Pet Connection by Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker

Top Pet Traumas

Is it an emergency? Here’s what you should know when minutes count

By Kim Campbell Thornton

Andrews McMeel Syndication

Our dogs and cats hate to let us know when they’re not feeling well. It’s instinctive for them to hide illness and even injuries if possible.

Some emergencies are obvious, though, and an emergency, by definition, requires immediate treatment. Any time your pet experiences one of the following conditions, you need to get him to the veterinarian on the double, whether it’s noon or nighttime, weekend or holiday.

-- Hit by car. Even if your pet appears to be OK, he could have serious internal injuries.

-- Falling out a high window. Cats have a reputation for surviving high falls, but that doesn’t mean they don’t sustain injuries.

-- Blood gushing from an artery or bleeding from the mouth, nose or rectum.

-- Loss of consciousness.

-- Difficulty breathing, which can indicate choking, poisoning or heart failure.

-- Sudden collapse or paralysis.

-- Bloody vomiting or diarrhea.

-- Broken bones, difficulty walking or reluctance to put weight on a limb.

-- Gums that are pale instead of a healthy pink.

-- Seizures, tremors or staggering, which can indicate poisoning or neurological problems.

-- Known ingestion of antifreeze, Easter lilies, rat poison, items containing xylitol or other toxic substances.

Some pets are more prone to certain types of emergencies than others. Cats, for instance, love to nibble on plants and can develop fatal kidney failure from eating any part of a lily, even small amounts of pollen.

In male cats, straining to urinate can signal an obstructed urinary tract. When that happens, toxins build up quickly and can kill the cat if the blockage isn’t relieved rapidly. Cats who strain to defecate should also be seen right away.

Dogs, especially males but sometimes females, can also develop urinary obstructions from bladder stones or prostate disease. Breeds at higher risk include Dalmatians, bulldogs and black Russian terriers.

An enlarged stomach accompanied by drooling, panting and retching without bringing anything up is a sign of gastric dilatation volvulus, commonly known as bloat and often seen in deep-chested dogs. Never “wait and see” if your dog shows these signs.

Dogs are notorious for eating anything they run across, which leaves them open to ingesting toxic foods and pharmaceuticals. Take your dog in if he eats grapes or raisins, fungi such as mushrooms or toadstools, dark chocolate, any food containing the sweetener xylitol, or drugs such as Tylenol, nasal spray or eye drops.

Another common pet emergency is severe vomiting and diarrhea accompanied by appetite loss. Those signs may be early indicators of life-threatening disease or gastrointestinal obstruction. Pets left untreated, especially cats or toy-breed dogs, can quickly become weak and dehydrated.

Pets with flat faces such as bulldogs, pugs and Persian cats are prone to heatstroke. If these pets are restless, have a rapid pulse, have trouble breathing or are panting or drooling, it’s an emergency.

Cat and dog breeds such as Maine coons, ragdolls, Persians, American shorthairs and cavalier King Charles spaniels are at risk for congestive heart failure. Signs include unusual inactivity, tiring quickly, restlessness, panting, difficulty breathing, crackly breathing sounds and pale gums.

A pet who has trouble walking may have a spinal cord injury. Dogs or cats with long backs such as dachshunds or munchkins are susceptible to ruptured intervertebral disks.

If your pet experiences an emergency, the best thing you can do is to stay calm in the moment. Have your veterinarian’s phone number and that of the nearest emergency clinic on speed dial, and call to let them know you’re on the way and what the problem is.

Most important, know your pet’s normal behavior. Noticing changes early can help you catch problems before they turn into emergencies.


Cat’s wake-up

call is unwanted

Q: Our 11-year-old male cat has some new behaviors. He used to sleep at the foot of our bed, but now he cuddles, purrs and sleeps with me. At about 4 a.m., he starts walking around the bed, meowing and nibbling on my fingers and chewing on my husband’s hair. If we shut him out of our room, he cries and paws at the door relentlessly. I don’t mind having him in the room until the nibbling and meowing start. Is the nibbling an alpha behavior?

A: It’s great that your cat is so affectionate, but I can certainly see how the early-morning attention could get old -- fast! The nibbling isn’t alpha behavior, because that’s not a concept that applies to cats (or to dogs, for that matter). Your cat does want your attention, whether it’s because he wants to eat breakfast -- now! -- or because to him it seems like a good time for some interaction.

The other possibility is that his behavior is changing because he is showing early signs of dementia.

As with any change in behavior, we recommend taking your cat in for a veterinary exam to rule out underlying health problems. Sometimes being obnoxious is the only way cats have to tell us that they’re not feeling well.

If your cat gets a clean bill of health, he may simply be ready for breakfast at that time of the morning. Cats are crepuscular, meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk. Your cat’s body clock may be telling him that it’s time to eat. To ensure uninterrupted sleep for yourself, try purchasing a feeder with a timer. You can set it to go off just before the time your cat normally wakes you. If you feed canned food, look for a feeder with an ice pack to keep food chilled. -- Dr. Marty Becker and Mikkel Becker

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Legal beagles frown

on frigid canines

-- Heavily furred pets can thrive in cold conditions, but in some states, it’s a misdemeanor or felony to leave animals outdoors for long periods in freezing weather. Most animals need protection from winter’s chill just as humans do. Pennsylvania is the most recent state to mandate protecting pets from freezing temperatures, joining Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York and Texas, as well as certain municipalities. Michigan requires outdoor dogs to have “adequate shelter” from the elements. Penalties range from fines to jail time.

-- A Brussels griffon named Newton was top dog at the 2017 National Dog Show in Oaks, Pennsylvania, which aired on NBC Thanksgiving Day. More formally known as GCH (for Grand Champion) Wynzall Hashtag, the toy-breed dog -- described as resembling a mini version of Chewbacca, the Wookiee character from "Star Wars" -- took the best in show title by beating out a whippet, a Portuguese water dog, an English springer spaniel, an old English sheepdog, an American Staffordshire terrier and a French bulldog. Brussels griffons were created in the 18th century from a blend of English toy spaniel, pug and affenpinscher. Cute, bossy and self-important, they are known for a sometimes-naughty nature, but their love for people usually gets them out of trouble.

-- How long have dogs been walking on leashes? Based on rock art discovered in Saudi Arabia, humans and dogs have been linked by leashes for at least 8,000 years, according to an online report in the journal Science. It may also be the earliest depiction of humans and dogs hunting together, not to mention the earliest depiction of dogs in general. With their pricked-up ears, smooth coats and curved tails, the dogs depicted resemble primitive, or pariah-type, dogs such as Canaan dogs, Carolina dogs or the village dogs found around the world. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker


Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.