South Kona Veterinary Service

​Text 808-589-8181

There are many occasions that warrant immediate veterinary care, only some of which are covered here.  The internet contains a lot of good and bad information and it can be hard to determine which is which.  Ultimately, it is your decision as to when you should seek veterinary care for your pet, so the better informed you can be, the better.

 1) Collapse.  If your dog or cat collapses suddenly (and can’t get back up), faints, or is too weak to stand, you should seek veterinary care immediately.  Healthy pets don't just collapse.

2)  Bleeding which persists for more than 5 minutes or is "squirting".  This includes cuts on paw pads, dog bite wounds, nosebleeds, etc.  Blood in the urine or stool can also be an emergency.

3)  Vomiting more than twice in one day, or vomit which contains blood.  Vomiting can be a sign of something as simple as an "upset stomach" or as serious as an intestinal obstruction which is a surgical emergency.  If your dog or cat vomits, take up his food and water for 6 hours.  If he vomits again despite not eating or drinking, he needs to see the vet.  Simple gastritis will usually subside if the stomach stays empty for 6-8 hours to rest, especially in puppies.  Use caution withholding food in dogs and cats less than 5 lbs., as they can get hypoglycemic very easily…..start with 3 hours in these pets.

4)  Diarrhea which contains blood or persists for more than 24 hours.  Black or tarry looking stools may contain partially digested blood and should be investigated.

5)  Anorexia.  If your dog or cat loses his appetite for more than 24 hours, he should see a vet.

6)  Distended abdomen.  If your dog's abdomen looks bigger than it did an hour ago, especially if he is a large breed such as a German Shepherd, Great Dane, or Golden Retriever, he could have a Gastric Torsion, or twisted stomach.   Gastric Torsion is nearly 100% fatal if not treated within 2-3 hours.  If you have a large breed dog with a distended belly, especially if he is trying to vomit and not getting anything up, get him into a clinic RIGHT NOW (I don't care if it is 3am).  Another thing that can cause a distended abdomen is fluid.  Some tumors on the spleen or liver can cause bleeding into the abdomen and are also surgical emergencies.

7)  Bluish gums or tongue (except for Chows).  Blue gums is a sign of lack of oxygen and could indicate your dog is choking, having a serious heart problem, or tracheal collapse.

8)  White or tan gums.  Your dog or cat’s gums should always be pink.  Some pets have black pigment in their mouth, so you may have to look for a non-pigmented area to judge color.  You can also look at the conjunctiva (pink part of the eye) to judge color.  White or tan can indicate severe anemia or shock.

9)  Eye problems.  Anything that causes your pet’s eye(s) to water profusely, if he is scratching at his eyes, or there is a cloudy discharge from the eye.  All eye injuries are emergencies.  Eye injuries can cause complete blindness in a matter of hours in some cases.

10)  Blunt trauma.  If your dog or cat has been hit by a car or falls from a high place (window, deck, etc.) it is best not to assume he is okay, even if he acts okay.  Trauma to lungs, kidneys, and other internal organs may not be easy to spot, but can be very serious.

11)  Facial swelling or hives are usually indicative of an allergic reaction, and can be extremely irritating.  Most allergic reactions are not life-threatening, but if the airway swells enough, breathing can become a problem.  Untreated allergic reactions may last 12-24 hours.  Would YOU want to itch and have a swollen face for 24 hours?

12)  Nonweightbearing lameness.  This means he's not just limping a little, he's refusing to use the leg at all.  Most dogs and cats will not walk on a broken or dislocated limb (if you have a Lab, maybe).  If your pet has a slight limp, restrict his exercise for a day and see if it resolves.  Call your vet and see if there is an anti-inflammatory that is safe to give your dog (Caution:  some dogs can get severe bleeding stomach ulcers with aspirin.  Ibuprofen, Naproxen, and Tylenol are all very toxic to dogs and cats.  Never give your dog or cat any pain reliever without asking your vet first!)

13)  Known or suspected toxin ingestion.  Common poisons are slug bait, transmission fluid, rodent baits, prescription and nonprescription drugs, mac nuts, bufo toads, and chocolate.  If you don't know if what your pet ate is toxic, call poison control.  In most cases, if it's toxic to an infant, it's toxic to your dog.  Emergency clinics (on the mainland or Honolulu) are also an excellent source for toxin information.

14)  Seizures.  If your dog or cat has never had a seizure before, take him in ASAP.  If your dog is a known epileptic, you may wish to watch him at home.  If your pet has more than one seizure, regardless of cause, he should see a vet.  Long seizures or multiple seizures will need to be treated in the hospital.  Not sure what a seizure looks like?  Most dog seizures involve a loss of consciousness, laying on their side shaking violently, "paddling" with their legs, chomping their jaws, and may involve loss of bladder or bowel control.  Most dogs will also have a period of confusion immediately following a seizure and may be temporarily blind (up to 20 min) or unable to walk. 

15)  Difficulty breathing or rapid breathing (other than panting due to heat).  If your pet looks like he's struggling to breath or can't catch his breath, he needs help!


            Rectal Temperature:  100-102.5 F (dog or cat)

            Respiratory Rate:  12-40/minute (not panting)

            Heart Rate:      small dog:  100-170/minute    cat:  120-220/minute

                                    large dog:  50-130/minute

*you can take your dog or cat’s pulse on upper part of the inner thigh, or feel his heart beat with your hand just behind the left front leg (if he's thin)


              ALI'I VETERINARY HOSPITAL:  329-8999

              KEAUHOU VETERINARY HOSPITAL:  322-2988

              KONA VETERINARY SERVICE:  325-6637