Dog Health: Signs of Emergency Problems

Our dog’s health is important to us. When we suspect our dog is ill, we want to do the right thing. Unfortunately, distinguishing between a minor illness and health problems that need emergency attention is not always easy. It’s important to be prepared for and know how to identify serious dog health problems.

Know where to take your dog in an emergency

If your dog falls seriously ill, time wasted locating emergency services can be fatal. Know in advance where to go. Many veterinarians offer 24 hour emergency services. Find out if this includes your vet. If not, find out where the nearest veterinary emergency hospital is located. Keep this information in a convenient place.

So how do you know if you are experiencing an emergency?

Most veterinarians will advise you to not to take a chance but call the nearest emergency veterinary service if you suspect that your dog’s health needs immediate attention. Staff will assess the situation and usually advise that you bring your dog in for an examination.

The following information will help you identify and respond appropriately to the most common dog health emergencies.

Severe stomach pain

Signs that your dog is experiencing abdominal pain include an abdomen that is tender to the touch, standing with their back arched, and refusing food. Take your dog to the nearest emergency veterinary service immediately. Abdominal pain can be (and often is) a sign of a serious health problem.

Other signs of abdominal distress include vomiting, whelping, shakiness and breathing difficulties. Your dog may be suffering from gastric torsion. Gastric torsion develops suddenly and rapidly and tends to affect large, heavily-chested dogs more than most. This condition needs immediate attention.

Abdominal distress may also be a sign of bloat, constipation, kidney or liver disease, urinary stones, poisoning, an intestinal obstruction or a simple tummy ache. Err on the side of caution. A visit to the emergency veterinarian is advised to safeguard your dog’s health and give you peace of mind.

Control heavy bleeding

A laceration that results in heavy bleeding must be dealt with immediately. Apply direct pressure to the wound with a clean, dry bandage. Bleeding should stop within ten minutes.

With the bleeding controlled get your dog to the vet as quickly as possible. With dogs, there is only a small window of time for stitching a wound.

If the bleeding does has not stopped within twenty minutes, or if your dog is bleeding from the chest take your dog to the emergency clinic immediately.

Breaks and fractures

If your dog has had an accident and possibly broken bones, the first step is to call your regular vet. If they are unable to see your dog soon, take your dog to the emergency clinic. X-rays will determine whether or not your dog has broken bones.

Do not try to clean or straighten the wound. If you have a small dog, use pencils or pens as a splint. For larger dogs, use rolled magazines or newspapers. Place them on either side of the bone, then roll cloth or adhesive tape progressively up the splint material.

While traveling to the vet, touch your pooch’s toes every few minutes to be sure circulation is normal. If they get too cold, rewrap the splint material more loosely.

Difficulty with breathing

If your dog develops breathing difficulties, don’t hesitate. Take them to the closest emergency hospital immediately. Breathing problems are a sign of several health problems, many of them serious.

Vehicle accidents

When a dog is hit by a car, take him to the closest emergency clinic immediately even if he appears to have come to little harm. They may have suffered internal injuries that need to be identified and taken care of as quickly as possible. Shock can also pose a threat to your dog’s health. To prevent shock, wrap your dog in a blanket.

Keep away from your dog’s mouth. Dogs in pain may bite, even if they have never bitten you before.


Any degree of seizure is a problem. Call your veterinarian at once. If convulsions last for more than a few minutes, place a blanket over your dog, keep away from his mouth and take him to the nearest emergency service immediately.

Seizures are a sign of serious health problems including epilepsy, metabolic problems, brain tumors, and poisoning. Seizures themselves can be life threatening.

Whenever you are seriously concerned about your dog’s health, don’t hesitate to seek immediate veterinary advice. You know your dog well enough to know when something is seriously amiss. And you love your dog well enough not to take chances. Remember, veterinarians love animals too, and understand your concern.

Calling emergency services first will give clinic staff an opportunity to assess the situation and, if necessary, ensure that a medical team is prepared for your arrival. For further advice on emergency dog health problems, consult your veterinarian. A good veterinarian will be more than happy to help with any issue concerning your dog’s health.

Best Wishes,

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Author: Colleen Gray
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