Are you prepared if your dog has an Emergency? If you answered no you are not alone- I’ve outlined some steps to ensure you will be prepared for the 3 most common dog emergencies. I have identified 3 of the most common pet emergencies to include heat, choking and poisons.
Dogs are no longer just our pets…dogs are a part of our families…they have insurance policies (Petsmart), they have special diet foods (Science Diet), they should have a vitamin every day, they take monthly medications (comfortis)… they are our emotional support system, the ones that are always happy to see us…the ones that protect us and our children….they play such a huge role in our lives – but are we prepared when they have an emergency?
This post is a little off my normal topics of travel and life abroad but we had a minor choking incident with our dog last night- and I pondered—if our dog choked on a treat I bet other people have been faced with “doggie” medical emergencies as well.
I owned a kennel for years and I know this…dogs will find a way to get into trouble-no matter how hard you doggie proof your house/backyard/car etc. They are very similar to toddlers in this way. So the best thing is to be prepared with a first aid kit and a phone list of Emergency Vets and Poison Control. If you do not have these I have added helpful links at the end of the post for you to purchase some today!
Take for example rawhide bones–Have you ever watched your dog chew that last nasty slimy piece of stick rawhide and think…there is no way they are going to chew that completely- they are going to swallow that last inch whole…I should take it from them before this happens–
Then bam…no more rawhide…and a bewildered looking dog who just realized –depending on their size—that they just swallowed a big solid object —even if it looks slimy and gross to us and it appears that it could slide right down, there is a good chance this could become a choking hazard for your dog.
My inspiration for this post was simple—we had a dog emergency and I felt unprepared to handle it at the time. And I got to thinking after the fact it might turn out to be a good topic for a blog post.
Our dog emergency last night started with a small treat (our dog is a 6 lb Chihuahua) so when I say small I am talking a treat that is smaller than a piece of Trident gum… and it was soft too -this is how the emergency happened.
Daryn and Millie went out to potty —Daryn and Millie came back inside- dog gets treat….husband sits down in chair and promptly cries…OMG I think Millie is choking…took about 2 minutes tops-from coming inside to dog emergency. Like children, dogs find themselves in crisis quickly and in the blink of an eye.
Having just finished adult BLS training…and never having taken dog BLS training..I jump off the couch and went to ensure scene safety……ok I have to insert some humor here…scene is secure and safe…check–now how do I help Millie?
Poor Millie is looking pained but still breathing and upright…this is a good sign as I am pretty sure there is no way I could do a finger sweep in her little airway.. so I hunch down beside her as she is dry heaving and encourage her to get it out—while simultaneously chastising my husband for not breaking the already broken tiny piece of treat into a smaller size…
Looking bewildered himself, he states he had no idea he had to break that tiny treat in two…ok so I hadn’t remembered to remind him to do that…but back to Millie—
She is trying pretty hard to get that piece out of where ever it may be lodged by dry heaving and foaming at the mouth just a little bit… by this time I am waiting for Daryn to start dry heaving as well….sympathy vomiter that he is….
Then all of a sudden out pops a tiny piece of red treat…and we all breathe a sigh of relief…because I do not know where the closest emergency vet is in Asan South Korea…and even though I had run some scenarios through my mind as to how I would do the Heimlich on her, I was really at a loss. What I should have done after scene safety was have Daryn google, Doggie Heimlich– So you don’t have to do this I am inserting a video showing how to do the Heimlich on your dog.
This got me thinking about all the medical emergencies I had experienced over the years with dogs and I thought I would put a helpful guide together to help other dog owners be prepared for 3 most common dog emergencies that are probably the most frequent emergencies that dog owners experience.
Heat Emergencies: Dog fur protects dogs against the cold but their only way of cooling themselves is through panting, and when panting is not effective the dog’s body temperatures will continue to rise. Depending on the size of the dog this can quickly be fatal for a dog. Dogs with shortened faces such as pugs, bulldogs etc. may be more susceptible to heat stroke- so they need extra care when it is hot.
Heat Emergency- Signs of a dog suffering from a heat emergency
- excessive panting or unconsciousness
- trouble standing
What you should do: remove dog immediately from the environment, if possible place dog in a cool tub of water but ensure the head is elevated to avoid aspirating the water. If you don’t have a tub available spray the dog with a garden hose to cool them down.
Place a cold pack under the dog’s head or a frozen bag of vegetables. Move their legs to increase circulation and reduces shock. You can check for shock by examining the gums, the whiter they are the more severe the shock. Normal gums are a healthy pink color.
Place a water bowl by the dog and allow them to drink, if you add a bit of salt it will help replace the minerals lost from the excessive panting.
If they do not seem to be getting better transport to the vet as soon as possible. There are ways to take and monitor the dog’s temperature- if you have a thermometer you are willing to toss afterward– you can track the temperature and if it does not start to decrease transport immediately to a vet.
Taking your dog for a ride in the car can be a treat for both the dog and you- who doesn’t love to go to the dog park and hang out and talk with other dog lovers? Just keep in mind that the temperature in your car is always hotter than the outside temperature and even if it is just for a minute never leave your dog unattended in the car.
- NEVER leave a dog in a car, even if you think the temperature is ok- it could still be too hot.
- Run or play with the dog in early AM or PM when temperatures are cooler.
- Always have fresh water for a dog that is outside –ensure they have a water bowl they cannot tip over during play
- Be sure they have easy access to shade.
- If you leave a dog in a motor home or trailer be sure there is a backup generator in case there is a power outage or the AC in vehicle shuts off unexpectedly. (this happened at a dog show and several dogs died in the trailer)
Choking: dogs will chew on about anything they can get their mouths on: toys, bones, treats, parts of toys, wood, shoes the list is endless. —I waited with a nervous owner one time for the dog to pass a tube sock.
Signs of choking include
- pawing at their face or muzzle as though they are trying to extract the item
- dry heaving, drooling, gagging
- difficulty swallowing or breathing
- anxiety and distress
- finding your dog unconscious.If possible open the dog’s mouth with both hands and try and perform a finger sweep—only if your dog allows you. If you cannot easily remove the choking hazard, lay the dog across your lap with the head pointing down -this sometimes will allow gravity to pull the object out as the dog is heaving.
If this doesn’t work apply several sharp slaps with the palm of your hand between the shoulder blades. This could assist in dislodging the object.
Last is the Heimlich maneuver which you can do by grasping the dog around the waist in a bear hug with its hind end closest to you. Place your fist behind the ribs and compress several times (3-5) with quick pushes. Lay the dog down and check for the object…if you still don’t see it repeat and be prepared to transport to the vet.
- Monitor what is available for your dog to chew
- Doggie proof your home and keep small items away from the dogs
- Take toys away from your dog once they become torn or ruptured.
- If your dog finds joy in tearing apart stuffed animals, don’t buy them!
- Feed treats appropriate for the size of the dog.
Our homes are filled with many chemicals, plants, and drugs that dogs can inadvertently come in contact with either directly or indirectly. (I had a call at a clinic one time by a patient who had dropped her pill and the dog immediately ate it- be prepared)
- Signs of discomfort or agitation
- Disorientation or restlessness, staggering
- Vomiting, convulsions, lethargy
- Loss of appetite
- Twitching, heart palpitations
- Diarrhea or dilated pupils
There is a vast list of poisons that are harmful to a dog that includes skin contact, inhaled, swallowed and plants. If you fear that your dog has been poisoned call the Pet Poison Helpline immediately: 1-855-213-6680
List of poisonous plants: English Ivy, foxglove, hemlock, mushrooms, mistletoe, oleander, peace lily and tulips.
Call your vet as well and prepare to transport the dog to the vet for immediate care.
- Keep dogs away from home areas where poisons (household cleaners) are stored or used
- Store containers with tightly closed lids to avoid spills
- Do not keep poisonous plants in the house
- Make sure if you use pesticides on your lawn you block off areas so your dog is not exposed to them
- Keep all human medications stored in a secure location that your dog cannot access. Be sure to keep medication in labeled bottles so that they can be easily identified if your dog ingests them and you need to call poison control or the vet.
Being prepared is one of the best things we can do for our pets in case of an emergency. If you travel with your pets or take them hiking I would highly recommend for home and travel getting a first aid kit for your dog’s such as this one on Amazon:
Also for your home have a decal by the front door so the police and fire know to look for them in case of an emergency.
I hope this ensures your pets stay safe! Microchip you pet as well — this ensures if lost they have a better chance of being reunited with you!