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Urgent Care vs Emergencies 

4 dogs hanging out

The Difference Between Urgent Care and Emergencies for Your Pet

As a pet owner, your furry friend’s health and well-being are of the utmost importance. However, when your pet faces a sudden health issue, it can be challenging to determine whether the situation calls for urgent care or an emergency visit. Knowing the difference between the two can save your pet’s life and ensure they receive the appropriate care in a timely manner.

What is Urgent Care?

Urgent care, also known as Sick Care, for pets, involves medical issues that require prompt attention but are not life-threatening. These situations often cause discomfort or distress to your pet and need to be addressed promptly to prevent them from escalating into more serious problems. Examples of conditions that may require urgent care include:

  • Minor cuts or wounds
  • Vomiting or diarrhea lasting more than 24 hours
  • Lameness or limping
  • Ear infections
  • Minor allergic reactions
  • Persistent coughing or sneezing

If your pet is experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to contact your veterinarian to schedule a sick care appointment. The majority of veterinary hospitals offer sick pet care appointments within their schedules and oftentimes they are “same day” appointments or within 1 – 2 days of the request. If your pet is sick we recommend calling for your appointment and sharing any photos/videos of your pet’s condition. Our experienced veterinarians are equipped to handle a wide range of urgent/sick care situations and provide the necessary treatment to ensure your pet’s speedy recovery.

What Constitutes an Emergency?

Emergency situations are those that pose an immediate threat to your pet’s life or require urgent intervention to prevent serious harm. These situations demand immediate attention and often involve severe symptoms or injuries. Some common examples of emergencies include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Uncontrolled bleeding
  • Seizures
  • Ingestion of toxic substances
  • Severe trauma (e.g., hit by a car)
  • Sudden collapse or unconsciousness
  • Signs of extreme pain (e.g., crying out, unable to move)

In these critical moments, time is of the essence. If you suspect your pet is experiencing an emergency, it’s crucial to seek veterinary care at a veterinary emergency hospital immediately. Your regular veterinarian should have emergency veterinary resources/locations listed on their website or referenced on their after-hours phone outgoing message. Once you identify the emergency hospital you are going to, call ahead to let them know you are coming, however, most take walk-ins as well.  They process emergencies based on a triage system, with the worst cases seen first.  Please be patient if you visit an emergency hospital with your pet and know they are caring for pets as efficiently as they can to make sure all are cared for. 

When to Seek Veterinary Help

As a pet owner, it can be challenging to determine whether your pet’s condition requires urgent/sick care or emergency treatment. Here are some tips to help you make the right decision:

  1. Assess the Severity: Consider the intensity and duration of your pet’s symptoms. Severe, sudden symptoms often indicate an emergency, while less severe but persistent issues may require a sick care visit.
  2. Observe Behavior: Changes in your pet’s behavior, such as lethargy, loss of appetite, or excessive vocalization, can indicate a health issue that needs attention.
  3. Trust Your Instincts: If you’re unsure about the severity of your pet’s condition, it’s always better to err on the side of caution. Contact your veterinarian for advice on the next steps.
  4. Prepare Ahead: Familiarize yourself with the nearest veterinary care facilities. Keep their contact information handy for quick access during a crisis.

Urgent/Sick Care Services

  • Diagnostic testing
  • Wound care and suturing
  • Treatment for minor infections
  • Pain management
  • Stabilization and monitoring

Emergency Services

  • Advanced diagnostics (X-rays, ultrasound)
  • Emergency surgery
  • Intensive care and monitoring
  • Poison treatment and decontamination
  • Blood transfusions


Understanding the difference between urgent/sick care and emergencies is crucial for every pet owner. By recognizing the signs and knowing when to seek veterinary help, you can ensure your pet receives the care they need promptly. We are here to support you and your pet through every health challenge, providing expert care and compassionate service. Reach out to us for any questions or to schedule an appointment, and let us be your trusted partner in your pet’s health journey.