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Your Guide to Dog Emergencies

By: Dr. Debra Primovic

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Pad Injuries. For minor pad injuries, soaking and cleaning with povidone iodine or chlorhexidine should be sufficient. Do not allow your pet to lick at the wound as this could result in infection. For more extensive wounds, you should call your veterinarian.

Poisons. If you suspect your pet may have ingested a poisonous substance, read the bottle for ingredients and first aid directions for accidental ingestion. Many packages and bottles contain a toll free number. Also, consult your veterinarian or veterinary emergency facility if you suspect your pet has been poisoned. Your veterinarian may recommend that you induce vomiting before bringing your pet in for examination and treatment. However, vomiting should never be induced unless specifically directed by a veterinarian. Some toxic substances are harmful because of their corrosive nature and risk of aspiration.

If vomiting is recommended, three percent hydrogen peroxide is effective in making dogs vomit. You must be sure to use three percent peroxide and not hair coloring strength peroxide. Despite the label indicating that hydrogen peroxide is toxic, it is safe to give to dogs. It is considered toxic since it induces vomiting. The appropriate dose of hydrogen peroxide is one teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight. If you have an oral syringe, one teaspoon equals 5 cc or 5 ml. Once given, walk your dog around or gently shake the stomach area to mix the peroxide with the stomach contents. Vomiting should occur within 15 to 20 minutes. If no vomiting occurs, you can safely repeat the three percent hydrogen peroxide once. If it is still not effective, your dog may need to be seen by a veterinarian for stronger vomiting medication.

For topical exposures, bathing in lukewarm water with a mild dish soap can reduce further toxin absorption before your pet is examined and treated by a veterinarian.

Porcupine Quills. Even though your dog might enjoy it, playing with a porcupine is not a good idea. The quills can easily become embedded in your pet's face or paw or elsewhere. The end of the quill has several small barbs, making removal difficult. If a quill is stuck in the skin, examine the area. Using a good light and a pair of tweezers with steady gentle pressure, attempt to pull the quill out of the skin. Clean the area with a mild soap and water. Check area for redness, swelling or discharge. If your pet is unfortunate enough to have multiple quills embedded and you are unable to remove them, consult your veterinarian. Sometimes, sedation may be required.

Post Surgery Problems. Most surgeries are uncomplicated and pets heal quickly. In some instances, complications can occur. Usually, these complications are associated with the site of incision and not the actual surgery itself.

  • Licking, chewing, or scratching at the sutures is the most common problem associated with sutures and incisions. A common recommendation is either to cover the wound with a bandage or to use an Elizabethan collar, which is a flexible plastic lampshade type device that attaches to your pet's collar. The device allows your pet to eat and drink but does not allow him access to parts of his body below the collar. E-collars are available at most pet stores and veterinary hospitals. You might try covering abdominal and chest/body wall incisions with a t-shirt – let your pet's head and front legs go through the head and armholes of the shirt. This covers the wound and allow your pet to be comfortable. Special care must be taken, however, to keep him from eating the shirt or bandage, which can cause an intestinal obstruction.

  • Incisional Swelling. Some mild swelling is expected, because, as the body begins to heal the incision, fluid and cells accumulate. In cases of excessive swelling, see your veterinarian to determine the cause.

  • Incision Discharge. For the first few days following surgery, there may be a small amount of clear or slightly blood tinged fluid. This may show up if a dry paper towel or tissue is applied to the incision. However, you should not see fluid dripping from the incision. After the first few days, there should be no discharge at all and any discharge should be reported to your veterinarian. Blood is never a normal discharge, at any time. If you notice any bleeding, try to place a temporary bandage on the incision. Some incisions are in areas not easily bandaged; in that case, apply pressure to the incision and contact your veterinarian immediately. Any drainage that is cloudy or foul smelling may indicate an infection and should be seen by your veterinarian.

  • Missing Sutures. Missing skin sutures are not a problem as long as there is no redness, swelling or discharge, and the skin is still connected. If the edges of the skin are still connected, replacing the missing suture is not typically done. If the edges of the skin are no longer together, the suture may need to be replaced to prevent infection or additional sutures from coming out.

  • Tissue Protruding from Incision. If any tissue is found protruding from the incision, cover the incision immediately with a clean towel and contact your veterinarian or veterinary emergency facility. Emergency treatment is crucial.

    Prolapses. A prolapse is the displacement of an organ through the skin. Usually, the term prolapse is associated with the uterus, vagina or rectum. If you notice tissue protruding from an opening in the body, moisten it with sterile water using a clean towel moistened with water, and transport your pet to your veterinarian. Do not allow your pet to lick or chew at that area. Do not try to push it back inside the pet.

    Puncture. If you notice that your pet is bleeding, depending on the location of the injury, gentle pressure is often necessary to stop the flow of blood. Elevate the area to decrease blood flow to that area and wrap the area with a clean towel and tape and seek veterinary care immediately.

    Reverse Sneezing. A reverse sneeze may look disturbing – many people fear that their dog is not breathing during these episodes – but it is not a harmful condition and there are no ill effects. Reverse sneezing attacks are generally quite brief and not life threatening. An episode can be stopped if the dog is stimulated to swallow by either massaging the throat or briefly pinching off the nasal openings.

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