Print How to Prepare for Dog Emergencies

Recognizing a dog emergency and knowing how to react is part of being a responsible dog owner. Review these common dog emergency scenarios and how you should handle them:

Scenario #1: Medication Ingestion

Your dog swallowed an over-the-counter painkiller that was left on the table.

  • ANSWER: A single dose of ibuprofen (often packaged as Advil® or Motrin®), tranquilizers, acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or birth control pill won’t harm your dog. But multiple doses could be problematic. Call a veterinarian immediately if your dog swallowed more than a single dose, or if you’re not certain how much he swallowed.

Scenario #2: Car Accident

Your dog was hit by a car, but seems to be fine.  

  • ANSWER: Consult your vet. Many injuries aren’t immediately obvious, so your dog should be checked out. Breathing difficulties are especially critical.

Scenario #3: Gash or Cut

While playing outdoors, your dog rummaged through thick brush and developed a deep gash on his leg.

  • ANSWER: If the cut bleeds longer than 30 minutes, or if his gums are pale, seek medical attention. (Pale gums indicate excessive blood loss.)

Scenario #4: Unexplained Limp

While jumping in the yard, your dog developed a limp.

  • ANSWER: If his limp goes away immediately or soon after the incident, he’s probably fine. If he refuses to put pressure on it or if the leg looks like it is bent out of shape, contact the vet.

Scenario #5: A Taste of Chocolate

A well-intentioned friend ‘treated’ your dog to several pieces of chocolate. You know chocolate can be harmful to pets.

  • ANSWER: The amount of harm depends upon the kind of chocolate and the amount consumed. The darker the chocolate, the more dangerous for canines: A single ounce of baking chocolate is toxic to a 10 pound dog, though he can consume 10 ounces of milk chocolate without serious consequences (other than a possible upset stomach). It’s best not to guess. Call your vet and report what you’ve seen.

Scenario #6: Obstructed Airway

While playing catch, your dog got a ball lodged in his throat.  

  • ANSWER: Most dogs quickly expel something stuck in their mouth; but on occasion their airways can become obstructed. If your dog can’t breath, or his breathing is labored, take him immediately to the emergency clinic. Never try to yank out the object, as it might get pushed farther down the airway.

In spite of your best intentions, dog emergencies may happen. You can prepare for the worst by programming your vet’s number into your cell phone and printing directions to his office and to the after-hours clinic. Keep them in the glove compartment of your car. It’s a precaution you’ll be glad you took if an emergency occurs.

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