What to Do When Dealing with a Pet Emergency

As a pet owner, an emergency situation can arise at any moment with your pet. It is important to know what to do and where to go in the event that your pet as some sort of medical emergency.
By Matthew T
Updated Feb 8, 2021
pet emergency
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By nature, a pet emergency comes out of the blue when you least expect it. Perhaps your dog ran into the road and got struck by a car. Maybe your cat suddenly looks like it's having trouble breathing. Maybe your puppy took a drink of the antifreeze you had in the garage.

Regardless of the emergency, our pets need help as soon as possible. That can only happen when you know how to deal with a pet emergency.

Know the Animal ERs in Your Area

Just like people, animals that need emergency medical attention can't go to a veterinary office, where they will have to sit in a waiting room for hours. They need an animal ER that's prepared to diagnose and treat them immediately.

As a pet owner, make sure to have the phone numbers and locations of animal ERs in your area. Having the contact information saved before an emergency happens can save you precious seconds in getting immediate care for your pet. The sooner you can reach the animal ER, the more likely it is that your pet will survive its injury or medical condition.

Call the Animal ER so They Can Prepare

On your way to the animal ER, make your pet as comfortable as possible by wrapping it in a blanket and putting it in a safe location. Also, call the animal ER ahead of time to let them know to expect you. You will probably feel anxious. Stay as calm as possible so you can answer their questions. They will likely want to know:

  • Why you think your pet needs emergency medical services.

  • What you saw happen to your pet.

  • Whether you have already administered any first aid to your pet.

  • Whether your pet is conscious and responding to your voice.

This information will help the ER prepare for your pet's arrival. They can use what you tell them to narrow down possible medical issues and arrange the tools they need for first aid treatment. It can also save time getting your pet checked in when you arrive.

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Minimize the Possibility That Your Pet Might Lash Out

Handling an injured or sick animal can be tricky and possibly dangerous as they may feel like everything is threatening its life. A loyal dog may even try to bite you out of fear. It isn't the animal's fault. It's just in "survival mode" and trying to protect itself from other dangers.

If your pet shows any signs of aggression, try to find time to muzzle it. Most people don't have muzzles on hand, of course. You can make one from a belt or rope, though. It's much easier for dogs that have large muzzles. For cats and dogs with short faces, do your best.

If you cannot muzzle your animal before reaching the ER, tell the nurses and doctors as soon as you walk in the door. They should have a muzzle nearby. You do not want your pet to injure the people trying to help it. A bit or scratch will create more confusion and reduce the number of people focused on providing first aid to your pet.

Expected Costs of Common Pet Emergencies

The cost of treating pet emergencies can vary significantly depending on the type of animal you have, where you live, and whether the doctors find unexpected problems during treatment. Some experts say that you should set aside $5,000 to $10,000 to establish an emergency fund for your pet.

There are many variables, so take the following prices with a grain of salt.

Emergency Treatments for Dogs

Broken leg: $200 to $1,000

Wounds: $1,000

Emergency surgery: $1,800 to $3,500

Average cost: $800 to $1,500

Emergency Treatments for Cats

Broken leg: $1,500 to $4,000

Wounds: 800 to $1,500

Emergency surgery: $1,500 to $3,000

Average cost: $800 to $1,500

Pet Insurance Costs and Coverage Options for Emergencies

Pet insurance can help control the cost of life-saving services for your animal during a pet emergency. You should know your options before committing to a policy. Not every insurance policy gives you the same level of coverage.

The General Types of Pet Insurance

Pet insurance policies generally fall into two categories: accident only and comprehensive.

Accident Only Pet Insurance

As the name suggests, accident-only pet insurance helps cover the costs of treating injuries caused by accidents. You can count on it when your pet ingests a toxic chemical, breaks a leg, or gets hit by a vehicle.

Since accident-only pet insurance only covers emergencies, they usually have lower prices than comprehensive pet insurance.

Comprehensive Pet Insurance

Comprehensive pet insurance covers a much wider range of health problems that an animal might experience during its life. Although policies don't cover all illnesses, you can expect them to help you pay for the treatments needed for illnesses like cancer, diabetes, and arthritis.

Some comprehensive pet insurance policies will also help pay for:

  • Diagnostic tests

  • Hospitalizations

  • Unexpected injuries that require an ER visit

  • Prescription medications

  • Surgeries

  • Chronic illnesses

  • Alternative therapies

The conditions not covered by insurance often depend on the breed. If your dog's breed has a high risk for hip dysplasia, the policy may not cover treatment for that health problem. Every policy has its own rules, though, so you should use PolicyScout to help you find an option that meets your needs.

Making Pet Emergency Treatment More Affordable

Pet insurance makes emergency treatments more affordable in several ways. Everything depends on the policy that you choose, of course. You must pay attention to every detail before you spend money on a pet insurance policy. PolicyScout can help, but the responsibility ultimately falls on you to make an informed decision.

Costs of Pet Emergency Insurance

Pet insurance works similarly to human health insurance. You pay a monthly premium in return for the insurance company agreeing to pay a portion of your medical bill.

Pet Insurance Premiums

Pet insurance premiums cost a lot less than the premiums for human health insurance. The precise amount depends on factors like where you live and the type of animal you own. You can expect to spend about $45 per month for dog insurance and $25 for cat insurance.

Remember to compare offers from several insurance companies. One company may charge significantly more or less than others.

Pet Emergency Insurance Deductibles

The deductible you choose will have an enormous influence on the premium you pay. If you select a $250 deductible, you can expect to pay higher premiums than someone who chooses a $1,000 deductible.

The pet insurance company will not pay for any percentage of the bill until you pass the deductible. Choosing a higher deductible, therefore, gives the insurance provider lower risk.

Reimbursement Percentages

Your emergency pet insurance policy might not cover 100% of the costs above your deductible. It might pay 80% and expect you to cover the other 20%.

You have a lot of options when choosing reimbursement percentages. Not surprisingly, you pay a lower premium when you choose a lower reimbursement percentage.

Finding a Pet Emergency Insurance Policy for Your Household

You have a lot of variables to think about before buying pet emergency insurance. Get policy quotes from as many insurance providers as possible. That way, you can review your options and choose one that fits your budget and concerns. Ideally, you can find a balance that makes emergency services more affordable without paying a premium that stresses your monthly budget.