No one ever expects to have an emergency – it’s not exactly something that you can plan for. But if you do have a pet emergency, being prepared for it can mean the difference, literally, between life and death for your dog.
The first thing you should do in an emergency is remain calm. I know that’s a lot easier to say than it is to put into practice when your dog is hurt or in distress, but panicking is going to be counterproductive. So take a few deep breaths, and as soon as you can, phone your veterinary clinic. They’ll want to know what’s going on so they can be ready for your dog when you bring him in. If you are calling after hours, there will be information telling you how to proceed. There may be a vet on call at your clinic, or you may need to take your pet to another location. Don’t worry, though, there will be measures in place for emergencies.
Let’s talk about some of the most common dog-related emergencies, and what you should do if one occurs.
If there is dirt in the wound, flush it with warm water, and then use a clean cloth to apply pressure to the wound. Transport the dog to the vet – he may need stitches.
Check the dog’s mouth to see if anything is obstructing the airway. Once the airway is cleared, if the dog is still not breathing, extend his neck, hold his mouth closed, and breathe into his nostrils until you see his chest rise. Do this every five seconds. You can continue to do this while someone else drives you and your dog to the vet.
If your dog has been attacked by another animal, wrap him in a blanket (leave the mouth and nose exposed) and try to keep him calm. If you have a small dog, place him in a laundry basket or a box that you have lined with a blanket. If you have a large dog, place him on a large blanket so he can be lifted more easily. Try not to handle the dog any more than is necessary – he could be in a great deal of pain.
If your dog is in a fight with another dog, it’s your decision whether or not to try to break it up. You may have heard that throwing cold water on dogs will stop a fight, but it doesn’t always work, and when it does, it’s usually only for a matter of seconds. Then they re-engage. Read Breaking Up a Dog Fight to learn how to separate dogs while reducing your risk of being bitten.
A trip to the vet is in order, because there could be injuries that are not immediately visible.
The most common cause of overheating in dogs is being left in a vehicle with the windows up. You probably hear public service announcements on the radio during the summer advising against keeping pets in a hot car, but it can be a concern at any time of the year. Even on a reasonably cool day, if the sun is out, the interior of your vehicle can heat up quickly. Too much exercise outside on a hot day can also lead to overheating. If your dog becomes overheated, pour tepid water over him, and give him water to drink. Then, call your vet to find out if there is anything else you should do.
There are few things more heart-stopping than seeing your dog hit by a car. It is important for everyone involved to keep calm – the last thing you need is to cause further stress to an injured animal by screaming at the idiot who hit him. You can do that later.
In general, you would follow the same procedure as you would for an animal attack. However, if you believe your dog could have broken bones, keep him as still as you can, and transport him to the vet on a hard surface like a board which you have covered with a blanket. Do not give him any medications.
Every family should have a first aid kit in the home, and in the vehicle as well. You can also buy first aid kits specifically for animals, like the AKC Deluxe Plus Pet First Aid Kit. It’s just $36.99 from Amazon, and shipping is free. It includes all the implements you need, like scissors for cutting hair away from wounds, tweezers for extracting splinters and other foreign items, and even a convenient tick removal tool. It’s also packed with all the gauze pads, bandages, cotton swabs and antiseptic swabs you could possibly need, and even a collapsible water bowl, refillable water bottle, and emergency thermal blanket. In short, if you need it, it’s there in this 100-piece kit.
An emergency isn’t something that you just fit into your schedule. It’s something that just happens, and usually at the worst possible time. It’s tough enough dealing with injuries and trauma when it’s just you on the receiving end – when your dog is involved, it can be downright terrifying.
In a life-threatening situation, knowing what to do is vital, and often time is of the essence. So have a good first aid kit on hand – ideally, one in your home and another in your car. Keep your vet’s phone number nearby so that you aren’t wasting valuable time searching for it. Stay calm so that you can assess the situation properly, and then do what you can to help your dog until you are able to get him to the vet.
Remember, you can’t prepare for an emergency while it is happening. Ask yourself, “If my dog were injured five minutes from now, would I be ready?” If you have any doubts, take some time and get prepared.