In spite of our best efforts, emergencies happen. You should know your vet’s procedures for emergency situations, especially the ones that occur at odd hours. Being able to recognize a true emergency allows you to react more appropriately in a stressful situation. Keep the telephone number of your vet, as well as that of a local emergency facility, posted in a convenient location.
* Pet poisoning is a major problem. Three of the most common types of poisoning are antifreeze, rodenticide, and garbage. Anytime you suspect a poisoning, call your vet as soon as possible. Symptoms of some poisons do not become apparent until 24 to 72 hours after the fact. In the case of antifreeze, the first few hours are critical. After that, most dogs die because of irreversible kidney damage regardless of therapy.
* In addition to poisonings, other conditions that usually require emergency care include automobile accidents, suspected broken bones, severe bleeding, eye injuries, difficulty in breathing, collapse or convulsions (seizures), inability to urinate, choking, vomiting and/or diarrhea for over 24 hours, appetite loss for over two days in a row, severe depressions, bloated stomachs, or rectal temperatures under 97F or over 104 F.
Knowing the exact product involved can make the difference between life and death with certain poisons. It’s also helpful to collect any vomitus and/or diarrhea, put it in a Ziploc back and bring it to the vet.
* Being able to recognize signs of shock helps save lives. Shock is defined as a collapse of the heart and lungs; which is the cardiovascular system. Shock involves a group of signs that occur as a result of a life-threatening disease process or situation. There are different types of shock, and each type can be associated with a different type of emergency situation.
* Signs of shock include bright red gums initially, later they become pale white; rapid heartbeat; collapse; shivering; cold extremities: the feet, toes, and ears; and weak pulses. Severe shock will lead to irreversible damage and death unless treated promptly. Treatment consists of fluids to restore the blood volume, medications to counteract harmful inflammation, warming to raise the body temperature, and therapy for the underlying disease or condition.
* In an emergency, you can evaluate your dog’s condition by taking his rectal temperature (normal is 101-102.5F); measuring his heart rate (normal heart rates are 110-120 beats per minute for puppies, 80-120 for small-breed adult dogs, and 60-80 for large-breed adult dogs); and measuring his rate of respiration (normal is 20-22 breaths per minute in a young dog, and 14-16 in an adult dog). Check his gums for color and his capillary refill time. To check capillary refill time press on the gums with your index finger for one second and release – the gum color should return to a normal bright pink color in one to three seconds. You should know how to apply a muzzle and have one on hand. If you feel it is the only option, you should also be able to perform CPR. Checking for corneal eye responses allows you to tell whether an animal is actually alive.
When you contact your vet or the emergency facility, be ready to provide the following information: your name, address, and telephone number; information about any poison (amount eaten, time since the exposure occurred, exact type of poison involved), the breed, age, sex, and weight of the dog or dogs involved; the problem or current status of the animal.
(NOTE: Be sure your dog can swim to prevent drowning. Water can contain toxic levels of many chemicals and harmful e-coli bacteria.)