- In an emergency, minutes matter. Knowing some basics about pet health and what constitutes an emergency is extremely important.
- Emergency vet visit costs can vary drastically based on your pet’s injury or illness.
- Pet insurance can help us be prepared for emergency costs.
- Some common pet emergencies are preventable, learn how to keep your pet safe!
Emergencies can unfortunately be a part of life–for us and our pets! While none of us ever want to imagine our beloved pets falling ill or injured, many pet owners will face an emergency situation sometime during their pet’s life.
How much does an emergency vet visit cost?
While this is a common question, there is unfortunately no common answer. Just like with us humans, every patient is different! The nature of the emergency will determine the cost.
The cost of a pet emergency could be as low as $100 for a simple wound care case and up to $10,000 for something needing emergency surgery and/or a blood transfusion. The time of day and location will also affect costs with 24-hour veterinary emergency rooms and hospitals in big cities understandably being priced higher.
According to Care Credit, a healthcare credit card often used for pet emergencies, the initial costs of a veterinary emergency room visit range from $150 to $250. This is just for the initial triage service and examination of your pet. Diagnostics, treatments, procedures, and medications will be additional.
Typically, once your pet has been evaluated, the veterinary staff will present you with an estimate of costs based on your pet’s condition. Average costs of the additional emergency care can range from $300 to $4,100 with complex cases being even higher.
Having pet insurance is one of the best ways to help prepare for these emergency expenses. Every plan has different accident/illness/emergency coverage. Research and compare to find the best option for your pet.
What is considered a pet emergency?
While some emergencies are apparent like a pet that is having a seizure or was hit by a car, others are not so obvious. Gastrointestinal symptoms are just one example of a common emergency that can either be a simple case of an “upset tummy” or a life-threatening condition like an intestinal blockage or bloat. Sometimes it’s hard to know so a little knowledge can go a long way!
Pet owners should learn some basics about their pet’s health and what constitutes an emergency. Planning ahead by identifying the closest emergency veterinary hospital to your home can also help save time when minutes matter in an emergency situation.
Common Pet Emergencies:
- Trouble Breathing or Choking
- Pale Gums
- Broken Bones
- Cuts, Bites, or Open Wounds
- Lethargy, Collapse, or Sudden Loss of Mobility
- Suspected GDV or Bloat
- Excessive Vomiting/Diarrhea or Vomiting/Diarrhea with Blood
- Allergic Reactions
- Eye Trauma
- Burns and/or Smoke Inhalation
- Toxic Exposure or Ingestion
- Pain & Swelling
- Trouble Urinating
While this list is some of the most common reasons a pet may need to go to the emergency vet, it is by no means conclusive. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of reasons your pet could need emergency care. You know your pet best, if something seems wrong don’t hesitate to call or take them in.
Another common reason pets come to the ER is simply known as ADR or “ain’t doing right”. This is usually a pet that the owner has noted a change in their behavior. They may be acting lethargic, not wanting to eat or play, or simply not acting like their usual selves. There is almost always an underlying cause so be observant of your pet and seek care when something seems not quite right.
How can you prevent pet emergencies?
While not all emergencies are preventable there are some precautions you can take to help keep your pet out of the ER!
Keep your pet up to date on their wellness visits and vaccines
Making sure your pet is getting all of their necessary preventive care can help prevent future emergencies. Routine check-ups will often catch underlying health issues before they develop into something more severe while vaccines will also help protect them from preventable diseases.
Keep your pet from roaming freely
Keeping your dog leashed on walks is one of the simplest things you can do for their health and safety! Unleashed dogs are more likely to get lost, hit by a car, eat something they shouldn’t, pick up parasites, or get in a dogfight or altercation with wildlife. Cats that are free to roam outside are also at higher risk for all of the above plus they unfortunately often fall victim to coyotes.
Make your home pet-proof
Many pet emergencies result from household items. Our pets are naturally curious and love to “inspect” things. This can unfortunately lead to them sniffing or eating something they shouldn’t.
Medications, cleaners, food, trash, and common houseplants can all be toxic to our pets. The most commonly ingested items include medications like Tylenol or Advil, foods such as chocolate, grapes, and onions, or chemicals like antifreeze and rodenticides.
For a full list of all common toxic household products, food, and plants visit ASPCA Animal Poison Control. It’s also a good idea to keep their number handy in the event your pet ingests something toxic.
Around the house, pets can also injure themselves by falling off furniture, climbing counters (to get that forbidden food!), and chewing on electrical cords. If your pet is a little too curious or a notorious chewer you may want to consider restricting their access when they are unsupervised.
Take steps to prevent GDV and Heatstroke
Gastric dilatation volvulus, GDV, or more commonly known as “bloat”, is a life-threatening emergency that requires immediate medical intervention. This occurs when a dog’s stomach swells and becomes overextended with gas leading to gastric torsion–when the stomach twists over itself. While not always preventable, knowing your dog’s risk and taking certain precautions can help lower their chances of developing GDV.
GDV is more common in large, deep-chested dogs. There is a preventative surgery known as a gastropexy which “tacks” the stomach to the abdominal wall. This is commonly done during a spay or neuter of high-risk breeds like Great Danes, German Shepherds, Boxers, and Dobermans.
While certain breeds are at a higher risk, GDV can occur in any dog. Simple precautions include not feeding before or after exercise (wait at least 30 minutes) and using a slow-feeder-style bowl if your dog has a tendency to scarf his food down too quickly.
Know the signs of GDV in dogs:
- Distended Abdomen
- Vomiting or Retching
- Difficulty Breathing
GDV can occur quickly and is fatal without medical intervention. If you suspect your dog is developing GDV seek veterinary care immediately!
Heatstroke is another common pet emergency, especially during the summer or in areas with warmer climates year-round. Dogs can’t regulate their body temperatures in the same way us humans can and are more susceptible to overheating.
Dogs that are older, overweight, or brachycephalic (with shorter noses like bulldogs and pugs) are more prone to developing heatstroke. A fun day at the park can quickly turn fatal as temperatures rise. Never exercise your dog outside during hot weather or leave them in a parked car.
Know the signs of heatstroke in dogs:
- Heavy Panting
- Difficulty Breathing
- Excessive Thirst
- Bright Red Gums & Tongue
- Temperature over 103°
- Vomiting & Diarrhea
Heatstroke can occur in mere minutes and be fatal. If you suspect your dog has heatstroke seek veterinary care immediately!
What are the cost differences between an emergency vet visit for cats and dogs?
When it comes to cats and dogs the only major difference in cost can be with weight-based doses of drugs. Cats often require a smaller dose of certain drugs than dogs, especially larger dogs.
The cost of emergency exams, diagnostics, procedures, lab work, and other common fees associated with pet emergencies can be mostly the same for cats and dogs.
While there are many conditions that affect both species, the most common reasons cats and dogs will visit an emergency room differ slightly. According to Veterinary Emergency Group, a network of emergency vet hospitals, the top cat emergencies and top dog emergencies seen across the US are:
|Top Dog Emergencies||Top Cat Emergencies|
|Ingested Toxins||Respiratory Distress|
|Trauma/Injuries||Urinary Problems/Urinary Obstruction|
|Insect/Snake Bites or Stings||Insect/Snake Bites or Stings|