What Is An Emergency Vet Hospital And When Should You Go There?

Nobody likes an emergency, especially when our non-english speaking pets are involved. What is an emergency vet hospital, how do you find one and when should you go there? You likely have a regular vet who takes care of your asthma cat in a routine kinda way, but sick kitties are anything but routine. If you’ve been woken up by a feline asthma attack in your house you know what I’m talking about, so let’s take a look at the what, why and where of emergency vets.


What is an Emergency Vet Hospital?

I’m guessing you know what an emergency room is – an emergency vet hospital is the same thing, but for our four-legged friends. It’s a 24hr clinic, specialising in emergency veterinary medicine and critical care. Unlike the human emergency room, it’s often a good idea to call ahead and let the staff know that you’re coming and what the problem is, otherwise patients are seen on a triage basis – that is, the most critical cases are seen first.


Heartbeat - What is an Emergency Vet Hospital?

Cat Emergencies That Require Immediate Attention

Sometimes it’s hard to know when to take your cat to the emergency room. While some emergencies are obvious, some illnesses progress over time and are undetectable to the untrained eye. As we know, cats tend to hide their sickness so it’s important to know your cat – and if you can get your head around a few of the more common cat sicknesses, you’ll have a better chance of nipping these issues in the bud before they turn into full-blown health issues.

Cat sicknesses that require a visit to the emergency vet include:

  • Any kind of breathing issue – this is the most obvious. Open mouth breathing, laboured breathing, rapid breathing (over 40 breaths per minute is a bad thing) and coughing that does not produce anything are all good reasons for a trip to the emergency room, especially if the gums are blue as well.
  • Signs of distress or severe pain – pain is always a reason for treatment, as it usually points to a more serious problem. Signs of pain include overreacting to contact with the painful area, distressed yelling or vocalising, hiding and panting.Fighter Cat - Animal Emergency Hospitals
  • Severe bathroom issues – including straining to urinate, crying in the litter box, blood in the urine and protracted diarrhea.
  • Continuous vomiting – most cats spew from time to time, but if your cat yaks more than three times in a day that’s cause for concern.
  • Extreme lethargy – not moving, inability to walk, hiding and signs of weakness need to be checked out sooner rather than later.
  • Not eating – loss of appetite is a serious issue – please don’t assume that your cat will just eat when he’s hungry. If your cat stops eating for more than 24hrs, you need to see a vet.
  • Eating something that isn’t food – obviously poisons fall into this category, as do things such as ribbons, hair ties, paper clips and broken bits of toys.
  • Any type of trauma – such as being hit by a car, bite wounds, lacerations and serious head injuries. Fights with other cats can often cause these kinds of injuries.
  • Seizures – these often come in clusters and get worse over the course of a few hours, so immediate vet attention is required.
  • Sudden paralysis of the rear end – aortic thromboembolism is a complication of heart disease in which a blood clot lodges itself in the rear end and causes paralysis. This is extremely painful for your cat and should be treated by a vet immediately.


What to Tell The Emergency Vet

If your cat is obviously in distress you will need to make your trip to the emergency room as comfortable as possible for the kitty. Stay calm and get there as quickly and safely as possible. The vet will ask all the what/why/where questions, so before you leave home a quick investigation will help you to give the best answers to help your cat. Things to take note of include:

  • What your cat has swallowed/eaten – or not eaten, and for how long.
  • Any medications your cat regularly takes – include prescriptions and any over the counter remedies you use.
  • What caused the trauma – was it a car accident? A bad fall from a height? A fight with another cat?
  • Any history of illness or injury – particularly if you’re attending the emergency vet for a similar problem.
  • Your cat’s behaviour – details of the last few days may help the vet to determine what’s wrong.
  • Samples – yes it’s gross, but if you can describe what the diarrhea or vomit looks like, for example, the vet will have a better chance of figuring out what the problem is. If you can take a (gross) sample, even better.

Emergency Veterinary Hospital Near Me


How to be Prepared For a Cat Emergency

Preparation is the key to dealing with emergencies well. Kitties are curious creatures who are bound to get themselves into trouble occasionally, so even if your cat is perfectly healthy it’s handy to have an emergency plan in place. If your cat is asthmatic, it’s even more important to know how to deal in an emergency situation.

  • Locate your nearest emergency vet hospital – keep their phone number somewhere handy and learn how long it takes to get there in both heavy and light traffic.
  • Keep your cat’s medical records together – preferably in an easily accessible place so you can grab them in a hurry if you need to.
  • Leave the cat carrier out – if it’s in kitty’s home as part of the furniture, he’ll be less freaked out about having to get into the thing. This will also save you from digging around in the garage or the top of the closet to find it.
  • Keep a diary of your asthma cat’s symptoms. It’s much easier to spot patterns and potential triggers when they’re written down. Don’t try to rely on your memory, especially when you’re stressing out about your little fluffball already.

Sparrow - What is an Emergency Vet?

We all hope that an emergency never happens, but big bad reality says it probably will happen and of course, when you least expect it. Knowing what constitutes an emergency and having a plan in place will give you a better chance of getting your cat the care he needs and getting him on the road back to good health as quickly as possible.


Have you ever made a trip to the emergency vet? Were you prepared? If you answered no and you’d like me to kick your ass motivate you, please leave your comments (or  questions) in the box below.

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  1. Aw man this was really handy. Thank you for your informative insight. I have two cats and a dog at home so it is really good to be prepared in case of an emergency and to know where the nearest vet hospital is.

    We had a dog we lost last year. She was such a cutie pie. She must have gotten hit by a car because one day we found her in the garage in the morning, she could not move her hind legs, and she wet herself. We took her immediately to the vet hospital but there was nothing they could do for her. RIP Cloe!

    1. Aw Jonathan that’s so sad! What kind of person hits a dog with their car then drives off? Disgraceful behaviour. RIP Cloe.

  2. What a great website for people who own cats. This post is a great guide for anyone who owns cat. It’s a must have! Are there different kinds of asthma conditions for cats ?

    1. Hey thanks Danish! I suppose there are as many different kinds of asthma conditions as there are asthma cats. Sometimes it’s called feline bronchitis, but from my understanding it’s all roughly the same. Come back and say hi again some time soon!

  3. Hi Shirley,

    I gotta say, I actually didn’t know that there was an emergency vet at all. I always thought that having a pet emergency at late hours ended up with making a call to your personal vet and hoping he would help you out at the time. I guess I got that from movies. I personally don’t own a cat, but I own a dog (toy poodle). It’s good that I stumbled upon your post, now I can check out if there is an emergency vet nearby.



  4. Hi there, Thank’s for sharing this post. I have cats myself and do get worried when they act strange. I like your checklist and copied it. I still hope though I won’t need it. Going to the doc is always a heavy duty.
    You have a beautiful cat there.
    Thanks for the tip’s and have a great time.

    1. Hey Stefan, I’m glad you liked it. Thanks for saying hi and complimenting my kitty – he’s getting quite the collection of fans!

  5. Hi Shirley –
    Thanks for your well thought out information. We currently have a cat and a dog at home. We have had to use an emergency vet in the past. I never even thought about having all my pets records in one place. That is an incredible insight.
    Thanks for you post.
    Have a great day – Brian

  6. This is a pretty useful piece, more people should see it. My partner is a veterinary surgeon, so many people don’t get cats. You already know that though!

    Did you know lillies are deadly to cats??


    1. Hey Joe, thanks for your comment – you’re absolutely right, cats get some bad PR. I’m thinking of applying for the job of worldwide cat PR manager, I think I could really lift their image.

      Anyway, yes. I did know about lilies, I’m planning on another post about houseplants and cats so stay tuned. I’d love to hear your partner’s thoughts on my site, hit some share buttons and pass it along!


  7. Hi Shirley,

    This is a great site. I have 2.5 cats ! The 1/2 cat is a dachshund who thinks she’s a cat; the cats think she’s an ugly cat so they haven’t had a problem with her moving in. Love the picture of Sparrow. He’s almost the twin of my former kitty Tux. And no we weren’t prepared for the emergency visits we had with the veterinary. But we do have a relationship w/ our vet so we knew (in advance) that they had emergency hours. Unfortunately there was nothing that could be done when our 3 year old kitty started having strokes. Good luck on your website & give Sparrow an extra cuddle.

    1. Thanks Cindy. I got a bit of a giggle about your 1/2 cat/dachshund/ugly cat. So funny.

      Very sad about your little kitty, may s/he RIP. Definitely giving the Sparrow more cuddles now (whether he likes it or not!)

  8. I never knew about an emergency vet until I had an emergency. My dog got hurt really bad by a dog that was off the leash.

    A stranger stepped in and helped me. I was crying and was totally unsure of what to do and she told me there was a 24 hour emergency vet hospital. She called before I went and when I got there they were expecting me.

    Going forward, I always make sure to know where emergency care for pets is because it really makes a difference. I did not know how important it was to call ahead of time, though. Thanks to this post, I am going to store their number in my phone for a just in case.

    … and Sparrow! I hope you get all of the toys in the world!!! You are soooooo cute!!!

    1. Holy shit Shonna, that sounds terrifying! Thank goodness there was a kind stranger there to help you, is your dog ok now?

      You know what, before I had a chronically wheezy kitty I would never have thought about being prepared for emergency vet visits either. It’s one of those things that you think will ‘never happen to me’. Well, it’s happening to me now…frequently. Being prepared makes it just so much easier to deal with.

      I’m not telling Sparrow what you said about all the toys in the world, but only because he’d never let me hear the end of it. Thanks for taking the time to say hi!

  9. Thank you for this post. In many cases, one would freak out not knowing what is going on with their cat. But once again, you have helped with some information that will take some of the not knowing out of the equation.

  10. My cat Rita, was bullied by neighborhood teenagers (3 guys) and they threw her down from the roof of a 5th floor of a house. Her paw was broken and she was in such a pain! We reacted fast and brought her to vet. The paw is still deformed but she can walk quite normally! I cannot stress enough how important it is to react fast, doctor said if we were even a day too late, the paw would have gotten so infected that it would have been beyond help.

    1. Ugh that’s disgusting, I hope karma gives those kids a good walloping. So glad to hear Rita is ok thanks to your quick actions, Angie.

  11. Thank you, I found this post very informative! It’s definitely important to check up on our cats to see if they have breathing issues, problems in the bathroom, or inconsistent eating.

    I was concerned when I first adopted my kitten because he was sneezing a lot! I took him to the vet and they gave him some antibiotics. Turns out he was just adjusting to his new home, which could be highly stressful for kitties!

    1. Exactly, Derek. They’re such precious little creatures, it’s important to keep an eye on them. I’m glad you got your kitten to the vet when you thought something was wrong, and I hope he’s settled in nicely now. Thanks for your comment!

  12. This is a great article that any cat (or dog) owner can relate to. We have a cat and, thankfully, haven’t had to take her in for anything. However, a few years back, we did have to take our dog in in the middle of the night. He was having seizures and his bowels were uncontrollable during them. The vet was great and helped us out tremendously. Thanks for the pointers in this article. It’s great info for anyone with a pet who hasn’t yet had to make a trip to the pet ER (and hopefully never will).

    1. Thanks Lea. Isn’t it the worst, middle of the night pet emergencies. That sounds like a horrible experience for your dog and for you, I hope all is well with your doggo now. Thanks for taking the time to share your story, I hope you never need the pet ER again.

  13. Wow! This is a great website! I love the fact that you cover so much information. Especially for those of us that love animals! They are our family and should be treated like a member. You have such quality information that I believe everyone who has a pet and cares about them would want to know what to look for and if they need to be seen in an emergency situation! Thank you very much I really enjoyed this because I have animals and they are my family. You really made it easier to know what to look for and how to react if there is a pet family emergency!Love it!

  14. Thanks so much for this very in-depth and informative article. All too often, people do not prepare themselves for a cat emergency and drive off totally clueless.

    I’ve made it a habit that every time I take my cat to the vet, no matter the reason, I always get a photocopy of the veterinarian’s notes that I then place into a file. I then put this file right on top of his carrier. Should an emergency take place, I have his entire history for the emergency vet to take a look at.

    1. That is a VERY smart idea, Barb. It’s always good to be prepared, especially in stressful situations. Nothing worse than having to scramble for all the bits you need while you have a dangerously sick cat to deal with at the same time. Thanks for taking the time to share your great idea with us.

  15. Thanks for this article. Thankfully its something we have not had to consider yet with our little kitty. But its something we need to be prepared for in the future, just in case.

    Your article give us plenty of great ideas on how to safeguard her welfare in the future.


    1. Glad to have helped, Steve. If all you do is locate your nearest emergency and store their number in your phone, my job’s done. Thanks for reading.

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