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Your Guide to Dog Emergencies

By: Dr. Debra Primovic

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Frostbite. In cold weather, even pets are susceptible to frostbite. If you suspect your pet has frostbite, remove him from the freezing environment. Re-warm the affected tissues in warm water (about 104 degrees Fahrenheit) for at least 20 minutes, but do not rub or massage the affected areas. This can cause significant damage to frostbitten tissues. Do not use hot water; instead use warm or tepid water. After initial treatment, call your veterinarian for treatment for prompt evaluation.

Gunshot Wounds. Unfortunately, pets can sometimes be the victims of gunshot injury. If you suspect that your pet has been shot, keep him calm and quiet. Observe your pet for difficulty breathing, bleeding and other injuries. Cover open wounds with a clean cloth. Control bleeding by applying gentle pressure with a clean cloth. Extreme care must be used since wounds are painful and the pet may bite the person caring for him/her out of fear or pain. Immediate examination and treatment by a veterinarian is strongly recommended.

Head Trauma. Injury to the head can be serious and head trauma is a life-threatening emergency. If you suspect that your dog has suffered head trauma, take him to your veterinarian for evaluation as soon as possible. Even if your pet appears to act normal, an exam by a veterinarian is critical. Until reaching the veterinary hospital, keep your pet warm, hold his head elevated or level with the rest of the body and minimize pressure on his neck, head or back. Be careful when handling your dog to avoid being bitten. Your dog may not be aware of what he is doing and could inadvertently injure you.

Heat Stroke. Heat stroke is a life-threatening emergency. If your pet gets excessively overheated and is panting excessively or collapses, he may be suffering from heat stroke. Check his temperature rectally. Normal body temperature in dogs is 100.5 to 102.5 degrees F. If your dog's temperature is over 105 degrees F, call your veterinarian and remove him from the heat source immediately. Meanwhile, place a cool, wet towel over your dog or place him in a cool water bath, or spray him gently with a hose. Do not use ice because it may cause skin injury. Even if your pet appears normal, examination by a veterinarian is strongly recommended.

Highrise Syndrome. Urban living has several hazards for pets. One of the more dangerous is living in an apartment or condo. Pets with access to an open window or loose screen may be able to jump out the window. If you do not live on the ground floor, your pet may fall from quite a distance and sustain significant injury. If your pet falls or jumps out the window, take care when picking him up and carrying him. If your pet is injured, he may be extremely painful and bite as a reflex. Wrap the animal in a heavy towel or blanket and place in a carrier or box when transporting to your veterinarian. Your pet should be examined by your veterinarian, even if s/he appears normal. Most pets recover from highrise injury. Cats tend to fare better and one cat even survived a fall from 32 stories. Most dogs that fall over 6 stories do not survive.

Hit by Car. If you suspect your pet has been struck by a motor vehicle or has suffered any other similar type of trauma, you should seek veterinary care immediately. Check your pet for the ABC's of breathing and perform CPR if necessary. If your pet is breathing, keep him calm and transport him to your veterinarian immediately. If there are wounds over the chest – cover with a clean cloth. Apply gentle pressure to control bleeding. Extreme care must be used since fractures and wounds are painful and the pet may bite the person caring for him/her out of fear or pain. You may have to muzzle your pet. If possible lay your pet flat and protect him from injury. If possible, lay the animal on a board or use a tightly wrapped blanket for transport. The lack of external wounds does not rule out substantial internal injury.

Hot Spot. A hot spot is an area of moist dermatitis and most commonly affects dogs. These skin lesions can be very irritating and itchy. The dog often scratches or chews the area so vigorously that he makes the situation even worse. If the area appears to be small, clip the hair and clean with peroxide, povidone iodine or chlorhexidine. Clean the affected areas with antibacterial and astringent products daily until healing is complete. Bigger areas may require a visit to your veterinarian. Often antibiotics or medication to control itching is required. Treat fleas if present since this is a common cause of hot spots. Some animals may need an Elizabethan collar to prevent licking and chewing.

Impalement. Sharp penetrating object can cause serious internal injury. Sticks, fencing, arrows, etc can cause impalements. If your pet is impaled, keep him calm. Do not remove the object from your pet because severe damage can result and bleeding can be exacerbated by removal of the object. If the pet is impaled on an unmovable object, you may be required to either dismantle the object, such as a fence, or risk removing the pet from the object. Cover wounds with a clean cloth and control bleeding with gentle pressure. Transport your pet and the object immediately to your veterinarian for evaluation. If possible lay your pet flat and protect him from injury. Stabilize the impaled object and do not allow it to move or sway. Do not allow your pet to lick at the area.

Intestinal Parasites. Dogs and cats are susceptible to a variety of intestinal parasites or worms. To find out if your pet has worms, obtain a sample of the bowel movement and submit it to your veterinarian for analysis so that deworming medication can be prescribed. Some microscopic eggs can live in the environment (such as the yard) for weeks to months and cause re-infection. Clean up your yard weekly and minimize roaming of pets in places like parks where exposure and infection are possible. If left untreated, some intestinal parasites can cause serious illness associated with vomiting, diarrhea, weakness or even anemia.

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