Small animal emergency procedures

Outside normal hours the on-call Vet can be contacted via our normal phone numbers. You will be transferred automatically to the on-call Vet's mobile phone. If the phone is engaged or temporarily unobtainable (e.g. due to areas of poor reception), please try again in a few minutes or leave a message and you will be contacted as soon as the Vet becomes available.

If you have time, please read the following guidelines before ringing.


Emergency Numbers

01228 710208 (Dalston)

017684 83789 (Newbiggin)


What constitutes an emergency?

This commonly asked question is impossible to answer completely. If your pet needs emergency attention phone the Vet immediately; however, unnecessary call-outs are often distressing to pets and expensive for their owners.

Common presentations that require immediate veterinary attention would include -

  • Increased breathing rate or difficulty breathing

  • Abdominal distension (swelling) with vomiting and/or collapse

  • Animals with fractured limbs

  • Collapse or paralysis

  • Intractable pain - continuous crying even at rest/atypical aggression/unwillingness to be touched

  • Animals with significant ongoing blood loss -

    • If spontaneous i.e. not following trauma contact vet ASAP

    • If a continuous flow of blood apply firm pressure and contact vet ASAP

    • Blood dripping from a laceration is always alarming. However, firm pressure applied with a clean pad will stop bleeding in 95% of such cases within 2 minutes or so. Such wounds can then safely be dressed overnight. If blood loss continues phone vet.

  • Animals having difficulty giving birth -

    • Once strong abdominal contractions start, the first puppy should arrive within 60 minutes, the first kitten within 30 minutes.

    • Subsequent puppies or kittens should arrive every 15-30 minutes

    • If these times are exceeded or if a pup/kitten is obviously stuck in the birth canal contact vet.

    • 40% of pups/kitten come out back feet first so don't worry unless it becomes stuck.

  • Severe dehydration. Always difficult to asses at home. Dehydrated animals are very depressed, unwilling to move, not eating and often show other signs such as vomiting and diarrhoea. In most cases dehydration takes some time to develop and we would always hope to see an animal at a much earlier stage, but if your pet is unable to stand and walk short distances when encouraged and has skin that stays 'tented' when pinched you should contact the Vet. Bear in mind that pets with straightforward stomach or gut upsets will be off colour but will go for short walks if encouraged and have normal skin when pinched.

The on-duty Vet is always available to discuss any concern you might have, but it may be difficult to give advice without examining the animal. The on-duty Vet may not have immediate access to patient records or the computer system and is not able to make appointments.

Emergency Numbers

01228 710208 (Dalston)

017684 83789 (Newbiggin)


Conditions not usually requiring emergency attention (If in doubt ask the on-duty Vet)

  • An animal off its food, vomiting infrequently or passing diarrhoea, unless associated with abdominal distension or dehydration as described above. Most pets with straightforward stomach or gut upsets will be off colour but will go for short walks if encouraged and have normal skin when pinched.

  • Lameness.  If there are no obvious fractures then rest the animal overnight.

  • Minor trauma, if breathing is normal and there are no fractures or blood loss.

  • Isolated convulsions (fits). Although distressing to witness the majority of fits are one-off isolated episodes and emergency presentation to the vet usually results in examination of an apparently normal animal. Tests are normally required on a non-emergency basis. However the Vet should be contacted if -

    • The animal is or has been otherwise unwell

    • The fit lasts more than a minute or so

    • Repeated fits occur