People emergencies is one thing—for the most part, when someone I care about (or me personally) has an emergency, I already know the basic steps to take. But when something goes wrong with one of my pets, I have a tendency to panic. Like, P.A.N.I.C. With pets, even knowing what precisely constitutes an "emergency" can be a challenging question to answer. And then, after finally finding care, being given the bill can cause another shock in itself. In this post, we take a look at how to plan ahead for different types of pet emergencies.

Basic types of pet emergencies

One big challenge with pets is that there are so many different species! For instance, in my household, we currently have a fish, a tortoise, a parrot and a dog. Luckily (in a sense), basically an emergency is still an emergency, regardless of species.

Here’s a list of the most common pet emergencies (for more see PetMD):

  • Trouble breathing
  • Trouble eliminating waste
  • Trouble moving or standing
  • Pain (diagnosed by pet behavior)
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Coughing, wheezing, or choking
  • Seizures, paralysis, loss of consciousness
  • Visible trauma (bleeding, cuts, bites, swelling)
  • Reactions (to allergies, to toxins)

Preventing a pet emergency 

One thing you can do immediately to prevent a pet emergency is to emergency-proof your home and yard. While accidents can always happen, if you remove potential threats and temptations as you see them, your pet's chances of a future emergency go way down.

What to look for:

  • Poisons or toxic substances in places your pet can reach them (this can include food—for instance, avocado is deadly for parrots, and chocolate has the same effect on dogs).
  • Any holes or breaks in fencing where your pet could either get out or get tangled up and injured.
  • Untended bodies of water (including toilets, water features, fountains, pools)—small pets in particular can easily drown in these.
  • Other aggressive pets or wild animals in the neighborhood—be sure to have a plan in place (such as walking with a stick for protection) to combat an aggressive or territorial animal that decides to approach your pet.

Free or low-cost resources 

You may want to program these resources into your phone to have on hand in case of any type of pet emergency.

  • ASPCA National Animal Poison Control: This hotline (888-426-4435) is open 24/7 and can help you diagnose and even treat ingestion of a poison. They may charge a $65 consultation fee.
  • Pet Poison Hotline: This hotline (800-213-6680) is available 24/7 to help you diagnose and decide next steps for a suspected poison incident. There is a $39 consultation fee.
  • Your local chapter of the American Red Cross: It can be a good idea to know how to reach your local chapter of the Red Cross, which can also provide shelter and guidance for pet care in natural disaster situations.
  • American Humane Society Pets in Need Listings: If you discover you’re struggling to afford the emergency care your pet needs, this state-by-state listing of nonprofit organizations and special funds may help.
  • American Humane Society Emergency Services: Focused on natural and manmade disasters, AHSES offers search and rescue, food and shelter, and emergency care.
  • Pet Health Helpline: This free 24/7 hotline (866-845-9660) can help you decide what next steps to take in an emergency situation, find a local emergency animal hospital, and (in some cases) even provide a free initial vet visit.
  • Home Again: This nationwide pet find-and-rescue service works by tracking micro-chipped pets. Each month 10,000+ lost pets are found and delivered safely home to their families. You can also use Home Again's 24/7 ASPCA's emergency vet hotline for any type of emergency as part of your membership. The membership is $17.99/year.
  • Vet Locator: If you need to locate a vet or animal emergency hospital, this free online resource can help right away.

Create a pet emergency kit in advance

For just a dollar or two and a few minutes of your time, you can assemble an emergency kit for each pet in your household—in advance. 

You should have two types of emergency kits: one for medical emergencies, and one for manmade/natural disaster situations.

  • Pet First Aid Checklist: use this checklist as a guide to assemble your medical first aid kit (including any known additional special medicines or needs your pet has).
  • Ready.gov. Learn how to assemble a pet emergency kit in the case of natural/manmade disasters.
Pet Emergencies: Plan Ahead to Save