Like children, pets often experience minor illnesses that don’t always need treatment. Some illness signs, however, indicate that your pet requires an urgent veterinary examination. The Southern Arizona Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center team is equipped to handle urgent and emergent cases 24/7, because pets are more likely to recover from a serious illness when they receive prompt treatment. Here are eight pet illness signs that warrant an urgent veterinary examination.

#1: Sudden appetite change

Sudden appetite loss, which can be the result of nearly any disease or condition, is a red flag that your pet is not feeling well. Possible causes include pain, infection, cancer, heart problems, bleeding, stomach upset, and intestinal foreign body, and your pet should be examined by your veterinarian and appropriate diagnostics performed.

Conversely, pets who slowly start eating more could have a non-urgent medical problem such as thyroid disease, and you can schedule the next available time slot with your primary veterinarian.

#2: Severe vomiting or diarrhea

If your pet has one or two vomiting or diarrhea episodes in a day, but otherwise seems normal, waiting another day or so to see if the issue resolves is OK. But, if your pet has many episodes in a few hours, won’t eat or drink, or has blood in their vomit or stool, you should visit the emergency veterinary clinic. Pets can quickly become dehydrated and need IV fluid therapy and medications.

#3: Weakness or collapse

Weakness, a wobbly gait, collapse, or inability to stand that comes on suddenly can indicate a serious underlying problem, such as shock, internal bleeding, heart arrhythmia, nervous system inflammation, or a spinal or another orthopedic injury. Your pet needs immediate veterinary medical care if you notice these signs.

#4: Significant lethargy

Extreme lethargy also usually indicates a serious underlying problem, such as anemia, toxicity, or dehydration. The possible causes are varied, so your pet requires prompt examination and diagnostics to get on the road to recovery. Many lethargic pets will require overnight hospitalization and observation while we run tests and provide supportive care.

#5: Tremors or seizures

Pets who have a seizure for the first time, or who are experiencing new trembling or shaking, should be examined by a veterinarian. Chocolate toxicity is a common cause, but brain or spinal cord inflammation or epilepsy are other possible causes, and the problem could worsen without prompt veterinary care.

#6: Increased drinking or urination

When your pet begins to drink more gradually over time, you can likely wait to schedule a visit with your primary veterinarian. But, if the change occurs over only a few hours or days, an infection, toxicity, or organ failure could be the cause. These are urgent problems that could lead to life-threatening consequences, and they warrant an emergency visit.

#7: Severe eye squinting

Eye ulcers and glaucoma are common reasons for the sudden onset of a squinty, red eye. Because eye problems, whether serious or mild, can look similar, a veterinary examination is warranted sooner than later. If the problem is serious and goes untreated for several days, your pet could risk losing an eye. If we determine your pet needs specialty care, we can refer you to our ophthalmology team for emergency examination and treatment.

#8: Mysterious bruising

Small, dark, or purplish spots that appear on your pet’s skin or gums are caused by pinpoint bruising or bleeding underneath the skin, and can indicate a blood clotting problem from rodent poison toxicity, an infection, or an autoimmune disorder. Your pet may be acting normal otherwise, but without treatment, they risk losing blood internally and going into shock.

A veterinary visit is in order if your pet is acting off in any way, but some issues are less urgent than others. Your primary veterinarian can handle coughing, sneezing, itchy skin, weight changes, or behavior disorders during normal business hours, but you should contact our Southern Arizona Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Hospital if you notice any of the above signs after hours. We can also advise you on first aid and emergency transport, and prepare for your arrival when you call ahead.