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What to Do in Case of a Pet Emergency

What to Do in Case of a Pet Emergency

Unfortunately, no matter how well you prepare to travel with your pet, sometimes accidents happen. Knowing what to do if your dog, cat or another animal has an emergency during your trip is essential for your pet's safety and for your own peace of mind. The two most common emergencies are heatstroke and hypothermia.

Be prepared for any turn of events by knowing how to get to the nearest animal hospital. (See Emergency Animal Clinics.) Also have the name and number of a local animal shelter and a local veterinarian handy — ask your veterinarian for a recommendation. Take first-aid supplies with you and know how to use them. An animal in pain may become aggressive, so exercise caution at all times.

Emergency evacuation shelters do not accept pets, and domesticated animals do not fare well if left to weather an emergency on their own, especially when far from home. Avert a potential tragedy by planning in advance where you will go with your pet in case of evacuation during your trip. Use the listings in this material to find other hotels willing to take you and your pet. Above all, don't wait for disaster to strike. Leave as soon as the evacuation order is announced, and take your animal with you.

This list of emergency animal clinics in the United States and Canada is provided by the Veterinary Emergency & Critical Care Society (VECCS) as a service to the community for information purposes only. This is not to be construed as a certification or an endorsement of any clinic listed. For further information, contact the society at (210) 698-5575 or online at www.veccs.org. Note: Hours frequently change, and not all clinics are open 24 hours or in the evening. In addition, not all facilities listed here are emergency clinics. In non-emergency situations, it's best to call first.

If you are traveling to an area not covered in this list, be prepared for an emergency by asking your regular veterinarian to recommend a clinic or veterinarian at your destination. The American Animal Hospital Association also can recommend veterinary clinics that meet the association's high standards for veterinary care. For additional information contact the association at (303) 986-2800.

The best way to treat heatstroke or hypothermia is to prevent it. Do not leave pets unattended in a car, even if only for a few minutes. Also heed airlines' restrictions on pet travel, and carefully investigate animal welfare policies to make certain the airline has safeguards to protect your pet from both conditions.

Other preventive measures are to avoid strenuous exercise—including such activities as hiking and “fetch”—when the sun is strongest (10 a.m.-2 p.m.), and to provide your pet access to clean, fresh drinking water at all times.

Following are the warning signs and basic first aid for heatstroke and hypothermia. Always be alert to your pet's physical condition and watch for symptoms—immediate attention to the situation may mean the difference between life and death. If your pet is struck with either disorder, take him to an animal hospital or veterinarian as fast as safely possible.

Symptoms of Heatstroke

If your pet experiences these symptoms during your trip, he may be experiencing heatstroke:

•Rapid and shallow breathing

•Excessive salivation

•Heavy panting

•Feeling hot to the touch

•Glazed eyes


•Dark red or purple gums or tongue


•Body temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher

If your pet experiences these symptoms, place him on a table in the shade and dampen him with cold water, focusing on the head and neck area. Give him small amounts of water as well.

Symptoms of Hypothermia




•Feeling cold to the touch

•Body temperature of 95 degrees Fahrenheit or lower

If your pet experiences hypothermia symptoms, make him comfortable in a warm area and wrap him in a blanket or some warm towels. Massage his head, chest and legs to warm your pet up more quickly.