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This Christmas - a phone call to the vet is free

Written By: Jane Davidson RVN

This might be stating the obvious but in the current world of telemedicine and video consults and searching Google for the answer, it’s good to know that a phone call to a vets 24/7, 365 days a year is free. Yes, FREE!

This festive season I wanted to remind you of this gift and encourage you to use it to help you if you think you might need an emergency trip to the vets with your pet. We would always prefer to spend a few minutes on the phone that will save a trip to the vets than see you later with a pet that is much sicker than it needed to be.

What is an emergency?

Emergencies with pets tend to fall into some obvious categories and these might help you understand what we would call an emergency and what we wouldn’t... BUT anything that worries you is an emergency to you so call us so we can give the help and advice that you your pet needs at that time.

Immediate risk to life if not treated straight away

You can follow the same advice as for human first aid and work through your ABC. Is there a problem with any of the following? Call the vets and be prepared to take them in as quickly as possible. Even in these situations calling your vet first doesn’t delay your visit but may give you access to some first aid that you can do to help your pet, and the vets also know you are coming and can be ready for your pet and their emergency.

  • Airway/breathing – is your pet breathing? Is it breathing normally? Is it showing a lot of effort to breathe? Call the vets and keep your pet calm
  • Cardiovascular system – if your pets heart is struggling they may be collapsed or very lethargic, they may be struggling to breathe. Call your vets and keep your pet calm
  • Also bleeding/collapse

Call your vet and be prepared to go in immediately.


If your pet has had a trauma through being hit by a car or attacked by another animal or has eaten something they shouldn’t – even if they seem well – call the vets. Some toxins are not obvious in their effect immediately. For example, raisins, grapes, onions, xylitol and more are all toxic to pets but may not make them look unwell quickly. Pets may seem well after a trauma as they are in shock and compensating for how unwell they actually are.


I’ve included rabbits as a separate entity, because rabbits are special. They are a ‘prey species’ with a lot of predators in the wild - so they know if they show that they are sick or slowing down they are more likely to be chased and hunted.

For pet owners this means that if your rabbit shows the tiniest sign that they are unwell you need to take them to the vets NOW! Rabbits get very sick very quickly and if they stop eating or toileting it’s unlikely they will manage a good recovery if not taken to the vets the same day as they became unwell.


If your pet is pregnant then having a good relationship with your vet is key and any issues with giving birth need to be reported to your vet straightaway. Ideally we would avoid moving a patient in labour so the sooner you call for advice the more likely we will be able to support a home birth.

Risk to life if not treated within a few hours

Some things don’t need to see the vet straight away but should be monitored and see the vet within a few hours of onset if not getting better. In this category are included:

  • Non-urinating cats – especially male cats
  • Adult pets with sickness or diarrhoea for 24 hours or more
  • Kittens and puppies with sickness or diarrhoea for 12 hours or more

Call the vets when you first notice they are sick and get advice, you may be able to start some first aid at home and help avoid a vet visit or help your pet get better more quickly if they need to see the vet.

Needs to be seen within 24 hours

 The following problems can sometimes visit the vet once they become chronic conditions – they have been going on for sometime. Yet they could have been made significantly better or potentially cured if they pet had visited the vet around the time they got sick.

  • Lameness (unless very severe)
  • Reduced appetite
  • Lethargy or unusual tiredness

I know some owners might think that these aren’t ‘true’ emergencies but any change in your pets behaviour should be noted and discussed with the vet to make sure it isn’t the start of something more serious and to keep your pet as comfortable and happy as possible.

They’re just not right

If you just have a worry about your pet then calling your vet will help put your mind at rest. Your knowledge of your pet is the best there is so if you notice a change get it checked out. We’d rather tell you there’s nothing to worry about than see you a bit later with a very sick pet.

This Christmas - as every Christmas - there are teams of vets and vet nurses working around the clock to provide emergency care. They want to have a quiet shift as much as you don’t want to have an emergency, but a phone call to work out if there’s a real issue or there isn’t is always worth it. Have a happy and safe festive season and remember, we’re there if you need us.

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