Vet Emergency

When do you call the vet and when do you wait? Your dog isn't well, but the vets are closed until the next morning. Do you ring them for an emergency or will it wait until the morning?

The first thing you must do in any emergency is to keep calm. In a real emergency and if you are on your own, it is often better to call the vet immediately, rather than try administering first aid yourself, the quicker you call the vet, the quicker you can get professional help.

If you are in any doubt at all whether or not to call the emergency vet, it is far better to call and be advised. Never feel that you might be wasting their time!

Situations that should not wait until the morning are:
  1. The dog has difficulty in breathing and is distressed. This distress can be distinguished by posture, difficult or rapid breathing, gasping for air, whining/crying, or by change in the colour of the mucous membranes from a normal pink to blue.
  2. Any bleeding which can not be stopped by direct compression.
  3. Seizures or convulsions that recur in dogs not known to be epileptic.
  4. Most fractures. Some minor fractures can wait until morning, but this depends to some extent on the excitability of the patient. This warrants at least a call to the vet to confer on the advisability of waiting.
  5. Known ingestion of toxic substances.
  6. Allergic reactions. The need for emergency veterinary attention is not as clear cut. Excessive swelling around the facial area should be attended to immediately. Hives or welts deserve a call to the vet.
  7. Coma, or inability to respond to stimuli. Common in some small breeds of puppies due to hypoglycemia. Can occur in diabetics as well for the same reason.
  8. Any injury to the eye requires immediate attention. Since loss of vision can occur with injuries to the globe as well
    as the cornea, examination can limit permanent damage.
  9. Inability to urinate as evidenced by straining to urinate. Owner should be able to differentiate between staining to urinate and straining to defecate. If owner can not determine which is occurring than an examination should be done at once.
  10. Persistent vomiting/diarrhoea(especially bloody) can not always wait as electrolyte disturbances and dehydration can result.
  11. Symptoms of bloat in large, deep-chested dogs.

So now you have rung the emergency vet, what information should you have ready to tell them?

First of your entire name and, if you have to leave a message, your telephone number. If you have to leave a message and wait for the vet to call you back, remember to stay off the phone line!

You need to advise the vet that it is a dog and which breed, then the problem, clearly describing the symptoms and exact situation. What led you to be concerned? Have you administered first-aid or medications? If so, describe exactly what and when.

The dog's temperature is always useful if it can be obtained. Mucous membrane colour and CPR (capillary refill time) are very important. This is checked by pressing on the gums and noting how long it takes them to return to pink. Normal is almost immediately. Are there any current medical problems and what drugs is the dog taking? When were the last vaccinations given and what were they?



© 2006 Jill Terry

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Submitted: 18 Aug, 2006 (Edited 28 Jan, 2010)
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