Ocean State Veterinary Specialists

Is It an Emergency?

If you think your pet may need medical attention right now:

Call OSVS at: (401) 886-OSVS (6787)

If you are closer to Swansea, MA, call BSVES: (508) 379-1233

If you are not sure whether or not your pet has a medical emergency, please call to speak with a member of the Ocean State Veterinary Specialists team. Most often, if an attentive pet owner feels concerned, there is an issue to be addressed.

Below is a list of signs suggestive of specific emergency conditions. The list is not complete. If you are unsure whether your pet is showing signs of a serious condition, please call us for advice. If you suspect your pet may have been poisoned, please call the ASPCA poison control center at (888) 426-4435 right away.


  • Non-productive retching
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Constant coughing
  • Restlessness
  • Pale gums
  • An elevated heart rate (> 160 beats per minute at home)
  • Crying out in pain
  • Not being able to move
  • A distended abdomen
  • Extreme lethargy
  • Any significant amount of bleeding
  • Any trauma
  • Not walking
  • Dragging the back legs
  • Any toxin ingestion or poisoning
  • Squinting, bulging, or painful eyeballs
  • Bloody urine
  • Straining to urinate
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Severe diarrhea


  • Difficulty breathing
  • Open-mouth breathing
  • Panting
  • A respiratory rate over 50 breaths per minute (count the number of breaths in 15 seconds
    and multiply by four to get the total breaths per minute)
  • Excessive drooling
  • Hiding (such as under the bed, in the closet)
  • Not moving
  • Dragging hind legs or any limb, sudden weakness in a limb
  • Straining or making multiple trips to the litter box
  • Profuse or repeated vomiting
  • Sitting over the water bowl and not moving
  • Seizures or twitching
  • Extreme lethargy
  • Any kind of trauma
  • Any kind of toxicity (or if you suspect your cat ate something it shouldn’t)
  • Any string hanging out of any orifice (do not pull)
  • Any abnormal vocalizing

The evaluation of other species (small mammals, birds, reptiles, etc.) can be difficult, and sometimes what may seem like a small change can indicate a serious illness. Generally speaking, any change in basic behavior, such as increased breathing effort, loss of appetite, or lethargy/decreased movement, should prompt a call to the emergency service.

When in doubt, it is always "better to be safe than sorry," as many conditions are more successfully treated when caught early.

** Call OSVS at (401) 886-OSVS (6787) **