Educational Articles

Dogs + Emergency Situations

  • 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. 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.

  • Epilepsy is a brain disorder characterized by recurrent seizures without a known cause or abnormal brain lesion (brain injury or disease). A seizure is a sudden surge in the electrical activity of the brain causing signs such as twitching, shaking, tremors, convulsions, and/or spasms. The exact cause of epilepsy is unknown, but a genetic basis is suspected in many breeds. Seizures can vary in appearance and can be focalized or generalized.

  • Ethylene glycol, a sweet-tasting, odorless liquid, is the active ingredient in antifreeze. Ethylene glycol can also be found, in lower concentrations, in some windshield de-icing agents, hydraulic brake fluid, motor oils, solvents, paints, film processing solutions, wood stains, inks, printer cartridges, etc.

  • When it comes to bleeding, what you can’t see can be more serious than what you can. To minimize blood loss, you can provide first aid for bleeding dogs until you arrive at the veterinarian.

  • Emergencies come in all forms; automobile accidents, bite wounds, burns, heatstroke, poisoning, seizures, and more. For a general overview of what constitutes an emergency, and how to handle common crisis situations, refer to our fact sheet on Common Emergencies in Dogs.

  • Dogs that fall from heights can suffer sprains, broken bones, head trauma, and chest or abdominal injuries. Small dogs can incur the same degree of injury falling from much smaller distances. Toy breeds have been known to break one or both legs when simply jumping down from the sofa.

  • The stings of bees, wasps, and hornets, and the bites of ants and spiders all spell trouble for the nosy dog. Insect venom causes problems ranging from mild irritation to life-threatening shock.

  • Although most limps need veterinary attention, there are a few first aid measures you can perform at home if your dog is hobbling around.

  • Frostbite or congelatio in medical terminology is the damage that is caused to skin and other tissues due to extreme cold. When the environmental temperature drops below 32°F (0°C), blood vessels close to the skin start to narrow or constrict.

  • A gastropexy is a surgical procedure that is sometimes performed in large breed dogs to prevent gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV), also known as bloat. A gastropexy may be performed prophylactically or may be done as part of the surgical management of GDV.