When Do Respiratory Symptoms Warrant A Prompt Trip To The Vet Hospital?

If your cat or dog is displaying respiratory symptoms like sneezing or occasional coughing, you can often call the vet and make an appointment for a few days in the future. But sometimes, respiratory symptoms are more serious and do require more urgent care at a vet hospital or veterinary emergency center. So what are the signs that your dog or cat can't wait? Take a look.

Coughing Up Blood

Coughing a little here and there definitely indicates illness or allergies, but it's not an emergency. However, that all changes if your pet starts coughing up blood. Even if it is just a small amount of blood, the presence of blood could indicate that the airways are bleeding, which could cause the lungs to fill up with blood, eventually suffocating your pet. Coughing up blood can also indicate pneumonia, or it may be an indication that your pet has swallowed something poisonous. In any case, you can't wait to seek care once this symptom appears.


Most pets, even when ill, maintain close to their normal energy levels. A slight decline in energy is pretty normal and expected, but if your pet is downright lethargic and not wanting to move, that is another story. Lethargy is usually a sign of a high fever, which typically indicates there is a serious infection that needs treatment ASAP.

Breathing With an Open Mouth

Cats and dogs really prefer not to breathe through their mouths. If you do see your pet breathing with an open mouth, that means they are really struggling to breathe. Their airways may be closing, or there could be something obstructing their nasal passages. In either case, they will need oxygen and vet attention soon in order to guard against brain damage and death. 

Ulcers in the Eyes

Sometimes, especially in cats, a respiratory illness will be accompanied by ulcers in the eye. These ulcers will look like wounds or red and white spots. They are incredibly painful and can cause the eye to water. The same pathogen causing the respiratory illness is usually causing the eye ulcers. Prompt treatment is important here; your pet could lose an eye if antibiotics are not given soon.

All respiratory illnesses in pets should be addressed by a vet, but some need more prompt care than others. If your pet has any of the symptoms above, get them to an animal hospital as soon as possible.