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How to Handle Pet Emergencies During the Holiday Season

A visit to the emergency vet on a holiday eve is no fun for you or your pet, but you can prevent holiday pet emergencies with care and planning.

October 22, 2021 5 min read
How to Handle Pet Emergencies During the Holiday Season

Simply put, the holidays are stressful times both for us humans and our pets. Schedules are disrupted, new people are visiting, and the overall frivolities can become frantic. With all the hoopla, it's easy to overlook your pet and what he might be getting into. And by then, his condition may balloon into a full-blown emergency.

You call your regular vet only to get the answering machine suggesting you contact an emergency clinic, but you're not even sure where the nearest one is. So now what?

Avoiding Holiday Pet Traumas and Emergencies

And so it goes, prevention is the cure for disasters that occur with pets during the holidays. Although challenging with all the hectic happenings, do your best to always keep an eye on your pet, including:

  • Discourage well-meaning guests from offering pets sweets and other foods that are, at best, causes of stomach upset, and at worst, poisonous.
  • Take special care when opening doors to the outside. Frazzled pets may whiz right through without you even noticing.
  • Consider keeping your pet in a crate or closed off in a room where they can be safely separated from the havoc.

Serious Accidents and Incidents

It's your worst nightmare – it's (fill in the blank) Eve, and your pet has been hit by a car, taken a serious fall, or been in a fight with another animal, and it is imperative that you take him to a vet quickly. Call the emergency vet before you leave, or better yet, take someone in the car with you who can call while you drive. Any of these incidents can result in broken bones, open wounds, or serious internal injuries, all of which need to be treated immediately.


You notice that your pet isn't his usual, jolly, and enthusiastic self. In fact, he has slithered off into a corner, curled into a ball. An emergency vet visit is imminent, and the more information you can give them, the faster they will be able to diagnose and treat your pet. Here are some things to check:


The color of your pet's gums can tell a lot about his condition. Pale, gray, or bluish gums can indicate shock, low blood sugar, or internal bleeding.


If you've never taken your pet's temperature, now may be the time to first do so. A dog's average temperature is 101 to 102 degrees, and a cat's is 100.5 to 102. Temperatures higher or lower than this indicate illness or other serious conditions.

Crying, Moaning, or Excessive Barking

Just like us humans, pets can vocalize when they hurt. This is another sign that something is wrong.

Frequent Cough

One of the key signs that a pet is having a heart issue is a cough.


Be sure to check your pet's abdomen for bloating or distension. A bloated tummy could indicate a gastrointestinal issue or, worse, internal bleeding. This indicates the need for immediate treatment.

Eye Irritation

If your pet whimpers or is constantly scratching at his eye, something is wrong. His eye may also have a clear or milky discharge. Eye issues need to be addressed quickly to prevent blindness.


All pets vomit occasionally, but occasionally is the operative word. If your pet vomits a few times in a row, there is blood in it, and he has a fever, this is an emergency, and he needs to be seen by the vet.

Excessive Fatigue

Tiredness after a hike in the woods is normal, but the exhaustion that lasts for two or more days needs intervention by a vet.


Seizures are terrifying to see and can range from short to frighteningly long in duration. Seizures require immediate treatment.

What to Do In an Emergency

If you've never used the services of a pet emergency clinic, now is the time to start. Ideally, you will have discovered the nearest emergency clinic and have the number handy. If the injury or illness looks severe, call the clinic, explain the symptoms and head out with your pet. Be sure to bring any documentation for your pet, specifically his medical and vaccine history.

Emergency Kit

It's essential to always be prepared, so put together your pet emergency supply kit. The items to include:

  1. First aid-book about pets
  2. Phone numbers: your vet, the emergency clinic, and the number of a poison control center
  3. Copies of your pet's medical and vaccine history
  4. Extra leash and collar or harness
  5. Stretch, self-cling bandages
  6. Muzzle to stem biting
  7. Pet carrier
  8. First Aid Kit

It's also a good idea to assemble a fully stocked, basic pet first aid kit for bumps, bruises, minor cuts, and so on. The things you should include in this kit are:

  • Gauze pads
  • Gauze rolls
  • Adhesive tape
  • Eyewash
  • Antiseptic wipes, lotions, or spray
  • Ice pack
  • Hydrogen peroxide – used to stimulate the pet to vomit – only used under vet or poison control supervision.
  • Thermometer
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Disposable gloves (non-latex)
  • Blanket
  • Cotton balls
  • Scissors
  • Sterile saline solution
  • Tweezers

You can assemble your pet's first aid kit items in a small suitcase or purchase a small case that can accommodate everything. Pet stores also sell pet first aid kits, and you can also purchase them online. The ones you purchase in stores and online don't include everything listed here, so it's still a good idea to assemble your own fully equipped kit.

First Aid Courses for Pets

Yes, believe it or not, there are first aid courses that teach you how to handle various pet emergencies, including seizures, administering CPR, and dealing with injuries.

Enjoying the holidays is the goal for all, but extra care for pets is needed to keep them safe and free from illness and injury.

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