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Signs Your Pet May Need Emergency or Urgent Care

Emergency or Urgent Care – which one do I need?


Emergency care is generally defined as any medical condition that if left untreated can lead to imminent death, or long-term physical damage.

Urgent care is generally defined as any acute medical condition that if left untreated can cause your pet a high degree of pain and discomfort that worsens rapidly but is not life threating. An acute condition is one that came up quickly. Some chronic conditions could technically become urgent care if left untreated.

Owning a pet means that you must be ready for any situation that may arise day or night. This is because immediate veterinary care for your pet could be the difference between life and death. 

If your pet is showing signs of illness or discomfort, you need to know the best course of action. When it comes to the life of your pet, it is always better to be safe than sorry. At Santa Monica Pet Medical Center we want to help identify signs and symptoms before they escalate into a true emergency type situation. Here are signs that you should contact us and discuss if your pet may need urgent care. 

Urgent Care Conditions:

  • Limping

  • Vomiting/diarrhea

  • Sudden pain

  • Cannabis ingestion

  • Chocolate ingestion

  • Difficulty urinating

  • Severe ear infections

  • Lacerations and bite wounds

  • Eye infection/irritations

  • Skin infections

  • Blood in urine or feces

  • Severe cough

  • Lethargy/fatigue (sudden onset)

Urgent Care Appointment Information

For urgent care conditions, our team aims to get you scheduled as soon as possible. We prioritize urgent care space for existing clients but we also welcome new clients when scheduling allows. We are closed on Sunday and don’t schedule urgent care appointments after 4:30pm. Please always call first, although we prioritize urgent care appointments to get you and your pet in as soon as possible, we do not accept walk ins.


​​Seek Emergency Care If Any Of The Following Apply:


Breathing Difficulties

Panting after vigorous exercise is normal, but problems with regular breathing require attention. You should consult with your vet your pet is experiencing difficulties breathing. Also, if your pet is breathing too fast or is experiencing shallow breathing, it needs urgent care. 

Another sign that your pet needs help is if it is using the stomach muscles to aid in breathing. An increased respiratory rate can signify heart problems, pneumonia, heartworm, or more.

Lethargy and Confusion

If your pet’s behavior seems odd, pay close attention since confusion or lethargy can indicate that your pet needs medical attention. The behavior can be a symptom of severe problems such as stroke, high blood pressure, or dehydration. Having your pet examined by your vet can help prevent severe medical conditions or even death.  

Continuous Bleeding 

If your pet develops an injury and starts bleeding, you can solve the problem using first aid. Place a clean pad or bandage over the injury to stop the bleeding, but you should bring them in for a pet exam if it persists. 

Never ignore active bleeding since it could result from a traumatic or severe injury and may require surgery. Such bleeding could also be a sign of abnormal clotting or systemic disease. 

Major Trauma

If your pet experiences trauma, like being hit by a car or falling from a high place, it needs urgent care. The trauma can result in broken bones or internal injuries that may not be obvious. 

Your pet may look okay after the incident, but you need a veterinary professional to determine the condition. Internal injuries, such as lung contusions, bleeding into the chest or abdomen, and bladder rupture, are hard to detect. If not treated, the injuries can be life-threatening. 


If your pet is experiencing seizures, contact your vet immediately. Pet seizures differ based on severity, with signs such as biting and twitching indicating focal seizures. A grand mal seizure is characterized by involuntary movements, loss of consciousness, involuntary urination, defecation, and salivation. Urgent care will help determine the cause of the seizures and effective treatment.

Other signs that your pet may need emergency care include:

  • Inability to walk or stand.

  • A distended stomach.

  • Toxin ingestion. 

  • Severe vomiting and diarrhea.

  • Eye injuries.

  • Obvious pain.

  • Loss of balance.

  • Broken bones. 

Look out for excessive thirst and odd feeding behavior. 

For more signs that your pet needs urgent care, call Santa Monica Pet Medical Center in Santa Monica, California at (310) 393-8218.



For after-hours emergencies, you can visit Animal Surgical & Emergency Center in Los Angeles, California, or ACCESS Specialty Animal Hospital in Culver City, California. Alternatively, you may call (310) 473-1561 or (310) 558-6100.

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