As pet owners, we know the importance of regular wellness checkups. But what do you do if the unexpected happens? Do you take them to your veterinarian or are you just over-reacting? Knowing how to identify if something is an emergency is vital, because in many of these cases time is of the essence. But you also don’t want to be the neurotic pet owner and have a hefty emergency bill for something that could have waited until you saw your regular vet.

Nobody knows your pet like you do. So if you suspect something is off or you notice they are not acting right, call your vet’s office, or if it’s after hours, call your nearest animal hospital. Usually the emergency vets can troubleshoot over the phone and let you know if the situation is an emergency.

There are some tell-tale signs of an emergency, in which case you shouldn’t hesitate to bring them in right away. Keep in mind this list is not exhaustive, it’s definitely a right step to keeping your pet safe!

Trauma. If your pet has experienced some sort of trauma, was hit by a car, had a big fall, or was attacked by another animal, immediate veterinary attention is needed. Even if your pet seems fine initially, there may be some internal injuries, like a ruptured lung, that would not show symptoms right away.

Vomiting or diarrhea. Although these are common problems in pets, they may also be signs of serious health issues. If your pet seems lethargic or weak, if you notice blood in his vomit or diarrhea, or if it persists for more than 24 hours see your veterinarian immediately.

Difficulty Breathing. Any indication that your pet is having a hard time taking normal breaths, or breathing more shallowly or more rapidly than normal, could be a sign of a problem.

Significant behavior changes. If your normally docile and calm pet is suddenly aggressive or lethargic, it could be an indication that something is going on and needs to be seen right away.

Fever. Just as in humans, fevers can be dangerous in pets. If your pet has a temperature of 103 F or higher it may warrant a trip to emergency.

Seizures or Convulsions. If your pet has never experienced either of these, go to your veterinarian immediately. If your pet has epilepsy or is prone to seizures, talk to your vet about how to manage it and what to watch for.

Abdominal Pain. If you notice your pet is in abdominal pain or their abdomen is distended, a serious medical problem may be the cause. Abdominal distention may be accompanied by retching, dry heaving, weakness, or difficulty breathing.

Trouble urinating or defecating. If your pet has problems going to the bathroom, or if you notice blood in his urine or stool, it may be an indication of something serious going on.

By keeping an eye out for these signs, you can help save your pet’s life. Remember that you know your pet better than anyone. Trust your instincts and if you sense something is wrong, get it checked out by calling or visiting your vet or animal hospital.