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Emergency Care and First Aid for Dogs

ASPCA logoUnfortunately, accidents do happen. When a medical emergency befalls our furry friends, pet parents may find it difficult to make rational decisions, especially if something occurs during the middle of the night. That's why it's crucial to have an emergency plan in place-before you need it.

How Do I Find 24-Hour Emergency Care for My Dog?

Talk to your veterinarian about an emergency protocol. Does your vet provide 24-hour service or does he or she work with an emergency clinic in the area? Some practices have multiple veterinarians on staff who rotate on-call services after hours. Check to see if your primary care vet has partners who might answer an emergency call.

It’s also a smart idea to keep the name, number and address of your local emergency clinic tacked to the refrigerator or stored in your cell phone for easy access.

 

When Does My Dog Need Emergency Care?

Your dog may need emergency care because of severe trauma-caused by an accident or fall-choking, heatstroke, an insect sting, household poisoning or other life-threatening situation.

What Are Some Signs That My Dog Needs Emergency Care?

  • Pale gums
  • Rapid breathing
  • Weak or rapid pulse
  • Change in body temperature
  • Difficulty standing
  • Apparent paralysis
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures
  • Excessive bleeding

What Should I Do if My Dog Needs Emergency Care?

Dogs who are severely injured may act aggressively toward their pet parents, so it’s important to first protect yourself from injury. Approach your dog slowly and calmly; kneel down and say his name. If the dog shows aggression, call for help. If he’s passive, fashion a makeshift stretcher and gently lift him onto it. Take care to support his neck and back in case he’s suffered any spinal injuries.

Once you feel confident and safe transporting your dog, immediately bring him to an emergency care facility. It’s also a smart idea to ask someone-a friend or family member-to call the clinic, so the staff expects you and your dog.

 

What Are Some First Aid Treatments I Can Perform on My Dog?

Most emergencies require immediate veterinary care, but first aid methods may help you stabilize your pet for transportation.

  • If your dog is suffering from external bleeding due to trauma, try elevating and applying pressure to the wound.
  • If your dog is choking, place your fingers in his mouth to see if you can remove the blockage.
  • If you’re unable to remove the foreign object, perform a modified Heimlich maneuver by giving a sharp rap, which should dislodge the object, to his chest.

 

Should I Perform CPR on My Dog?

CPR may be necessary if you remove the object your dog is choking on, but he is still unconscious. First check to see if he’s breathing. If not, place him on his side and perform artificial respiration by extending his head and neck, holding his jaws closed and blowing into his nostrils once every three seconds. (Ensure no air escapes between your mouth and the dog’s nose.) If you don’t feel a heartbeat, incorporate cardiac massage while administering artificial respiration-three quick, firm chest compressions for every respiration-until your dog resumes breathing on his own.

What Should I Do If My Dog Eats Something Poisonous?

If you suspect your pet has ingested a toxic substance, please call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center’s 24-hour hotline at (888) 426-4435. Trained toxicologists will consider the age and health of your pet, what and how much he ate, and then make a recommendation-such as whether to induce vomiting-based on their assessment.

 

WebMD Veterinary Reference from ASPCA Virtual Pet Behaviorist

The ASPCA Virtual Pet Behaviorist specializes in the resolution and management of pet behavior problems only. Please do not submit questions about medical problems here. Only licensed veterinarians can diagnose medical conditions. If you think that your pet is sick, injured or experiencing any kind of physical distress, please contact his veterinarian immediately. A delay in seeking proper veterinary care may worsen your pet's condition and put his life at risk. If you are concerned about the cost of veterinary care, please read our resources on finding financial help.
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