Has your dog ever been injured or in discomfort and you have found yourself wondering if it is a situation that needs to be addressed immediately or if it can wait and be monitored? This can be a difficult situation and there is not one easy answer that fits all situations. Here are a few situations that should always be treated as an emergency and taken to your veterinarian immediately to be addressed.
- Difficulty breathing – This is the mother of all veterinary emergencies. After three minutes without breathing it’s all over. If your dog is having trouble breathing, or is “breathing funny,” making alarming noises when he breathes, or is puffing his lips when he breathes, you need to get to the vet immediately.
- Restlessness, panting, inability to lie down comfortably, unsuccessfully attempting to vomit, and abdominal distention – These can all be symptoms of a condition commonly referred to as “bloat.” Bloat is one of the most urgently life threatening situations a dog can face. Some dogs will exhibit all of these symptoms, but others may only pant and act restless. Because of its urgency, dogs exhibiting any symptoms suspicious for bloat should be rushed to the nearest veterinarian.
- Seizures – Although a solitary seizure is not likely to be life threatening, seizures often come in clusters, which can become progressive. And sometimes seizures are caused by toxins that can cause fatal reactions.
- Collapse or profound weakness – These can be symptoms of major problems such as internal bleeding (particularly a syndrome called hemoabdomen), cardiac compromise, anaphylactic shock, certain poisonings, a glandular condition called Addison’s disease, and some types of organ failure. All of these problems require urgent veterinary attention.
- Profuse hemorrhage or major known trauma – These are veterinary emergencies. Profuse hemorrhage is a no brainer. However, dogs that have fallen from up high, have been struck by cars, or have been in altercations with much larger dogs can appear unharmed at first, despite suffering major internal injuries.
- Protracted vomiting and/or diarrhea – A dog who vomits once or has a single loose bowel movement may not require any treatment other than a few hours of resting the stomach and a day or two of bland food. However, repeated vomiting and diarrhea can rapidly lead to life-threatening dehydration; they also can be symptoms of major problems such as gastrointestinal obstruction.
- Struggling to urinate – This may simply signify a bladder infection. Bladder infections are painful but not life threatening. However, this symptom could also represent obstruction of the urinary tract by bladder stones — a situation that is very urgent indeed. Either way, your pet will be best off by seeing the vet since bladder infections, as mentioned above, are very painful.
- Loss of use of rear legs – This is especially common in Dachshunds, Corgis, and other short legged and long back breeds, and can be a sign of injury to the spinal cord. This paralysis or partial paralysis is usually very painful, and rapid treatment can make a big difference in the long term ability to walk.