Dog emergencies can happen at any time, and always when we least expect it.
The best way to be prepared is to know what to watch for, and to be ready to get your dog to the vet immediately.
Being able to recognize a true medical emergency allows you to stay calm and do the best you can for your furry friend.
Be sure you know where to take your pup in case of a canine health emergency.
Does your veterinarian offer 24-hour dog emergency care?
If not, know where your nearest emergency vet clinic is located.
Keep the phone numbers of your vet and the emergency veterinary clinic posted in a convenient location or stored in your cell phone for easy access.
What Situations Might Be Considered Dog Emergencies?
When your dog is in a life-threatening situation, and every minute could mean the difference between whether he lives or dies, that would definitely be considered an emergency. These might include:
- Being hit by a vehicle or any large, fast-moving object
- Falling or jumping from a dangerous height
- An insect sting that causes an instant, large swelling, especially on the face
- A bite from a scorpion or poisonous spider; or dog has bitten a toad
- A bite from a venomous snake, or if the snake cannot be identified
- Poisoning (bring the container if you have it)
- A near drowning
- Electrical shock and/or burn
- Burns or smoke inhalation
- An eye injury of any kind
- A fight, especially if it was with an unvaccinated or wild animal
- A severe cut, or an incision that has opened up again
- A wound from a bullet or arrow
- Any trauma to the head
- Porcupine quills imbedded in the mouth, face, or body
Signs and Symptoms of Dog Emergencies
Dog emergencies are not always easy to recognize. Most pet owners worry that they're over-reacting. However, there are some signs and symptoms you can look for when trying to decide if this is an emergency.
These might include:
- No pulse or heartbeat
- No breathing or severe difficulty breathing
- Unusually rapid breathing
- Weak or rapid pulse
- Blue, white, or very pale gums
- Difficulty swallowing
- Unusually excessive drooling
- Swallowed a foreign object (like a toy)
- Seizures or muscle tremors
- Continuous or severe pain
- Bloated belly
- Broken bone or a cut that exposes a bone
- Puncture wounds, especially to the abdomen or chest
- Heavy bleeding that cannot be stopped
- Bleeding from any cavity of the body
- Vomiting blood or uncontrollable vomiting
- Trying to vomit but nothing comes up
- Pain when urinating, or blood in urine
- Straining to pee or poop but unable to produce anything
- Blood in stools or uncontrollable diarrhea
- Complete loss of bladder or bowel control
- Eye appears enlarged or protruding
- Sudden blindness
- Difficulty standing
- Staggering or walking in circles
- Apparent paralysis
- Sudden inability to bear weight on one or more limbs
- Dog's temperature is below 99 degrees F or over 104 degrees F
- Sudden and severe behavior changes (i.e. becoming aggressive)
Still not sure if the injury or symptoms are severe enough to be considered an emergency? Here's a simple guideline -- When in doubt, call the vet.
He or a highly trained veterinary technician can help you decide if you need to come in right away, or if the problem can wait for a regular dog health checkup.
Take Action, But Keep Calm
In any emergency situation, try to stay as calm as possible. Your dog can sense your moods, and will be more likely to stay calm if you are, too.
Make sure your pup is warm and resting quietly. Keep movement to a minimum, especially if there is possible trauma, broken bones, or neurological problems.
Call your veterinarian to see if his office is open. Let him know what has happened and that you and your dog are on your way. Answer any questions, and listen carefully to any advice given. Then get your dog to the vet, and let him take it from there.
Recognizing dog emergencies is not always easy, but your instincts are often right. Don't ignore anything that seems serious. It may save your dog's life.
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