Common Dog Emergencies and What You Should Do
Here is a list of some common problems dogs can have with quick suggestions of what to do.
Stops breathing – If your dog stops breathing you can attempt CPR. Check for a heart rate by feeling for a beat over the area of the heart which is just behind the elbow on the chest. Watch the chest for breathing movement. If your dog is not breathing, you can begin artificial respiration by closing the mouth and blowing into the nose. Check again for a heart rate. If there is no heart rate, begin chest compressions. Lay your dog on his side and use both hands to compress the chest just behind his elbow on the chest wall. For more information on CPR, click here.
Is choking – If your dog is choking, gently and carefully try to look in his mouth. You can perform the Heimlich maneuver by applying pressure on your dog’s abdomen just behind the ribs in quick thrusts. For more information on the Heimlich maneuver, click here.
Has something caught in his mouth – Make sure you are careful and don’t get bit. If you see something caught in his throat, you can gently try to remove it. Again be careful. If you need help, call or go to your veterinarian’s office or local emergency clinic.
Swallows a medication – If your dog eats a medication of yours, another dogs or an overdose of his normal medication, call your veterinarian or local emergency clinic. Some medications can be dangerous even in small doses. Your vet will need to determine if the medication is toxic. You will need to tell them how much your dog weighs, when he ate it, how much he got, and the name and strength of the medication. Your veterinarian or the poison control hotline will help you decide if the medication is toxic and if the situation is an emergency. Toxicities may require induction of vomiting, activated charcoal, or fluid therapy depending on the amount, timing and type of medication ingested.
Is vomiting – If your dog vomits once and is otherwise acting normal, you can probably wait and see what happens over the next hour or so. If your pet vomits repeatedly, acts lethargic, has diarrhea, seems anxious or uncomfortable, then he should be evaluated by a veterinarian.
Has a broken leg – If you suspect that your dog has a broken leg, approach him carefully. Many dogs that have no history of aggression may bite when they are in pain. Take him immediately to your veterinarian or local emergency clinic.
Has a seizure – If your dog has a seizure, protect him or her from injury by making sure they are not by any water or pools, or near stairs or sharp objects. Don’t touch the face or mouth. Many pets having a seizure may bite without knowing or meaning to. Don’t worry about them swallowing their tongue, they won’t. Talk to them calmly until they come out of the seizure. If you can, note the time and notice how long the seizure lasts. If it lasts longer than 5 minutes, call your veterinarian. Some pets may have a seizure one time and others will continue to have more seizures. Seizures can be caused by many different conditions including low blood sugar, infections, trauma, liver or kidney disease, or epilepsy. Call your veterinarian for recommendations. The best thing to do is to have your pet evaluated after its first seizure to look for any underlying disease. Repeated seizures should always be evaluated.
Is bleeding – If your dog is bleeding, he should be evaluated by your veterinarian. If it is a skin injury, you may try to gently apply pressure to the area. If your pet is vomiting blood, you notice blood in the stool, or is coughing blood, they should be evaluated immediately.
Is injured – Trauma can cause both internal and external wounds. Some injuries may be obvious such as a laceration or broken bone and others may be less obvious such as internal bleeding. At home, monitor your dog for trouble breathing, bleeding, bloody urine, abnormal bowel movements, lameness and lethargy. These are all serious and potentially life-threatening signs and should prompt immediate evaluation. You can evaluate your dog by assessing his gum color, respiratory rate and effort and taking a heart rate. If the gums are pale, respirations labored, heart rate high or low, your pet may be in shock. If your pet has experienced a serious trauma such as being hit by a car, the safest thing to do is to have him or her evaluated by a veterinarian.
Is stung – If your dog is stung by a bee or wasp, you can gently clean the area and if you see a stinger, gently remove it. Some dogs will have allergic reactions to bites and stings and other pets will not experience any problem from stings. Evaluate your pet for the next several hours for any sign of an allergic reaction such as swelling of the face and muzzle, hives, difficulty breathing, vomiting or lethargy. If you notice any of these signs, call your veterinarian or local emergency clinic.
Is coughing – Coughing is an important symptom and should not be ignored. If your dog coughs once and is eating, active and otherwise fine, you may watch for more coughing over the next hour or two. If the coughing continues, your pet acts short of breath, is lethargic or not eating, he or she should be evaluated immediately. There are many reasons for dogs to cough including pneumonia, bronchitis, trauma or heart failure. Some of these can be life-threatening so the safest thing to do is to have your pet evaluated.
Is bitten by a snake – Do you know what kind of snake it was? If the snake was venomous, your pet should be evaluated by a veterinarian.
Eats a plant – If your dog eats a plant, the safest thing to do is find out if the plant is toxic. Call your vet or local emergency clinic. You can also check out our list of toxic and non-toxic plants.
Urinates in the house – If your dog urinates in the house and this is “unusual”, he or she should be evaluated. Inappropriate urination can be behavioral but can also be caused by infections, diabetes, kidney disease, or side effects of some medications. Call your veterinarian and see if they want to see your pet and if they want you to try to bring a urine sample with you.
Has diarrhea – If your dog has one episode of diarrhea and is otherwise acting normally, you can probably wait and see what happens over the next hour or so. If your pet has repeated bouts of diarrhea, you notice blood in the stool, your pet acts lethargic, is vomiting, seems anxious or uncomfortable, then he should be evaluated by a veterinarian.
Is limping – There are many causes for limping from minor problems, muscle strains to ligament tears or fractures. If you notice your pet limping, keep his activity restricted to leash walks. If he seems painful, the limping persists, or you suspect a fracture, see your veterinarian immediately. To prevent further injury, keep you pet confined and restricted to leash walks for urination and defection only until the problem has been evaluated.
Pulled out its suture – If your pet is licking at its suture line – call your veterinarian as the next thing your pet will probably do is pull out the sutures. If your pet is licking, he probably needs an “E-collar” that will prevent him or her from reaching the wound. If your pet has already pulled out the sutures, look at the incision. Is it open? How long has it been since the surgery? If the wound is open or the surgery was less than 5 days ago, most likely it will need re-sutured. Additionally, the area will need to be bandaged if possible or an e-collar placed on your pet to prevent further injury. If there is any doubt about what needs to be done, it is best to have your pet evaluated by your veterinarian. If the area is infected, your pet may also need antibiotics.
If your dog has something in his eye – This can be serious. You should prevent him from scratching at it and take him to your veterinarian. Scratching or rubbing at the eye is a natural response but pets can do a lot of damage by doing this. If you have an e-collar at home, place it on your dog immediately while you make arrangements to have your dog evaluated at your vet’s office.
Is lethargic or unresponsive – This is often a life-threatening symptom and can be associated with many different diseases. Call your veterinarian immediately and have your pet evaluated.
Can’t or has trouble urinating – If your dog is straining to urinate, can’t urinate or is licking the genital area excessively, he or she should be examined by your veterinarian. This condition can be caused by urinary tract infection, bladder stones or prostate problems in males, as well as vaginal or uterine infections in females.
Can’t or has trouble defecating – This symptom needs to be watched carefully. If it is only one episode and then your dog acts normal, you may not have to worry. If your dog can’t defecate in 24 hours, strains, you see blood, or is not eating, then he or she should be evaluated by a veterinarian.
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