Puppy with an injured paw

It can be hard to know when a gimpy pet means an emergency. It never fails, your dog or cat always gets hurt at the most inconvenient time. Your regular vet may not be open, or you might have a long list of things to do.

Limping can mean a lot of things: a sprain or strain, a broken or dislocated bone, an infection, a cut, something stuck in the paw, an insect bite, even cancer. So how do you know if it is an emergency or if it can wait until a more convenient time? Here are a few things to consider when you are unsure if your pet needs to be seen immediately:

Is your pet acting normal otherwise?
A pet that is happy, eating well, and going about its normal routine is much less likely to have a serious problem than one that is not eating, hiding, or depressed. This rule is not fail-proof, however. If you have any questions, do not wait to have your pet seen.

Is your pet bearing any weight on the limb?
A pet that is not putting any weight at all down on the affect foot may have a much more emergent problem than one that is just nursing the limb some of the time.

Did the problem happen suddenly or has it been going on for awhile?
A problem that has been smoldering for a few weeks is less likely to be an emergency than one that comes on suddenly

Is your pet bleeding?

Do you feel any swelling or see any obvious abnormalities?
If there your pet has an open wound (including punctures or bites) or you can visually see that something is not right, it is best to have your pet evaluated as soon as possible.

Do you have any doubts?

The general rule is better safe than sorry. If you think that something might be an emergency, don’t hesitate to call your vet.

Although tempting, refrain from giving your pet medications including human medications like aspirin, Tylenol, or ibuprofen. Not only can these medications mask important symptoms making diagnosing your pet difficult, many of them are toxic.