Animal Rescue New Orleans: When to take your pet to the emergency clinic

All of us have faced this problem. Your beloved pet is sick, but you don’t know whether you are overreacting and should bring her to an after-hours emergency clinic or wait to call your vet during normal working hours.

Our worry and fear come from the obvious — they cannot tell us when something is wrong or how serious it is.

Ease your mind and call your vet’s office even if it’s close to closing. After business hours, call the emergency room and ask to speak to a veterinarian or his assistant. Even the vet’s assistants can help you decide if an emergency visit is necessary or wise.

Obviously, any abnormalities that you notice should be reported, and a visit to your regular veterinarian scheduled as soon as possible. But there are some flags of immediate care. If you notice any of the following, get immediate attention from a vet, no matter the hour:

  • Seizures, if the pet is not already on medication for seizures.
  • Difficulty breathing, if breathing becomes either shallow or super-rapid.
  • The pet is nonresponsive, comatose, wavering or collapsing when walking.
  • Extreme pain, usually accompanied by rapid breathing and moans of pain. If you suspect pain, don’t waste time, and do not give any animal over-the counter-medication or human prescription medicines.
  • Ingesting possible poison or a medication that was not meant for the pet, or even a quantity of chocolate. Call the vet immediately or the poison control line for animals at (888) 426-4435. The line is available 24 hours a day.
  • Vomiting that continues, particularly if blood is in vomit.
  • Bleeding from mouth or rectum. If it’s only a small amount in the stool it can wait for your vet’s office to open, but if blood only, get to the vet.
  • If your pet is hit by car or other vehicle, get to the emergency clinic. While injuries may not be apparent, there could be internal injuries and/or bleeding that could be fatal if not treated immediately.

Always be prepared. Have your veterinarian’s phone number and address handy, as well as an after-hours emergency clinic phone number and address, too. Call these numbers to make sure they are correct, and put them in your cellphone and on your fridge.

Charlotte Bass Lilly is CEO of Animal Rescue New Orleans, a 501c3 nonprofit. ARNO operates a volunteer-based, no-kill shelter in the Elmwood Industrial section of Jefferson Parish and depends upon the generosity of people from all over the country who have followed since Katrina. Contact ARNO at,, or leave a message at (504) 571-1900.