Explanation: Your Pet Is Critically Ill With These Symptoms

Many owners are not sure what is a real problem for their animals and what is not. Pet Reader gives advice and explains what’s important.

First of all: it is impossible to say unequivocally whether the dog is an emergency and urgently in need of medical attention. Because this, of course, also depends on the age of the animal, the diseases it suffered, and many other factors and, therefore, is not always as straightforward as you think.

However, there are symptoms that you should always visit your veterinarian or clinic with your pet immediately:


Breathing is the central mechanism that supplies oxygen to the body and keeps your animal alive. A choking animal is always an emergency. Heart disease, poisoning, infections, allergies, or foreign bodies in the throat or trachea can cause your pet to breathe poorly – from the list, you can tell that there can be many reasons.

Therefore, your veterinarian will need expensive diagnostics such as x-rays, ultrasounds, and possibly endoscopy or computed tomography to figure out what is wrong with your animal. However, before all these examinations, your animal must be stabilized.

You can recognize the shortness of breath by rapid and rather shallow breathing. Shortness of breath is another sign, which means that your animal uses the abdominal muscles more intensively to breathe. If the mucous membranes of the mouth or tongue turn blue, there is an acute danger to life. Then the oxygen supply to the tissues ceases to be sufficiently guaranteed.

Abdominal Pain

If an animal has severe abdominal pain and becomes lame (“circulatory depression”), this is the so-called “acute abdomen”.

A sharp abdomen can also have a variety of causes, including a twisted abdomen, inflammation of the pancreas, or even kidney failure. A sharp stomach is usually accompanied by other symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, or the inability to urinate. Even with an acute abdomen, there is a danger to life – and even with quick treatment, it does not always end well for the animal.


For severe bleeding, open injuries, or fractures of the extremities, always contact your veterinarian directly. You can recognize fractures when your animal no longer wants to use a limb and it may be positioned at the wrong angle.

Please do not judge such bones yourself, it can only exacerbate the damage! Make sure your animal can no longer move a lot to avoid further injury from possible sharp bone ends. As a general rule, the entire animal should be examined once after a major accident. Your veterinarian will do a chest x-ray and abdominal ultrasound to make sure internal injuries are not overlooked.


Single short seizures lasting a few minutes are always frightening for pet owners and should be diagnosed by a veterinarian – this is not an emergency, though. On the other hand, emergencies are so-called “clusters”, that is, several attacks that occur one after the other.

The most dramatic and serious is status epilepticus. This is a seizure that lasts more than five minutes and the animal usually cannot get out of it. These animals lie on their side and can no longer be fought with. Cluster seizures can also result in “status epilepticus”.

Your veterinarian will first try medication to get your pet out of the cramp. If this is not possible, the animal is anesthetized for a longer period of time to protect the brain from damage. This is followed by a comprehensive diagnosis with blood and imaging tests such as ultrasound and MRI to find out the cause of the spasm.

Pale Mucous Membranes

Love to regularly look a dog or cat in the mouth – not only at the teeth but also at the mucous membranes. If you know the “normal” color of your animal’s mucous membranes, you will quickly notice the change.

Pale mucous membranes indicate that your pet has circulatory problems. And even with anemia, that is, anemia, the mucous membranes are no longer as beautiful pink as they should be. Anemia can also develop if your animal is chronically bleeding, for example, if it has stomach bleeding. Certain infectious diseases and tumors also cause anemia.

If your animal has pale mucous membranes, it could lead to fainting. Therefore, you should always contact your veterinarian directly if you notice this symptom in your animal.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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