It’s 5:30pm. You just got home from a long day at work and your companion Ginger vomited on the floor. You start to panic as you are uncertain what to do. You pick up Ginger and rush back to the car and start the frantic drive to your vet. You call and tell them you are running red lights to make it there before they close because you have an emergency!
You arrive at the office and Ginger runs into the building and begins jumping on everyone. She is wagging her tail and barking at the clinic cat. You begin to feel bad because it doesn’t appear that anything is wrong with Ginger now. Maybe she just wanted to go for a car ride?
There are a few basic parameters you can check on your pets (dog or cat) to see if you are dealing with an emergency:
1) Attitude- Is your pet BAR, QAR, DEP, or just ADR? BAR- Bright, Alert and Responsive. Is Ginger bouncing off the walls? If she is very excited and happy, chances are we don’t have an issue. happy dog
Is she QAR- Quiet, Alert and Responsive? So she’s not bouncing everywhere, but she’s looking around and she responds to you when you call her. Maybe she doesn’t feel great, but typically isn’t an emergency. calm dog
Is she DEP- Depressed? If she doesn’t respond to you or doesn’t want to move around, then we could have a very serious issue and we need to get to your vet as soon as possible. depressed dog
Is she ADR- Ain’t Doin’ Right. This is where something seems wrong, but you just can’t see anything obvious. These situations usually aren’t emergencies, but are still good reasons to visit your vet if it persists for a day.
2) Gum color- Look at the area above your pet’s teeth. This area should be a bubble gum pink and moist. gum color
If the gums are white and dry, we DO have an EMERGENCY. Call your vet and begin heading over. pale gums
3) Skin tent- pulling the skin up over the shoulder blades and letting it go. The way it responds can tell you about the hydration of your pet. If the skin snaps back like a rubber band, we are doing well. If the skin goes down very slow, then we are getting dehydrated and need to go to the vet as soon as possible.
Feline skin tent
4) Swollen Face- The common reactions seen are delayed reactions. This is the facial swelling or hives. These reactions need to be seen quickly as well just to make sure they don’t progress into something worse.
swollen face dog

These four things are the quick way to check your pet to see if you need to rush to the vet’s office or whether you can wait it out a day or so.
* BAR, pink gums, quick skin tent- most likely ok to wait until morning.
* QAR, light pink gums, quick skin tent- keep a close eye over night
* DEP, pale gums, slow skin tent- need to be seen ASAP.
* Swollen face- need to be seen ASAP

This is not a complete list of everything your vet will check out when they see your pet. These are just the things I would like my clients to know before they call with an emergency. There are many different conditions that can cause these signs. The first step is recognizing when you need to rush to see a vet or when you can wait to see your vet in the morning. Later we will go into detail about the most common causes for emergencies for your pets and how we treat them.

As always, if you still have a question about being seen, do not hesitate to give your vet a call!