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Your pet emergency plan

Fast action and keeping calm may be the difference between life and death for your sick or injured pet. Here are some tips for dealing with pet emergencies.

At some point in your pet's life, it's possible he or she may face a serious, life-threatening incident. It could be a car accident or a deadly bite from an insect or snake; they might have eaten something they shouldn't have or be in pain from a problem that you didn't know about. Here are our five steps for taking swift action when your pet's in trouble.

1. Look for tell-tale signs that your pet's not OK

Common situations that require immediate attention from a vet include broken bones, severe wounds, poisoning, heat stroke, paralysis ticks, and reactions to other animal and insect bites or stings. You should never delay seeing a vet if you suspect that your pet is suffering from something serious.

Broken bone

A broken bone could be visible or not, and generally indicated by pain or lameness. A suspected break or fracture will need quick review from a vet. The same applies for wounds that won't stop bleeding, and severe pain or swelling. If you know that your pet has been hit by a car or attacked by another dog, and only appears to be in shock, a visit the vet to assess injuries that might not be obvious: internal bleeding, damage to organs, or the head. Some issues may not become apparent for 12 to 24 hours post the incident.


Tell-tale symptoms of poisoning include:

  • Vomiting
  • Nosebleeds
  • Diarrhoea
  • Lethargy
  • Blood in urine

If you suspect your dog has been exposed to common dog poisons or your cat has ingested something dangerous (including some plants and certain human foods), it's essential to seek assistance. Poisoning can pass with minimal consequences but it could also be fatal and it can be immediate or take several days to affect your pet. Taking some of the suspected material along with you to the vet could assist with diagnosis and treatment.

Heat stroke

Heat stroke might be noticeable by breathing distress, very red or very pale gums, drooling, seizures, agitation, collapsing, very low urine production, shaking, and vomiting, among other symptoms.

Paralysis tick bite

If your pet is scratching, vomiting, showing signs of paralysis or muscle weakness, and/or a fever, you need to act immediately to prevent a paralysis tick bite becoming fatal.

Snake bite

Signs of a snake bite might include:

  • Collapsing
  • Muscle twitching
  • Loss of bladder/bowel control
  • Dilated pupils
  • Vomiting
  • Paralysis
  • Blood in urine

If you can identify the snake, take note of the type but don’t try to catch the snake. Testing at the vet can take place to determine the correct anti-venom.

2. Keep yourself safe

You are your pet's first responder and they rely on you to get them the help they need. To do this, you need to ensure you’re kept safe while assisting your injured or sick pet.

Consider the risk to yourself in the situation before acting.

For example, if the animal has been hit by a car, ensure that traffic is safe for you to intervene and move your pet from the road. If your pet is drowning, it’s best to try rescue from land rather than entering the water yourself. It’s recommended that you wear gloves when treating a wound, tick, or bite to prevent yourself from harm or disease. As you may be experiencing shock yourself, take care driving between home or the accident scene and the vets.

Remember that an injured or distressed pet may behave very differently to their normal selves.

They may bite in their panicked state and you’ll need to approach them gently and calmly to protect them and yourself. Using or make-shifting a muzzle may be advised with a stressed dog, provided that the animal isn’t experiencing breathing difficulties.

3. First aid for an injured pet: before going to the vet

During an emergency, the initial steps you take could save your dog or cat's life. Keep your vet's contact details in your phone and have another animal hospital on call as a back-up. In an emergency, have someone call the vet, explain the situation and await instructions on first aid and transport. Doing this will also help the clinic prepare for your pet's arrival.

4. Transport your injured pet safely

Whether it's a short trip or a long drive to the vet, you'll need to prepare your pet for a comfortable and safe ride. If you suspect that your pet’s bones are broken, keep them as still as possible. You can try splinting or bandaging injuries before moving them. If you think damage is to the spine, you can use a wooden board, the parcel shelf of your car, a thick blanket, or door as a stretcher for a large dog. Use a pet carrier to move small animals but ensure your patient has enough air. Keep them warm and in eyesight. If available, bring someone to sit in the back to monitor and reassure your pet.

Bringing something familiar to your pet like a blanket or toy could help keep them calm. Newspaper, old towels, and disinfectant are recommended to clean the car after your trip to the vet.

5. Have an action plan in place

Being prepared can mean all the difference in an emergency action plan running smoothly.

Have your plan in writing and shared with members of your household.

If you go on holiday or leave your pet in the care of someone else, they too need to have a copy of your plan and contact details of your preferred vet clinics for business hours and after hours. Part of this plan may include steps for taking your pet with you in a disaster.

Have your pet's medical records in an easy to access place, and bring these with you in an emergency.

Ensure your local authorities animal registration details are kept up-to-date with your contact details in the case that your pet gets lost and is found.

If your pet faces a life-threatening accidental injury or illness, getting them to a vet quickly and safely is crucial for their survival. Life-saving treatment, surgeries, and recovery could cost a considerable amount without pet insurance, which can help you claim up to 85% of eligible vet bills back.* With joint specified accidental injury and illness cover available, Choosi can help you make pet insurance part of your plan for dealing with pet emergencies. Get in touch with Choosi’s team of Choosers for a quote and more information.

* Exclusions, benefit limits, and sub-limits apply. An annual condition limit applies to some policies. Claim for reimbursement. Information is general. Please read and consider the relevant Policy Booklet (containing the Product Disclosure Statement, Policy Terms and Conditions, and Financial Services Guide) before purchasing for specific details of the policy’s inclusions and exclusions based on your selected level of cover.

The pet insurance information provided on this website is based only on the pet insurance policies that Choosi can arrange. Choosi doesn’t provide information or offer cover for all products available in the market and there may be aspects to some products that Choosi doesn’t compare. Information on this website doesn’t take into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. You should consider the relevant Policy Booklet for more information and to ensure the product suits your needs.

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