What to do in an emergency

Our field veterinarian is ready to attend to any emergencies within our local practice radius day or night. We have a fully equipped vehicle capable of handling most of the emergency field calls in the Northern and Southern San Luis Obispo County area. Should the case require more involved care or hospitalization, we work closely with multiple referral hospitals providing the best care for our patients. To reach us after hours, call 805-239-9963. Your call will be forwarded to automated voice mail. Please leave your name, phone number, and a brief summary of what you are requesting. Please stay by the phone, a veterinarian will return your call promptly.

*We are able to accommodate emergencies in-the field depending on our critical case load and number of emergencies we are experiencing. Please also understand emergencies are triaged (most critical patients seen first) during these circumstances.

is it an emergency?

equine emergencies

  • Colic: Clinical signs of colic in the horse include: looking or biting at their sides, rolling, lying down and getting up repeatedly, curling the upper lip, stretching as if to urinate, restlessness, staying off-feed, and/or grinding their teeth. If you think your horse has colic, find assistance ASAP. Do not give medications without talking to the veterinarian first as this can mask important clinical signs.


  • Dystocia: Unable to deliver foal
  • Severe Bleeding: Stop bleeding with cloth, apply pressure, and contact vet immediately
  • Choke: Horse not able to swallow
  • Fever: Greater than 102.5° and horse not eating
  • Lacerations: Suture within 6 hours of incident
  • Swelling: Pigeon fever, snake bite, sprain, etc.


  • Foal unable to nurse: Lethargy
  • Eye infection: Eye may appear red, cloudy, crusty, inflamed, or have green/yellow discharge
  • Retained placenta: Longer than 3 hours
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty walking and/or keeping balance
  • Lameness: not bearing weight on a limb

Normal Vital Signs of Adult Horse

  • Temperature: 100.5°F (38°C)
  • Resting Pulse: 36-40bpm (may be less than 28bmp in athletic horses)
  • Respiration: 12-16 breaths per minute
  • Capillary Refill Time: Less than 2 seconds
  • Mucous Membranes (gums): Moist, pale pink
  • Gut sounds: Gurgling, tinkling, and growling

food animal emergencies

  • Bloat: Bloat is the buildup of gas (produced as part of digestion/fermentation) in the rumen. Bloat occurs when expulsion of this digestive gas is prevented. There are 2 different types: frothy bloat and free-gas bloat. Frothy bloat, the most common type, occurs when there is a build up of froth above the rumen which inhibits eruption (burping). The less common type, free-gas bloat, happens when the gullet is phyically obstructed by a foreign object (such as large chunks of potato, apple, etc.) Both block the release of gas, thus causing bloat. Clinical signs of bloat include a distended left abdomen, pain or discomfort, and death (can occur within 15 minutes).


  • Snake Bite: Severe local tissue damage that spreads from bite site
  • Lacerations: Cuts or tears in the animal's flesh
  • Birthing Problems: Including dystocia, prolapsed uterus, retained placenta, or abnormal fetal position
  • Fever: Typically a sign of infection or inflammation


  • Blue Bag: Necrosis of udder caused by the staphylococcus bacteria in sheep and goats
  • Extreme Lameness: Most lameness originates from foot, but can also indicate neurological problems associated with the spine
  • Respiratory Distress / Choking: Common in feedlot cattle and from ingestion of a single solid object

Normal Vital Signs of Other Species

  • Cattle:
    Temp: 100.4°F - 103.1°F
    Pulse: 40-70bpm
    Respiration: 10-30breaths/min
  • Sheep:
    Temp: 102.2°F - 104.9°F
    Pulse: 60-90bpm
    Respiration: 12-20breaths/min
  • Goats:
    Temp: 102.2°F - 104.9°F
    Pulse: 60-90bpm
    Respiration: 12-20breaths/min
  • Swine:
    Temp: 100.4°F - 104°F
    Pulse: 60-100bpm
    Respiration: 8-18breaths/min
  • Poultry:
    Temp: 103.6°F - 109.9°F
    Pulse: 220-360bpm
    Respiration: 12-37breaths/min