What to do in a Doggy Emergency

If you have a dog, you will eventually have an emergency. Your dog will eat something he isn’t supposed to, get in a fight with something, catch that car he is always chasing, or get very ill. While no one wants to have an emergency, a little preplanning and information can make having one go smoother.

First, your veterinarian’s name, address, and phone number should be by every phone in the house and in the vehicle you drive. In an emergency, this saves time when you are panicked and can’t remember it. Find out your veterinarian’s after hours policy. Some vets have you call their answering service and will get back to you. Increasingly, though, they refer you to an emergency clinic. Make sure you have that address and phone number by all the phones and in the car, too. Finally, there is a pet poison control number you need to have with the others. The pet poison helpline is answered 24/7 at 800-213-6680. There is a $35 fee that covers the initial call and follow-up.

Second, you should put together a doggie first aid kit. You can buy a kit from the major pet stores, or you can gather the stuff on your own. Most veterinarians can give you a list of things that should be in it. Make sure one item is a muzzle that fits your dog. You may think your dog will never bite you, but if he is injured or very ill, you may find out different. A muzzle saves both of you the trauma of a bite during an all ready bad situation. If you do not have a muzzle, you can fashion one from gauze by going three times around the dog’s muzzle with the gauze, tightly enough that the dog can’t bite but loose enough that the dog is comfortable, then tying the muzzle behind the dog’s ears. Make sure the dog does not get hot while muzzled this way, as you have taken away his ability to pant and cool himself.

You are likely to encounter one of four types of problems with your dog: something stuck in the throat, poisoning, injuries, and illness. Sometimes dogs play with balls or other objects that are too small for them and get the ball stuck in their throat. This cuts off the airway and the dog will die if it is not removed. You can see if you can reach the object and remove it. If your dog is a biter, you may have to wait for him to pass out so you can safely stick your hands in his mouth and get the object out. Sometimes you can perform a doggy Heimlich maneuver, just like in a human, and dislodge the object. As a preventative, never let a dog play with an object that is small enough to swallow. When cow hooves and things reach that size, pick them up and give the dog a new one.

Poisoning does not necessarily mean intentional administration of a toxin. Dogs get into the kitchen cabinets and eat a bar of baker’s chocolate, get under the sink and chew on a bottle of drain opener, or any of a dozen other things they can pick up and eat. Either you catch the dog in the act, or he begins to act very ill. If you know what the dog ate, pick up the container and take it with you to the phone. DO NOT make the dog vomit until you get instructions from your vet or an emergency vet. Some substances do more damage coming up than they do staying where they are. Do not feed the dog anything until you receive instructions, either. The veterinarians will be able to tell you what to do once they know what the dog ate, or the symptoms he is exhibiting.

Injuries are usually caused by being hit by a car or getting in a fight with another animal. If the dog was hit by a car, the injuries may be severe and time critical. If possible, place the dog on a board or flat surface as a stretcher and transport to the veterinarian or emergency clinic immediately. If the dog can walk, but is still badly hurt, a vet visit is in order. There may be internal injuries that need to be attended to. Injuries caused by a fight can be very severe, as well. They need to be cleaned up and possibly stitched up. Again, you need to call your veterinarian or the emergency clinic and follow their directions. The dog may need to be on IV antibiotics and steroids to combat shock as well as ward off infection.

Illness is the most difficult problem to encounter because it comes in so many forms. Basically, if your dog is passing blood in stools or urine, it is an emergency. If the dog keeps vomiting, or vomits blood, it is an emergency. If the dog has trouble breathing, it is an emergency. If the dog bloats, or swells in the abdomen, it is an emergency. If your dog becomes suddenly listless and will not eat, it is an emergency. Any sudden change in breathing, eating, eliminating, or behavior is probably an emergency. Call your vet or the emergency clinic and ask for help in determining whether the dog is in trouble and you need to bring him in.

The best thing you can do in an emergency for your dog is remain calm, make sure the dog can breathe and is not bleeding badly, is out of danger from further damage (out of the street, away from the dog that bit him, etc.) and call the veterinarian for instructions. Doing the wrong thing in a bid to help can cause more damage than doing nothing at all.