Animal Emergency Care

How do you identify an animal emergency?

Because animals cannot speak, it can be difficult for them to communicate when they are experiencing life-threatening situations. Animals also exhibit symptoms differently from each other. In general, however, common signs that your pet needs emergency treatment include: 

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Convulsing
  • Inability to walk 
  • Extreme distress (barking, hissing, crying, etc.)
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sudden incontinence or loss of bowel control
  • Unconsciousness
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Cold extremities
  • Excessive vomiting or diarrhea
  • Foaming at the mouth

How do I prevent pet emergencies? 

Unfortunately, there’s no way to prevent accidents from happening. What pet owners can do to minimize the risk of a pet emergency becoming fatal is by helping their pets lead healthy lives before and after! Strong, healthy pets who are well fed, exercised, supervised, and loved have a better chance of surviving accidents. 

Rather than waiting for a catastrophic event to occur, give your vet a call if you notice any of your animals displaying strange, unusual behaviors. Better safe than sorry! Sometimes, a quick visit to the vet will expose illnesses that are preventable in their early stages. 

Do I return to the emergency vet for follow up care?

After the emergency operation or treatment, it’s still important to have a checkup with the vet. This is to ensure everything is healing properly, medications are being administered correctly, and your pet is not exhibiting any more problems. It’s recommended to see the same vet who operated/treated your pet for follow up care because they will know what to monitor and what complications to expect. 

We understand, however, that our location in Mission Viejo may not be the closest to your home. If you prefer to see a local vet for follow up care, we can arrange that! Just give us a call to let us know where and to whom to send the medical records. 

Where is BrightCare Animal Emergency? 

Our animal hospital is located in Mission Viejo off the 5 freeway. We’re in the Mission Viejo Marketplace across the street from a church. 

Is the BrightCare emergency animal hospital in the same location as the neurology center? 

Yes, BrightCare Emergency operates from the same building as BrightCare Animal Neurology, a specialty vet neurology center. Not to worry, this won’t affect the treatment your pet receives. We have entirely different veterinary staffs operating in the emergency room and the neurology center, so our emergency patients are separated from our neurology patients. Your pet won’t have to wait longer for treatment, but your pet will get access to the expertise and equipment of veterinary neurologists and neurosurgeons if needed. 

When should you go to the animal emergency vet?

If possible, we recommend owners to take their animals to their general veterinarian for care in emergency situations. The general vet is usually closer and has a more intimate knowledge of your pet’s health. Unfortunately, not all general veterinary clinics are open at all hours. Some of them also don’t have the equipment and diagnostic tools for immediate operation. In this case, you should go to an emergency vet in Mission Viejo who is knowledgeable and experienced in areas that your family vet is not. To learn more, head over to our page about when you should go to the animal emergency room

What do I do in case of a pet emergency?

How you react depends on the circumstance. Below are common pet emergencies and how to care for them immediately before taking your pet to the emergency hospital. 

Blunt trauma

If your pet is involved in a car accident, a fall, or any other incident that results in significant trauma to the body, remain calm and bring your pet to an emergency vet as soon as possible. Try not to move your dog or cat’s body as you transport them to the vet. Keep your animal as warm and relaxed as possible until they can get medical attention. 


Wounds that cut through an animal’s dermis are considered lacerations. They could be caused by sharp objects, bites, scrapes, etc. If your animal is bleeding, compress the injured area to reduce blood loss. There is a chance that your pet could be infected with bacteria, viruses, parasites, etc, so head to a vet for further examination immediately afterward. The vet can stitch up the wound and prescribe antibiotics. 

Poison/Foreign body ingestion

Animals are surrounded by substances that are toxic for them to consume, yet they sometimes do it anyway. Signs of your pet may be poisoned include choking, coughing, loss of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea. In this case, call your vet or the Poison Control Hotline before going to the vet. Try to think about what your animal may have consumed in the last 48 hours, so the professionals can help! Pets have the greatest chance of survival when they are treated immediately. 

Allergic Reactions

Like humans, animals can also be allergic to lots of things. Bugs, spiders, and insects can be deadly when they sting or bite animals. You’ll be able to tell if your pet has been affected if it breaks out in hives, starts swelling, scratching, whining, or has difficulty breathing. Bring your pet to the doctor immediately for treatment and medication. Left untreated, your pet will feel extremely uncomfortable or worse, go into anaphylactic shock. 


When there is a disturbance in an animal’s brain activity, it can go into a state of uncontrolled convulsions or shaking, aka a seizure. To keep your pet from hurting itself during a seizure, make sure it’s safe from stairs and sharp edges. Overheating is also a possibility, so try to keep your pet cool. Seizures that last for more than 5 minutes or multiple seizures within 24 hours require immediate medical attention. 


Here in Southern California, it can get pretty hot and dry, especially during the summer. Certain breeds (brachycephalic and thick coated animals) and dehydrated animals are also more prone to overheat. If your dog or cat is over 106° F (41° C), they are suffering from hyperthermia. This can quickly lead to organ failure if it’s not treated quickly. Give your pet water, try to keep them cool, and head over to the vet. 

What’s the difference between urgent care and emergency care?

While these terms are not mutually exclusive, they do refer to different things! An urgent care issue is one that needs to be treated promptly, such as a cut or moderate fever. The emergency room is usually reserved for life-threatening situations. At our 24/7 animal hospital, we will take care of your pet regardless. However, we do accept patients depending on how serious their case is, so animals in critical condition do take precedent.

Will I have to stay overnight at the animal hospital? 

If you cannot or do not want to stay overnight with your pet, that’s completely okay. Our caring staff will make sure your pet receives the attention and treatment it needs to heal. It can take a while for an animal’s condition to stabilize, so we can call you once your pet is ready to go home. You’re also welcome to wait in our lobby as your pet is seen by one of our vets.