If your pet suddenly begins showing signs of illness or injury, it's a good idea to call your vet immediately. Your vet can provide advice about your next course of action. However, if your pet emergency happens at night or during the weekend, your veterinarian's office might be closed. In this case, you may need to take your pet to an animal hospital. Here are four tips that can make the trip as easy as possible.

1. It's better to be safe than sorry.

In some situations, you may not know if your pet needs veterinary care or not. Some symptoms will resolve on their own without further intervention, and it's understandable that you'd want to save yourself the expense of a vet bill, if possible. However, if you're in doubt, it's always best to err on the side of caution. Taking your pet to the veterinarian or even the animal hospital and learning that they're fine is far preferable to skipping the vet's office and having your pet take a turn for the worst.

2. Bring your pet's favorite toy with you.

Animals are very susceptible to stress and changes in their routine, and illness can exacerbate this. You don't want your pet to be fearful on their way to the vet, since this can cause them to struggle, potentially injuring themselves. Familiar scents and items from home can help your pet feel more relaxed on their way to the vet. Pick up their favorite toy on your way out the door and place it in the animal carrier with them.

3. Handle your pet as little as possible.

Even the friendliest pet can lash out when it's injured or in pain. Your dog or cat might try to bite or scratch you if you accidentally hurt them. Prevent injury to yourself and your pet by handling them as little as possible. If you must pick up your pet, use a thick towel to provide some protection for your hands and cushion for their body. Coax them into their carrier using treats and verbal commands if at all possible. Avoid chasing your pet around the house trying to catch them, since this can exacerbate any injuries.

4. Bring a stool sample.

If your pet has been showing signs of illness, it's a good idea to bring a stool sample with you to the animal hospital if possible. A stool sample will allow your pet's veterinarian to test for parasites, bacteria, and other pathogens. This can help them narrow down the possible causes of your pet's illness.