Every year, hundreds of dogs in the UK are involved in road accidents, suffer from heatstroke or swallow poisonous substances. Knowing what to do in an emergency could save your pet’s life.
Dogs and emergency situations:
- First ensure the safety of yourself and others. Keep calm and assess the situation before acting. Injured animals are frightened and in pain and may try to bite anyone who touches them.
- Contact the vet. Keep your vet's phone number to hand and know the name of the practice.
- Always phone first, whatever the situation, as there may not always be a vet available but staff may be able to suggest immediate action you can take
- Have a pen handy in case another number is given. Treatment can usually be provided more quickly if the dog is taken to the surgery, rather than if the vet is called out.
- If there is a risk of biting, put a muzzle on the dog, or wrap tape around the nose and tie behind the ears, unless the dog has difficulty breathing. Small dogs may be restrained by putting a thick towel over their heads.
- Never give human medicines to a dog – many will do more harm than good. Do not offer food or drink in case anaesthetic is needed.
- Drive carefully when taking the patient to the surgery
- If you do get bitten, see your doctor
Is your dog in need of emergency care?
Sometimes, outside normal hours, it is difficult to decide whether urgent attention is needed. You can always call and ask for advice.
You should phone the vet if:
- your pet seems weak, is reluctant to get up, or is dull and depressed
- there is difficulty breathing, or it is noisy or rapid, or if there is continual coughing causing distress
- there is repeated vomiting, particularly with young or elderly animals. Diarrhoea is less serious, unless severe, bloody or the animal seems weak or unwell. Feed small amounts of a bland diet (boiled chicken or white fish) and see a vet if it persists for over a day see Caring for your sick dog.
- your dog appears to be in severe pain or discomfort
- your pet is trying to urinate or defecate and is unable to. Blockage of the bladder sometimes occurs, especially in males, and can kill if not treated urgently.
- there are sudden difficulties with balance
- a bitch with suckling puppies is agitated, shaking and shivering and will not settle. It could be eclampsia, which needs urgent treatment.
Road accidents and dogs
Prevention is better than cure. Even a well-behaved dog should be kept on a lead anywhere near traffic, including slow moving vehicles. Do not have the collar so loose that the dog can get free.
If the worst happens, beware of other cars. Talk gently to the dog as you approach. Move slowly and avoid making sudden movements. Put a lead on if possible and, if necessary, muzzle before handling. If your dog can walk, go to the vet, even if there appears to be no pain. There may be internal injuries that are not immediately obvious.
If the dog cannot walk, small dogs can be picked up by placing one hand at the front of the chest and the other under the hindquarters. Improvise a stretcher for larger dogs with a coat or a blanket. If the dog is paralysed, there may be a spinal injury, so try to find something rigid, such as a board. Slide the patient gently on to this if possible. Cover with a blanket to reduce heat loss.