How to Find a Reliable Emergency Vet in Your Area

people and their dogs in a veterinary waiting room

All dog owners will do anything that they can to keep their pup healthy and happy. Vet visits, preventive care, dental appointments, and grooming are all part of being the best pet owner that you can be. Pets need a lot of care and a good team to make sure that they are as healthy and happy as they can be.

Just like humans, all pets, including dogs, may experience an injury or health condition that requires emergency care. While all dog owners hope that nothing bad ever happens to their beloved pooch, having a reliable emergency vet that you can call if a situation does arise is always a good idea. Hopefully, you will never have to use them, but the last thing that you want is to be stuck in a scary situation with your dog and to be unsure of who to call.

Knowing how to find a reliable emergency vet in your area is essential for any dog owner. In doing so, you will prevent a variety of complications in an emergency. The sooner that your dog can get emergency care, the sooner they will be back to full health and doing all of the things that they love. We’ll look at all the ins and outs of what an emergency vet is, what they do, and when you may need to call one.

Emergency Vet Basics

Just like doctors who serve human patients, veterinary doctors can have different focuses. Most people don’t go to their general physician for emergencies, orthopedic services, or surgery needs. This is the same for vet services. Many vets specialize in dentistry, others in physical therapy, and some in emergency care. These vets practice solely on an animal emergency and provide prompt care that can’t wait until general veterinary practices open the next day.

Emergency vets can vary by the type of work setting that they have. Some emergency vets work full time at an emergency clinic, while others work in a hospital most of the time and do emergency shifts as a second job.

Emergency vets have advanced training in animal emergency medicine. This makes them more highly qualified for the job of life-saving procedures than the average vet. They have been trained to perform life-saving medical interventions for emergencies and critical illnesses in all pets, including dogs. While many pet owners don’t ever need an emergency vet, those that do are very grateful to have their services available. They can truly be life-saving for all types of pets, including your beloved pup.

What Emergency Vets Do

Emergency vets are truly the jack of all trades. They have been trained on all various illnesses and injuries that need immediate medical care and know how to go about these difficult situations. They can provide care for various health needs while also comforting you and your dog in these stressful situations.

Emergency vets focus on urgent needs for acute illnesses and injuries. These are circumstances that aren’t fit to be dealt with in a regular veterinary office, or that may occur outside of typical business hours. These can be the most severe illnesses and injuries that need specialized care and treatments.

Unlike traditional vets, emergency vets do not focus on the long-term health of your dog. They focus on immediate care and treatment, but they won’t keep up on lifelong stats. Vaccines, weight levels, and other aspects of health are not their main focus. These components are instead left to the care of your dog’s general care vet.

Emergency vets can do a variety of impressive things. They can diagnose illnesses, decide on treatment plans, treat severe wounds, and perform surgeries when needed. Almost no task is too large for an emergency vet, and they can avoid cracking under the pressure of these stressful situations. Just like the ER, pet emergency care requires high skill and lots of endurance on the end of the medical staff who works there. These are just some of the reasons that all pet owners are so grateful to find a reliable emergency vet in their area.

female vet listening to a dogs heartbeat

When to Call an Emergency Vet

While all vets are skilled and knowledgeable, some are better at treating certain types of medical situations than others. Knowing when to take your dog to an emergency vet versus when to take them to a general vet is very important. Both are more fit for certain situations and needs than the other. Just like you wouldn’t go to the emergency room for a mild cold, you shouldn’t take your dog to an emergency vet unless their specific care is necessary.

While pinpointing exact injuries and illnesses that need emergency care can be difficult, there are some common conditions and symptoms that should signal a prompt trip to an emergency vet. Knowing these dangerous situations can help you get your dog the emergency veterinary care that they need, and may even save their life.


Many life-threatening conditions may have some of the same symptoms. If you are unable to pinpoint exactly what health problem your dog is experiencing, but notice any of these symptoms, be sure to get them into an emergency vet as soon as possible.


A lethargic dog can be caused by a variety of things, many of which can be extremely dangerous. Is your dog avoiding going for a walk, or even getting off of the couch? Do they seem more tired and sluggish than usual? This may be because they are feeling lethargic and might need emergency veterinary care.

Anxiety or Restlessness

Dogs get anxious and restless throughout their life, and this typically isn’t a concerning experience. When you notice that your dog has been extremely restless or anxious, especially for long periods and seemingly without an obvious cause, they may be experiencing a health issue. If there are no typical causes for this behavior, such as loud unknown noises or new people in your home, consider taking them to get medical care.

female vet with a dog

Breathing Difficulty

Difficulty breathing can look different in every dog, but it’s a very common indicator of a need for emergency vet care. Breathing difficulties may cause noisy breathing in your pup. They may also cause a stretching of the head and neck. If you notice your dog’s abdominal wall moving excessively while breathing, this may indicate that breathing has become a chore. Excessive coughing may also be a signal of breathing difficulties, as well as consistent panting. If you notice any of these signs of labored breathing in your dog, be sure to get them medical care as soon as possible.

A respiratory rate of more than 60 breaths per minute while resting is a very sure indicator of a need for medical care. To determine your dog’s respiratory rate, count their number of breaths over 15 seconds, then multiply by four. If this number is greater than sixty, your dog should be taken to a vet as soon as possible.

Gum Color

Gums are a great way to know if your dog is experiencing health problems. Gums may change in a variety of ways when your dog is having an urgent health problem. One common gum change is pale gums, which signal a change in blood flow. Blue gums are also a sign to keep an eye on your dog. Jaundice, also known as yellow gums, is a very serious condition. Pale gums are a common sign of anemia or internal bleeding and should be taken very seriously. All of these gum changes may signal different medical conditions and should not be ignored.

If you notice any of these changes in your dog’s gums, be sure to get them into an emergency vet. They will be able to identify the cause of these gum color changes and decide on a proper treatment option.

Non-productive Retching

Dogs may vomit for a variety of reasons. New foods, getting into food that isn’t meant for them, and a simple upset stomach may cause your dog to puke. Puking may not always be a cause for concern, but unproductive retching is. A dog that is attempting to vomit without success should be examined by a medical professional, such as an emergency vet.

Non-productive retching is a very common sign of gastric-dilatation volvulus, also known as GDV. GDV is a very serious health condition that can be fatal if left untreated. During GDV, a dog’s stomach becomes twisted around itself, causing a blockage at each end. This blockage stops gas, liquid, and other stomach excrements from flowing through the body. This backup can be extremely dangerous for any dog and must be urgently treated by an emergency vet.

female vet holding a dog in her arms


Along with unproductive retching, bloat can be another very common indicator of GDV and should be assessed by an emergency vet. The blockage caused by GDV leads to a build-up within the stomach. This build-up causes a hard, extended abdomen. When experiencing bloat, your dog may look like it swallowed a basketball.

Unlike human bloat, canine bloat can be fatal. Dogs with this condition need to be treated within an hour for the best prognosis. If you notice any symptoms of GVD in your dog, including a bloated stomach, be sure to get them into an emergency vet as soon as possible.

Heart Rate

Just like respiratory rate, heart rate can also be an indicator of a need for emergency veterinary care. Increased or decreased heart rate can be caused by a variety of different health issues. More importantly, be sure to keep an eye out for an elevated heart rate.

In dogs, an elevated heart rate is classified as more than 160 beats per minute. This is only valid when your dog is resting and at home. If you notice your dog’s heart rate is higher than this, be sure to get them to a vet as soon as possible.


No dog owner wants their pup to experience pain and discomfort caused by an injury. Injuries can lead to infection and even worse when left untreated. Because of this, it’s important to always get your dog medical care if they become wounded.

If you notice an open wound on your dog, be sure to get them into an emergency vet as soon as possible. Even if a wound seems small, it’s best to get them checked out in case it is deeper than expected or causing your dog pain. Emergency vets can easily decide the best way to treat your dog’s wound and prevent health problems that may be caused by an untreated injury.


Dogs are vocal creatures, just like humans. They may whine, bark, howl, and growl for a variety of different reasons. While these sounds are all used to communicate, so is crying. Crying typically indicates that your dog is hurt, whether it is externally or internally.

If you notice that your dog is crying, be sure to check them for injuries or wounds. Even if you do not see any injuries, this doesn’t mean that your dog isn’t crying from pain. They may be experiencing a health condition that isn’t visible to the eye but is still causing them pain. Fractures, GDV, and many other conditions may be causing your dog pain without a sign that is visible to the eye. If your dog is crying out in pain, be sure to get them into an emergency vet as soon as possible.

male vet with a dog

Inability to Move

Dogs are very active creatures who love to jump, run, and play every single day. Even as a dog grows older, they will still move about their home and yard every day. If you notice that your dog is unwilling or unable to move, be sure to get them to the vet as soon as possible.

Some dogs may still try to move even if they are unable to do so correctly. Many dogs may drag their back legs to try and get around. When your dog begins to drag their back legs, it’s time to get them into an emergency vet.


The most serious sign that your dog needs to see an emergency vet is collapsing. Only very serious health conditions cause a dog to collapse, and these need to be addressed immediately. If your dog collapses or becomes unconscious, be sure to rush them to the closest emergency vet.

How to Find a Reliable Emergency Vet In Your Area

There are a few ways to find a reliable emergency vet without having to drive a great distance. One of the best ways to find one is to ask a friend. Friends who own animals likely have an emergency vet that they trust and have possibly used before. They can be a wealth of information in this area and put your mind at ease.

Breed clubs and canine groups are another great resource for finding reliable emergency veterinary care near you. These groups are full of individuals who love their dogs just as much as you love yours and are typically happy to provide you with reliable emergency care.

Your current veterinarian is a great resource for emergency care. All vets want to make sure that your dog is as healthy and happy as possible. They also understand that medical care may be needed outside of their typical office hours. With their networking and colleagues within the area, they are sure to provide you with the most reliable emergency vet within a short drive.

One of the best things about today’s modern age is the internet. The internet offers a wide variety of resources for all needs, including emergency vet care. If you are in a rush and don’t have time to ask those that you trust for an emergency vet, be sure to turn to the internet. You will be able to find the closest emergency vet to you and see what others have experienced in different offices. Though this may not be the same as being referred by someone you trust, finding emergency veterinary care online is a great option when needed.

male vet listening to a dogs heart

Wrapping Up

Emergency vet care is something that many pet owners don’t want to think about. Of course, no one wants to consider something bad ever happening to their dog! Nevertheless, having a reliable emergency vet in your area is one of the best things that you can do for your dog. Emergency vets allow your dog to get prompt medical care that they need in the most life-threatening of situations.

Finding an emergency vet can be quite stressful. When doing so, be sure to rely on those that you trust for recommendations. Friends and family who own dogs can be a great source for a reliable emergency vet. Dog clubs and groups can also be a great source for a variety of different emergency vets that owners know and love. If all else fails, never be afraid to turn to the internet for help in finding a reliable emergency vet near you. With a reliable emergency vet, your dog can live a long, happy life.

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