I don't really have a strong opinion on this but thought it was worth bringing up for discussion to clarify. I noticed the following question was closed just recently and some in the past have been closed for the same reason because they were related to a medical emergency:

Old cat has non-cancerous tumour that looks like it may burst

While I can see that some people would hesitate to provide an answer for that particular case one of the missions of Stack Exchange is to form a repository of questions and expert answers. That could include people in the future facing the same problem after business hours where the nearest vet is 100 km away and wondering what they should do.

Ideally also along the lines of attracting expert answers while a vet would probably say the same of seeking urgent attention they may have useful advice on how to transport the cat safely and what to do if their tumour does burst in the interim.

I'm not sure of any official Stack Exchange policy on potentially dangerous answers, but on Electrical Engineering where I'm most active it's not unusual to see questions where the person asking is likely to kill themselves and/or others if they proceed with what they're trying to do. It's much better for them to get expert peer-reviewed answers instead of just closing things and leaving them to use Yahoo Answers and the like as a source.

  • Related meta.pets.stackexchange.com/questions/676/… Commented May 28, 2014 at 12:39
  • I don't have the time to write a full answer at the moment, but as I closed the question I was thinking of starting a discussion to update don't ask and to create a custom closure selection for developing emergency situations. As a rule, if the best answer is "go to the vet now!" this site is not the correct venue for any question/answers. They are ok as hypothetical for pre-planning and such. Commented May 28, 2014 at 12:43
  • Also related: When are medical questions on topic
    – Zaralynda
    Commented May 28, 2014 at 12:46
  • @Zaralynda - My opinion on that is refining as our site progresses I must admit. I'm not entirely sure I agree with all of Monica's points now.
    – Joanne C
    Commented May 28, 2014 at 12:53
  • @JamesJenkins - I would suggest that close reason would most make sense if it is the only answer and there is no other useful information we can supply for either first aid or future prevention.
    – Joanne C
    Commented May 28, 2014 at 13:01
  • I think everyone responding so far in comments and answers have great points. It is important that we try and clarify what we want to do in these cases. The arguments that we (I) could have provided more information in this case are valid. As are the historical reference potential for other users. One must keep in mind the potential liability issues as well, Dx and treatment of a developing health issue over the internet are problematic. Commented May 28, 2014 at 15:32
  • 2
    I've updated the help to reflect current consensus.
    – Joanne C
    Commented Jun 12, 2014 at 18:57

4 Answers 4


So full disclosure, I'm probably the user who answers the most medical questions and so I may be a little biased. :)

Nevertheless, I have to admit that I don't know that I think all medical emergencies (and I'm not entirely convinced that this was one) are questions that should be closed. There are a few reasons I feel this way:

  1. There are potential emergency measures that may need to be taken care of prior to bringing to the vet.
  2. There may not be an option, as you say, for people to get their pet to a vet until the next day. Not all areas have emergency vet care and, well, we have users from countries for which veterinary care may be difficult or impossible to get quickly in any event.
  3. We are a compendium, or are at least building one, of information about pet care and knowing the actions to take for common emergency situations before they happen is a good thing. This is the reason that I have emergency first aid guides for dogs and cats, I may need to apply first aid before doing follow up professional medical treatment.
  4. Some emergency situations are preventable and it's possible to include some preventative measures in a response so that the asker and subsequent readers learn something from the situation.

Where I do think they're probably off topic and should close down? Well... when none of the above apply. It's still okay, in my view, to tell a user that they must get fluffy to the vet in the next 10 minutes while still providing follow-up information for future reference. As long as we don't diagnose and we're careful to work with appropriate first aid measures, then I don't feel that these questions are inappropriate.

  • So, for example, it's okay to tell someone to apply pressure to a wound to stop bleeding while also telling them to go to the vet in case stitches are needed?
    – Zaralynda
    Commented May 28, 2014 at 12:48
  • @Zaralynda - Absolutely. It may be things like apply a splint in the following manner... and so forth. There's future applicability that comes into play sometimes. There are very likely going to be fairly unique events that happen that don't really warrant keeping the question, but I'm starting to think we're just a little too quick to close down some of these.
    – Joanne C
    Commented May 28, 2014 at 12:51
  • @JohnCavan looks like consensus has been reached and you had the winning proposal. Would you care to write this up on help? Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 19:22
  • @JamesJenkins - I'll think of a help friendly format (mostly this) and tuck it in.
    – Joanne C
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 19:23

I think the topic came up in chat the last time, and the answer that came up was that even in these emergency care questions, there is more to say than simply "Go see a vet". Though it could be considered an acceptable answer, it can be expanded to include:

  • Why should the person go to the vet.
  • What will happen if the person doesn't go see a vet.
  • How should the person transport the pet.
  • If it's an illness and not a physical injury, what causes the illness.
  • What could prevent the illness for next time.

based on this, right now, my opinion is that we should be working on better answers than "go see a vet" rather than closing the questions. I think we reacted a bit too quickly to close the first couple questions that were clearly emergencies, and unfortunately even though closing the questions keeps them from sticking around the site while they should be going to the vet, it doesn't mean they actually go to the vet.

  • I'm not really sure that someone w an emergency really needs to know the cause. When my cat with allergies went into anaphalptic shock, knowing that's what it was didn't help me help me, nor did it help me feel better about situation. Only thing that helped was VET NOW for steroid shot.
    – Zaralynda
    Commented May 28, 2014 at 17:23


Could we develop a short standard text that any of the "regulars" could post as a comment when they see one of these emergency-type questions. That way, the person could quickly get confirmation that a vet is needed and get started on that (they may need to research where there's an ER vet or whatever) while someone like John Cavan writes detailed first aid.

Standard text example (loosely based on James Jenkin's example):

The condition you describe could be indicative of an urgent or emergency health issue, please contact your vet for direction on how soon your pet needs to be seen. If someone knowledgeable in first aid is available, they may be able to write an answer, but you should not wait.


I lean towards a standard hold on anything that looks like a vet examine in the next 24 hours is indicated.

Post a standard message that says something like

The condition you describe could be indicative of an urgent or emergency health issue, please contact your vet for direction on how soon your pet needs to be seen. Please update the question with your vet's Dx and instructions. It is very possible that other here have had similar events and will be able to post answers with alternative treatment or preventive measures you may want to discuss with your vet on a follow up visit or by phone. (more about supporting the site and your pets health is our first concern, maybe a bit try chat for a quick response)"

Our first concern needs to be the health of the pet for who the question is raised. It is unrealistic to expect Q&A here to provide an answers that have gone through our peer review (voting) process in anything less than 24-48 hours. Once the main event for the involved pet, is past we as a community can focus documenting as indicated for future searches.

If the OP does not respond - Automatically removing the hold after 5 days would be ok, then we can address the pre, post & alternatives secondary to the developing issue.

  • Once on hold, however, the option to answer and provide information disappears until a reopen happens. I'm more inclined to let both forms of peer review happen: on the question and answer and see what comes of it. To date, to be fair, I think that this has been more of moderator call than not and I'm probably more guilty than most. :)
    – Joanne C
    Commented May 28, 2014 at 17:31
  • @JohnCavan, because most of us want to help, we may be tempted to put out an answer quickly to help the OP; because the OP is a high stress situation they are likely to take the first advice posted. If they come back from the vet and update the question, we re-open it right away. If not 5 days gives enough time for events to work out, so we are not reacting to a developing event. Commented May 28, 2014 at 17:47
  • The points in my answer are still valid though. First responder advice is potentially valid and potentially very critical. We tend to think a little too first world here from time to time as I have 24 hour emergency vet care within a 15 minute drive, but I don't think that's all that common in other places.
    – Joanne C
    Commented May 28, 2014 at 18:00
  • @JohnCavan I agree - I live in an area that technically has a 24 hour emergency vet care, but I can't actually access it easily on my own, as I lack access to a car. And I know a lot of rural people who doesn't even have that ability.
    – user53
    Commented May 28, 2014 at 18:26

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .