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Common Emergencies in Dogs

Common Emergencies in Dogs

Your canine companion has a sudden emergency! Do you know what to do? Find out how to handle an emergency situation.


Pet medical emergencies occur suddenly and without warning. It is important for all pet owners to have a basic understanding of common veterinary medical emergencies and basic first aid for their pet. Some emergencies are obvious—a dog runs across the road and is hit by a car. Others may be just as serious, but not as obvious. For example, a German shepherd appears restless after a large meal and tries to vomit; unknown to the owner, this is the beginning of Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV), one of the most serious medical emergencies in dogs.

While no one can be prepared for all emergencies, there are some simple steps you should follow and clinical signs to look for if your dog is ill or involved in an accident. Knowing this basic information could save your pet's life.

What should I do in an emergency?

  1. Keep calm and try not to panic. Assess the scene for any additional threats to you or your pet. This is important for everyone's safety.
  2. Keep your dog warm, and as still and quiet as possible with minimal movement, especially if there are neurological symptoms, broken bones, or any chance of a spinal injury.
  3. Contact your veterinarian. Explain what has happened and follow the specific advice given.
  4. To safely move or transport an injured dog, get somebody to help you. For a small dog, put it into a carrier (remove the top for easy and safe access to the carrier; don't push an injured dog through the small door or opening), or use a suitable container such as a strong cardboard box. For a larger dog, use a makeshift stretcher made out of some rigid material such as an appropriate sized, sturdy piece of wood. Carefully maneuver the dog onto a blanket or coat so that it can be gently moved to the carrier, box, or stretcher. The blanket will help stabilize the neck and spine, and prevent inadvertent biting or scratching from the injured pet.
  5. Transport your dog to your veterinarian as soon as possible. 

See more information about emergency canine situations and what to do here »

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