If your four-legged friend has pulled a muscle while chasing a ball or leaping after a feather wand, rushing them to an animal emergency hospital may not be necessary. However, if that same activity caused a fracture, your pet definitely needs prompt emergency care. Although you never want to see your pet in pain, some conditions can wait until the next morning for a veterinary appointment, while others require immediate care. Check out the following list of painful conditions in pets that can rapidly go south without prompt treatment. 

#1: Urinary tract obstruction

Any pet can develop a urinary tract obstruction, but the problem is most commonly seen in male cats because of their urinary tract anatomy. Obstructions are often the result of plugs of inflammatory material, mucus, crystals, and small stones that have formed in the kidneys and have passed down into the bladder. 

A painful cat with a urinary tract obstruction may display the following signs:

  • Urinating small amounts
  • Urinating frequently
  • Blood in the urine
  • Straining to urinate with no production
  • Urinating outside the litter box, typically on soft surfaces
  • Meowing, yowling, or crying in the litter box
  • Inability to rest
  • Hiding
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy

Urinary tract infections are incredibly painful, and can lead to a life-threatening obstruction without prompt treatment. Never wait for your pet’s urinary issue to improve on its own.

#2: Corneal ulcer

Pets with bulging eyes are more prone to developing corneal ulcers, as their eyes do not receive as much protection as those with normal anatomy. However, any pet can suffer from a poke, claw, or abrasion to the sensitive clear membrane covering the eye. An ulcer can form on any of the three corneal layers, and may worsen without immediate treatment, damaging the underlying layers. 

A pet suffering from a painful corneal ulcer may demonstrate the following signs in the affected eye:

  • Squinting
  • Excessive tearing and eye discharge
  • Rubbing the eye on surfaces, or with a paw
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Conjunctivitis

Eye problems can rapidly worsen without proper treatment and potentially lead to permanent vision loss. Also, some pets may not respond well to treatment, so if you see no improvement in your pet’s eye condition, a quick veterinary reassessment is vital.

#3: Fractured bone

Pets get into all sorts of mischief, which may occasionally result in a fractured bone. Whether through blunt-force trauma, such as a car accident, or a fall or jump from a tall surface, pets can crack or snap a bone, necessitating splinting, casting, or surgical repair. 

A pet with a broken bone often displays obvious signs, but a hairline fracture can be difficult to detect without X-rays. If you notice the following signs in your furry pal, they may have fractured a bone:

  • Limping, whether non-weight-bearing or toe-touching
  • Yelping, whining, or crying when attempting to move
  • Growling, hissing, or snapping when the affected area is touched
  • Inability to move
  • Lack of appetite
  • Redness 
  • Swelling

#4: Pancreatitis

If your pet is vomiting and refusing to eat, you hope the episode will pass on its own. Occasionally, though, these signs can be attributed to pancreatitis (i.e., inflamed pancreas). The pancreas is an organ near the stomach that is responsible for controlling blood sugar, and helping with food digestion. Although the exact cascade of events that cause pancreatitis are unknown, we typically see pancreatitis in pets who have eaten a fatty meal or table scraps, or those who are older, overweight, or a certain breed, such as schnauzers. Pets can experience an acute pancreatitis episode, or suffer from smoldering, chronic inflammation, which can make appropriate diagnosis, treatment, and management a challenge.

Pets with pancreatitis are often incredibly painful, and may show the following signs:

  • Anorexia
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Lethargy
  • Fever

The profound abdominal pain that pets with pancreatitis experience can mimic back pain, since their backs often become arched, and they tuck their bellies to protect their tender, inflamed pancreas. Without proper, prompt treatment, pets can die from pancreatitis. 

#5: Ruptured intervertebral disc

Back pain, a common problem in pets and people, can indicate a serious problem, such as a ruptured intervertebral disc. These discs, which lie between the spinal vertebrae, cushion the bones and the spinal cord from compression, grinding, or other damage. However, they are prone to rupture or herniation, particularly in long-bodied breeds like dachshunds. 

A ruptured intervertebral disc is a serious problem in pets, and requires immediate veterinary care. While a disc rupture can create varying discomfort and pain levels, nerve damage follows a predictable pattern. If you notice any of the following signs of a herniated disc in your furry pal, contact our team:

  • Back or neck pain when petted
  • Yelping, crying, or whining when attempting to move
  • Inability to jump on furniture, or scale stairs
  • Refusing to participate in normal activities
  • Wobbling in the hind end, and crossing the hind feet
  • Complete loss of hind limb function

If nerve damage is allowed to progress without treatment, your pet will be unable to empty their bladder completely, or to urinate at all. They will also lose pain perception, which can happen immediately with a severe spinal cord injury, and carries a guarded to poor prognosis for return to normal function. 

Pets find themselves in all sorts of painful pickles and, while some may not require immediate life-saving treatment, no pet should suffer. At the first hint of discomfort in your furry pal, contact our Pet Emergency Clinic and Referral Center team for rapid relief—you may also save your pet’s life.