Emergency FAQs

How Do I Handle an Injured Pet?

If your pet becomes injured, most of the time, pain and confusion are also associated. Here are some do’s and don’ts on assessing your pet’s injuries. Your safety is very important. You need to be careful not to be bitten or scratched. Even the most gentle of pets are unpredictable when in shock or pain. Even though it is your first instinct to comfort your pet, don’t try to hug or restrain him/her. Keep your hands and face away from your pet’s mouth. If needed, you can muzzle your dog using gauze, stockings, or a small towel. Do not place a muzzle on your dog if he/she is vomiting. Once your dog is muzzled, you can do a minimal exam to get an idea of his/her injuries and determine how bad they are. If your injured pet is a cat, try to put him/her in a cat carrier or a pillow case for transport to the ER hospital. If your pet appears to have an injury that needs to be stabilized (ie. a broken limb), try to stabilize your pet before moving them for transport. You can use a board or stick with gauze or stockings to stabilize a broken leg. During transport to the ER hospital try to limit the amount of activity your pet has access to. Keep him/her confined with a leash or carrier to prevent further injuries. You can use a large blanket or rug to act as a stretcher for larger dogs if they are unable to walk. It is useful to the medical staff to know your pet’s medical history. If possible bring any medical records you have available with you, when you take your pet for emergency treatment. .

How do I take my pet's temperature?

Gently insert a rectal thermometer, lubricated with Vaseline or K-Y Jelly, approximately 1-2 inches into the anus beneath the tail. Normal readings are roughly around 100 -102º F. A high temperature may mean your pet has an infection, or severe inflammation. However, heavy exercise, excitement or laying in the sun on a hot day can also elevate the temperature. Subnormal readings can indicate weakness and lethargy, but don’t be fooled by cold weather or after-nap chills. If your pet has a temperature greater than 103-104º F they should be seen by a veterinarian.

How do I take my pet's pulse?

Lightly press your fingertips against the upper inner thigh of pet. You can also place your hand against the chest behind left front leg to feel the heart. The normal resting dog heart beats between 80 and 150 times/minute. Cat heart rates are faster and normal ranges are between 160-190 beats per minute. Rapid heartbeats can indicate pain, heart disease or shock, especially if the pulse is weak. If your pet faints or has seizures, slow heart beats can also point to disease. As with temperature, levels are lower with rest and higher with exercise and excitement. If your pet’s pulse falls either above or below these ranges please consult your veterinarian.

How do I check my pet's gum color?

Lightly press your fingertips against the upper inner thigh of pet. You can also place your hand against the chest behind left front leg to feel the heart. The normal resting dog heart beats between 80 and 150 times/minute. Cat heart rates are faster and normal ranges are between 160-190 beats per minute. Rapid heartbeats can indicate pain, heart disease or shock, especially if the pulse is weak. If your pet faints or has seizures, slow heart beats can also point to disease. As with temperature, levels are lower with rest and higher with exercise and excitement. If your pet’s pulse falls either above or below these ranges please consult your veterinarian.

How do I know whether my pet’s symptoms require emergency evaluation?

We at NVRH are fully staffed 24 hours a day and we are more than happy to evaluate your pet, even if it turns out to be a non-emergency case. In general we recommend that if your pet is very lethargic, has not eaten in 24 hours, is vomiting or having large volume or bloody diarrhea that he/she should be seen. We also recommend that any collapse, trauma, allergic reaction, straining to urinate/defecate, breathing difficulty or bleeding patients be evaluated. Though it is very difficult for us to tell based on a phone conversation, you can always call to ask if the symptoms you are seeing are concerning. The bottom line is that you know your pet the best and if you are concerned we are more than happy to evaluate him or her for you, even if it is to set your mind at ease!

What do I do if my pet is vomiting?

Vomiting can occur for many reasons. It may be of little consequence, or it may be life threatening. Only you can decide how distressed your pet is and when immediate veterinary care is indicated. If your pet is alert, active, not distressed and vomits only a few times, conservative management at home may be sufficient. Do not offer anything by mouth for 4 to 6 hours, and then offer small amounts of water or ice chips. If there is no vomiting offer a small amount of bland food 12 hours after vomiting has stopped. If vomiting persists see your veterinarian. Vomiting can be an emergency and the pet should go to the veterinarian immediately if any of the following signs are present: the animal is distressed; there is blood in the vomit; the pet ingested medication, a foreign object, toxic material, or toxic plants; there is non-productive retching and/or vomiting; there is a swollen belly; there is weakness, lethargy or collapse; if the gums are pale, bluish or dark red; if the pet has a pre-existing disease; or if there is a fever (>103°F) or a low body temperature (<100°F).

What do I do if my pet is having a seizure?

If an animal is having a seizure, do not move him unless the animal is in an unsafe area such as near stairs, furniture or dangerous objects. If the animal is at risk of falling, set up a barricade with pillows and blankets. The majority of seizures in pet's are the “grand mal” type. The animal is usually on his side and the legs are paddling. There may be vocalizing, drooling, abnormal facial movements and loss of bladder and bowel control. The animal will not be aware of its surroundings. Accurately time and record the length and severity of the seizure. Keep the environment quiet. All animals should be evaluated by a veterinarian if the seizure was a first time occurrence. If your pet has a history of seizures, immediate veterinary care is needed if a seizure lasts more than 2 minutes or the animal is having several seizures in a day. If your pet is concurrently being treated for diabetes and experiences a seizure we recommend administering a small amount of Karo syrup or sugar water in case the cause of the seizure is low blood sugar. Do not attempt to make the animal swallow if he is unconscious. Bring your pet to the veterinarian immediately.

What do I do if my pet ate something poisonous?

Please click the link below for the Poison Control Center. You will be charged for their service, however it is essential in the care of your pet. Please bring the reference number to the hospital with you to aid the veterinarian in appropriate therapy. Signs of poisoning are varied, often non-specific, and may be delayed depending on the type of toxin ingested. Some common sources of poisoning are: medications, household cleaners, insecticides/pesticides, chemicals and plants. If you know an animal ingested something that might be toxic, call Poison Control immediately and bring the animal to the veterinarian. NEVER INDUCE VOMITING WITHOUT THE ADVICE OF A VETERINARIAN. Certain toxins can cause more damage or complications if vomiting occurs. Whenever possible bring the container or label of the product ingested, or if it was plant material such as mushrooms bring a sample with you to the veterinarian.

Link: Poison Control Center Website

What are hotspots?

Hot spots (acute moist dermatitis) are seen more frequently in dogs than cats. These lesions are due to self inflicted trauma (licking, scratching, biting) that is set off by a skin irritant. Causes of irritation include fleas, allergies, insect and tick bites, skin infections and grooming complications. Typically, the lesions are moist, red, very tender and itchy, and have a foul odor. Hair loss may or may not be present and often the extent of the lesion is not seen if the pet has a thick hair coat. Lesions can be in multiple areas and grow rapidly in size. Treatment includes stopping the irritation and itching, controlling infection and removing the inciting cause when possible. For initial home care, clean the area with tepid water and a mild veterinary approved disinfectant solution. Most importantly, prevent the animal from continued scratching or chewing at the area. Cool compresses may temporarily relieve the irritation but usually an oral or topical mediation prescribed by your veterinarian is needed. Drying agents as well as antibiotics and anti-inflammatories may be recommended by your veterinarian.

What do I do if my pet is suffering from heat exhaustion?

Heat exhaustion or heatstroke (more severe form of overheating) occurs when an animal cannot keep its core body temperature within a safe range (< 106°F). This is also always a medical emergency, and your pet should be seen as soon as possible. Environmental (temperature, humidity, shelter, lack of water), physical (breed, age, weight, exercise), and medical (medications, pre-existing illness) factors contribute to the development of heatstroke. pet's left in warm cars for even a few minutes are at high risk of developing heatstroke. Severity of signs depends on how severely the body temperature is elevated, duration of exposure to adverse conditions, and any pre-existing conditions. Signs may include: restlessness, excessive panting, brick red gums, lethargy, weakness, wobbly gait, vomiting and diarrhea. Progression to blindness, seizures, collapse, coma and death may occur. Treatment must start immediately. Remove the animal from the heat and continuously wet down the animal thoroughly by spraying or pouring cool water over the animal. If available use a fan to help cool the animal while it is wet. If possible, take the rectal temperature and stop cooling measures when the temperature is 103°F. Once you begin cooling measures, take your pet to a veterinarian immediately. Continued cooling (air conditioning) in the car is appropriate.

What do I do if my pet was sprayed by a skunk?

Try this recipe:
32 ounce bottle of hydrogen peroxide
1 cup vinegar
1/2 cup baking soda
1 tablespoon liquid dish soap

Combine ingredients in a gallon of warm water. Sponge onto animal, allowing mixture to soak to the skin. Allow your pet to air dry, and do not keep mixture bottled up. Repeat application if necessary.

How do I remove a tick from my pet?

Using tweezers, grab the tick as close to the skin as possible. Pull the tick out using a steady, straight motion. Do not apply any caustic agents, alcohol, or fire to your pet. Dispose of the tick by squishing in a tissue or by flushing down the toilet. You can apply antiseptic ointment to the site. If any parts of the tick remain in your dog, you can have your regular veterinarian evaluate the site if it becomes painful and inflamed.

What if my pet is straining to urinate?

Urinary blockage is usually a complication seen in male cats, and occasionally dogs. The obstruction is usually caused by mineral plugs or stones that block the urinary outflow tract (urethra). Early signs of a possible urinary blockage may include straining to urinate but producing little to no urine, crying/vocalizing when urinating, small drops of blood, excessive licking at the prepuce or vulva, frequent trips in and out of the litter box (cats) or frequent need to go outdoors (dogs). Urinary obstructions will cause the waste products, which are normally cleared from the body via urine, to build up in the blood. This will subsequently cause your pet to exhibit some or all of the following clinical signs: vomiting, weakness, lethargy, disorientation, collapse and death. The inability to urinate is a life threatening emergency that must be dealt with quickly. If you notice any abnormalities when your pet is urinating go to the veterinarian immediately.

What if my pet has diarrhea?

Diarrhea can present with many different signs. (Note: Sometimes pet's that appear to be straining are sore from diarrhea rather than from constipation.) If your pet has diarrhea in addition to weakness, pain, vomiting, or agitation please have them seen by a veterinarian immediately. Hemorrhagic, or bloody diarrhea could be a sign of colitis or something much more serious. It usually requires emergency medical treatment and should be seen by a veterinarian. You may be required to bring your animal in for medical attention if the diarrhea persists for more than 24-48 hours or if there are concurrent symptoms (vomiting, weakness, lethargy, appetite loss, abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea). Chronic or frequent episodes of loose stool may be a sign of Inflammatory Bowel Disease or a more severe underlying medical condition which often requires veterinary attention.

What if my pet has difficulty breathing?

Animals can have difficulty breathing for a wide range of reasons, including foreign bodies, heart disease and infections. If your pet is breathing fast, coughing, or has increased effort with each breath, please have them seen by a veterinarian immediately to determine the cause and to initiate effective treatment for your pet. All coughing puppies, especially newly acquired puppies, should be evaluated for signs of pneumonia.

What should I do if my pet has cuts or bite wounds?

Cuts should always be evaluated by a veterinarian to treat for infection, and evaluate damage to deeper tissues. Flush the wound with warm water or saline. We recommend flushing with enough fluids to remove all dirt and debris from the area. If your pet is in pain, please see a veterinarian for treatment. If there is bleeding, try to apply direct pressure with a clean dry cloth or towel. A bandage can be applied to a wound on a limb if the bleeding will not stop. Do not to apply the bandage too tightly or you will cut off circulation to the limb. Bite wounds will generally become infected, so it is usually necessary to have your pet evaluated by a veterinarian and started on appropriate antibiotic therapy. Any wound to the chest or abdomen, regardless of the size, has the potential to penetrate into the body cavity causing severe infection. Apply pressure if there is active bleeding with a light bandage (use caution not too wrap the limb too tightly, as this could cut off circulation) and have them seen by a veterinarian. If your pet does not have any apparent wounds, but is acting lethargic, weak, having difficulty breathing and/or seems to be in shock, please have them seen immediately for therapy. Remember, not all wounds are seen on the outside of the body.

What should I do if my pet starts choking?

Be sure to protect yourself and the animal since they may be frantic and likely to bite. If your pet is choking, immediately check the mouth for signs of a foreign object, being careful not to get bitten. If your pet is still passing some air, it is best to take them to a veterinary facility immediately so the object can be removed under sedation with proper instruments. If your pet is not able to pass any air, you can try to remove the object, or dislodge it carefully. If the object is not visible you can try a modified Heimlich maneuver by standing behind your animal, balling your fists under the sternum, and using gentle (but firm) upward thrusts to force air into the lungs to dislodge the object. Even if you are able to dislodge the object yourself, always seek veterinary care after the incident to make sure there are no complications. If your pet has an object lodged in the esophagus, we generally see difficulty swallowing, hypersalivation, and confusion. If noted, please have your pet seen by a veterinarian to remove the object from the esophagus. Esophageal foreign bodies are a true emergency as they can cause severe damage to the lining of the esophagus.

What should I do if my pet eats chocolate?

Please estimate the amount of chocolate and the type (baking vs. semisweet vs. dark chocolate or coffee) and call a veterinarian or animal poison control. Clinical signs will occur within 1-4 hours after ingestion. We see clinical signs varying from vomiting, diarrhea (with secondary pancreatitis in severe causes), to neurologic signs which include stumbling gait, weakness or hyperexcitability, seizures to coma, and occasionally cardiac arrhythmias. We recommend that you induce vomiting within 2 hours of ingestion and have your pet evaluated by a veterinarian.

What should I do if my pet has a broken toenail?

To stop the bleeding, you may pack the nail with styptic powder, cornstarch, or white ivory soap. You or your veterinarian may need to trim the rest of the nail off to prevent further pain, bleeding or infection. Occasionally, a nail that breaks off very close to the nail bed may create an infection in the toe that will require antibiotic treatment. Seek veterinary advice for any limping that persists longer than 1-2 days.

What is GDV (Bloat)?

Bloat, or gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV), is a condition in which the stomach rotates on its own axis thereby cutting off the entrance and exit points to the stomach. The stomach is not able to empty and will become distended with gas. This process will cause severe pain, and will compromise the circulation to the stomach and other major organs in the abdomen. This can lead, very quickly, to shock and eventual death. Bloat can occur rapidly; a dog can be dead within hours of the stomach distention. Any time bloat occurs, it is very serious. Symptoms include retching, or attempts at vomiting with nothing produced (occasionally they may bring up small amounts of foamy fluid); a hard, distended abdomen; and severe abdominal pain. If you observe any of these symptoms in your dog, he must be transported to a veterinarian immediately. This is a true emergency and will necessitate emergency surgery.

How can I tell if my pet is having an allergic reaction?

Allergic reactions can cause a variety of clinical signs including swelling and redness around the eyes, eyelids, muzzle, nose and ears. In more severe cases of allergic reactions, clinical signs can include generalized hives, severe facial swelling and difficulty breathing. Reactions can occur for a variety of reasons including insect bites/stings, food allergies, and reactions to vaccinations. Many times it is impossible to determine the underlying cause of the reaction. Most animals will need to see a veterinarian to receive the initial allergy medications by injection but call your veterinarian for advice regarding home vs. clinic treatment. Your veterinarian may advise to have antihistamines available at home for any future incidents.

How can I plan for an emergency?

It’s good to know your primary care veterinarian’s policy on emergency care for regular practice hours, and after hours. What do they recommend that you do? Know our location. Put an NVRH magnet on your refrigerator or write the number in your address book. If your pet has an ongoing medical problem that could result in a sudden emergency, keep pertinent medical records readily accessible to bring with you in case of an emergency. It is helpful if the emergency veterinarians can review your pet’s medical records.

What information should I bring with me to the hospital?

Any medical records you may have along with a list of any medications your pet is taking. If your pet is on a special medication or diet, please bring those items with you in case your pet may need to be hospitalized.

Do I need an appointment for emergency care?

No appointment is needed. We are an emergency facility and triage our patients when they arrive (Triage means that the most life-threatening cases will be seen first). When more than one pet arrives at the same time, the most critical will get examined first. Sometimes this means that an examination in progress may be interrupted or a less critical patient may have to wait, while the veterinary staff tends to another patient. Please be assured that we will work as quickly as possible to provide your pet with the care they need.

Can I visit if my pet needs to be hospitalized?

We encourage owners to visit their pet's. Visits from family members relieve stress for both owners and patients. However, we may have to set limitations on your visitation, depending on the needs of your pet. Feel free to discuss the best time for your visit with your pet’s doctor. The doctor’s will be available to provide an update on your pet during the hours of 10am-Noon and again from 10pm-Midnight. If your pet has a potentially communicable disease and is staying in our isolation room, you may not be allowed regular visitations due to the high risk of contamination.

How can I avoid an emergency situation with my pet?

Follow your veterinarian’s advice regarding all relevant wellness care. Prevent traumatic injury by keeping pet's under control at all times.
Some examples include:

- when your pet ventures outside, always keep it on a leash.
- never leave your pet alone in an unattended car.
- pet proof your home by removing all potential hazards from your pet’s reach.

If your pet is coping with a chronic illness, carefully follow your primary veterinarian’s recommendations regarding medication administration and check-ups.

Will it cost more when I come to the emergency clinic versus my primary veterinarian?

Like your primary care veterinarian, there are many factors that go into how fees are determined. Upon arrival at our hospital, your pet will be immediately evaluated by our trained emergency staff. At that time, you would be charged an emergency fee that includes the veterinarian’s initial examination.

General FAQs

What kind of services do NVRH provide?

NVRH is a state of the art clinic that provides 24-hr care. Our services include in house blood machines, ultrasound, digital radiography, oxygen supplementation, blood transfusions and surgical services. In addition to our Emergency Veterinarians, our staff includes a residency-trained Criticalist, two Surgeons and a specialist in Internal Medicine.

Will my regular veterinarian be informed of my pet’s visit to NVRH?

Yes. A copy of your pet’s medical record, including any diagnostics, will be sent to your regular veterinarian.

Who do I follow up with after my pet is discharged?

NVRH encourages you to follow up with your regular veterinarian for ongoing care and treatment after discharge.

What happens if my pet has to be admitted into the hospital?

You will be presented with an estimate, which includes a release giving us consent to treat your pet. A deposit is required prior to any medical, surgical, or emergency care being provided. You will be personally updated by the attending veterinarian overseeing your pet’s care each day.

What are the fees?

The cost of veterinary care will vary depending on the care your pet needs, the length of stay and other medical concerns, such as the age or other conditions your pet may have. At the time of your visit, our doctors will discuss the best treatment options for your pet’s condition. We will provide you with a detailed estimate for your pet’s care at that time. Our goal is to work with you as a team to provide the best quality care for your pet at a reasonable cost and within your financial budget. Full payment is expected at the time services are rendered.

How long will my pet’s appointment take?

Initial appointments usually take 45 minutes to 1 hour depending on your pet’s condition. Recheck exams usually only take about 30 minutes.

Emergency Exams: Just like human emergency rooms, our pet patients are triaged (examined in the order of the severity of their condition), so wait time will vary depending on how many pet's require emergency care at the time of your visit.

What should I expect during a referral appointment?

New clients should arrive 15 minutes early to check in. A technician will obtain a brief medical history and your pet’s vital signs. The veterinarian will examine your pet and discuss your pet’s condition and further diagnostic and therapeutic options available. You will be provided with a cost estimate.

How do I make an appointment with a specialist?

Our Internal Medicine Specialist and surgeons see patients on referral from your primary care veterinarian. You or your veterinarian may schedule the appointment by calling 570-208-8844 during regular business hours, Monday – Friday. Remember no appointment or referral is necessary for our emergency service.

Why doesn’t NVRH offer routine services such as vaccinations and parasite preventatives?

NVRH exists to provide care and emergency services to dogs and cats. We work with each pet’s primary veterinarian to ensure that the highest level of care is available at all times. Our doctors strongly believe in the importance of the relationship that exists between a pet and their primary veterinarian. The primary veterinarian plays the same role for an animal that a family physician plays in caring for your family. As such, they are often in a better position to care for your pet. Because we believe so strongly in the role that the primary veterinarian plays in caring for your pet, we have created a policy which prevents us from offering services that your primary veterinarian could provide. Although pet owners sometimes see this as an inconvenience, the benefit to each pet far outweighs this inconvenience.

What do I do if my pet is pregnant?

The gestation period of most animals is approximately 58-64 days. Fetal skeletons can be evaluated by x-ray after 45 days. We recommend a survey radiograph to see how many kittens or puppies you should be expecting. At the time of birthing, we generally see most mothers nesting and seeking isolation, and they should be kept as calm and comfortable as possible. Expect a puppy every 45 to 60 minutes. Generally, there are 10-30 minutes of hard contractions with each puppy. If the mother is having frequent and hard contractions for over an hour, or if she takes longer than 4 hours between puppies (given you know how many babies she is having), she should be seen by a veterinarian. Cats tend to queen a litter faster than dogs. They can occasionally take up to 24 hours to birth an entire litter, however cats tend to not have as much difficulty birthing unless they are young or nervous.

Puppy/Kitten Care: Help clean the airways and remove the sac around the kitten or puppy to make sure they are breathing. Immediately place them back with their mother to be cleaned and start nursing. You should seek IMMEDIATE veterinary attention if the mother shows any of the following clinical signs:

•She appears to be in pain.
•She is having strong contractions for 30-60 minutes without a baby produced.
•Greater than 4-6 hours between babies. (If you are expecting more puppies)
•There is a puppy (or kitten) stuck in the birth canal. (Please do not attempt to remove yourself)
•More than 65 days have passed since breeding.
•If she passes a green-colored or malodorous discharge from the vagina.

Will the veterinarian contact me and let me know how my pet is doing?

Yes. The veterinarian will contact you between 10am to noon and 10pm to midnight to give an update on your pet’s progress. They will discuss any changes in condition, further diagnostics that may need to be performed, and treatment plans.

Does your clinic offer payment plans?

Unfortunately no, NVRH cannot accept any payment plans. We do offer Care Credit which is a credit card that you can apply for over the phone or online. Approval takes just a few minutes. Click on the link and follow the instructions.

Link: Care Credit Website

If you need further assistance, our Client Services team can help you.

What happens after I arrive with my pet?

Upon arrival at our hospital, your pet will be assessed, a history will be obtained, and the doctor will perform a comprehensive examination before making recommendations for treatment. A treatment plan will be discussed with you at this time and you will be given an estimate for the cost of services. We will do our best to work within the budget you have established for your pet’s needs.

Will my pet be alone?

NO! That is why we are here, to be with your pet when your regular veterinarian is closed. We always have a doctor and caring nurses on premises whenever your pet is hospitalized. We will take care of any needs that may arise during their hospitalization.

What happens if my pet passes away?

In the unfortunate event that your pet cannot survive the illness or trauma it has suffered, we offer painless euthanasia and cremation services. You may also choose to privately care for your pet after it is deceased.

Our Location

Northeast Veterinary
Referral Hospital

242 South River St. Suite 200
Plains, PA 18705


Refferal Hours

Mon - Thur:   8am - 6pm

Friday:   8am - 6pm

Saturday - Sunday:   Closed


Emergency Hours:   24/7


Emergency Walk-Ins Welcome

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