Illness or injury of a pet is worrisome for owners. As much as we provide good care and try to protect our pets, accidents and illness do happen.

Illness or injury of a pet is worrisome for owners. As much as we provide good care and try to protect our pets, accidents and illness do happen.

Initially, you should determine the degree of seriousness. You wonder if this warrants an immediate rush to the nearest vet or if it is OK to wait to seek veterinary attention. At this point, I want to impress on you that if there is any doubt, contact your vet and be prepared to take the pet there immediately.

Thankfully, most injuries or medical problems are not emergencies and you can wait to consult your vet about appropriate action to take. Common sense is your best guide. In both humans and animals, if your pet is in distress, first aid advice is to evaluate the "ABC's:" Airway, breathing and circulation.

Serious circumstances, requiring immediate attention are blockage of the airway by a foreign body, respiratory distress with gasping for breath and a blue tongue, and bleeding that will not stop. Other significant symptoms are inability to urinate or move bowels, severe, unrelenting pain, continuous vomiting or diarrhea, loss of balance and collapse and seizures. If your pet has been hit by a car (even if they seem to be OK), have penetrating wounds, especially on the chest or abdomen or if they have ingested toxic substances such as rat poison, antifreeze, household chemicals etc. they should be taken for evaluation immediately.

For after-hours circumstances, some veterinarians only handle emergencies with their own clients, or they do not offer evening and weekend services and refer to an emergency clinic. Find out how your vet deals with emergencies and write down pertinent phone numbers, address and directions. There are several emergency clinics in the Kansas City area. These have veterinary staff available 24/7 to care for your pet. Locate their address and phone number in advance to be prepared.

In extreme situations, you may have to provide immediate first aid. For serious bleeding, apply direct pressure to the wound. If it is arterial, you may have to apply pressure above the wound to block the artery flow. Attempt to remove any object that the pet is choking on by sweeping your finger through the back of their mouth and pulling it out. If this is unsuccessful, lift and suspend him with the head pointed down and administer a sharp blow with the palm of your hand between the shoulder blades.

If an object is completely obstructing the pet's breathing, you can do a modified Heimlich maneuver as follows: grasp the animal around the waist so that the rear is nearest to you, similar to a bear hug. Place a fist just behind/below the ribs, hold the pet against your body and compress the abdomen several times (usually 3-5 times) with quick pushes and then check the mouth to see if the foreign object has been removed. This maneuver can be repeated one to two times.

If you suspect poisoning, and are unable to contact a vet, try to identify the ingested material and call the SPCA poison emergency center 24 hours a day, 365 days a year at 888-426-4435. A $60 consultation fee may be applied to your credit card. In the absence of professional advice, do not induce vomiting if your pet consumes an acid, alkali, solvent or heavy-duty cleaner; is comatose, swallows a petroleum product, ingests tranquilizers, has eaten sharp objects or if more than two hours have passed since the poison was swallowed. A simple way to induce vomiting is to give one-half to one teaspoonful of salt, placed at the back of the tongue…and wait five minutes.

The information above is to inform and reassure you about evaluating pet emergencies so that you can make informed decisions about action to take. You should always consult a veterinarian for professional advice.

Anne can be reached at