deformed-looking limbs and/or protruding bone shards from the animal's skin.

What to do: The course of treatment will depend on the severity and type of the fracture, but will generally consist of a simple cast, splint, or in severe cases, surgery to restore the shape of the bone.

For more pet health information, visit; and don't forget to visit PetMD's new Topic Centers.


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