Emergency Care for your Dog

What is an emergency for a dog? What are the situations that require immediate veterinary care? What to do if there’s an emergency with your dog? Here you can find some answers.

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How do you know if your dog is having an emergency?

Dogs may need emergency care if they have a trauma or injury, such as being hit by a car or falling; if they are choking; if they are stung by an insect and have a reaction; if they are suffering heatstroke; if they experience some kind of poisoning; or if some other life-threatening event happens to them. You may also need to call an emergency clinic after hours if your dog is having a prolonged seizure.

Signs that your dog needs emergency treatment

• Change in body temperature
• Difficulty standing
• Excessive bleeding
• Loss of consciousness
• Pale gums
• Paralysis
• Rapid breathing
• Rapid or weak pulse
• Seizures

What to do if there’s a dog emergency?

In most cases, if your dog needs emergency care, you should take him to the veterinarian right away. During normal office hours your vet should be able to take you into an exam room immediately, ahead of other patients. However, if you have an emergency after hours or on the weekend, you may need to take your dog to an emergency veterinary clinic. Most veterinarians today are no longer on-call after normal daily office hours. You should talk to your veterinarian ahead of time to find out which emergency clinic they recommend in case your dog has an emergency.

Some veterinary offices do provide 24-hour emergency care for their clients. Ask your veterinarian if his or her office provides this kind of care, just in case they do. If your vet is part of a large practice with many vets, it’s possible the vets may take turns being on-call for emergencies, but most vets today refer their clients to emergency clinics.

Once you have the contact information for an emergency clinic in your area, or know who to call in case of emergency, you should post the information on your refrigerator or next to your phone so it will be easy to find in case your dog has an emergency.

Most veterinary emergency clinics will demand full payment at the time you bring your dog in for treatment, so it is good to have a credit card with you, if possible. Their costs are usually higher than ordinary veterinary office costs.

What should you know if you have an emergency?

If your dog is severely injured or having a seizure then it is possible that he may try to bite you. Dogs in this state are confused and they don’t know what they’re doing. Your dog may not recognize you or he may be in pain. You need to protect yourself. Move slowly and stay calm. You can kneel down near your dog and speak his name, but avoid getting close to his head. If he shows any kind of aggression or attempts to bite you, you need to get some help. If your dog is still and quiet, then you can make a homemade stretcher and very gently lift your dog onto the stretcher. You should be careful to support your dog’s neck and back in case he has any kind of spinal injury.

You should transport your dog quickly to the emergency clinic. Call the clinic en route, or have a friend or family member call them for you so the staff will be expecting you and your dog.

If your dog has been stung by a bee and is having an allergic reaction, you should get him to the vet as quickly as possible.

First Aid

There are some first aid treatments you can perform for your dog at home that will give you more time to get him to the emergency clinic.

If your dog is bleeding externally because of trauma or an injury, elevate the wounded area if possible and apply pressure to the wound.

If your dog is choking, put your fingers in your dog’s mouth to see if you can remove the item that is causing the blockage. If you can’t remove the item, you can try performing a modified Heimlich maneuver. Give your dog a sharp slap on the chest. This may dislodge the item.


CPR can be performed on dogs. You may need to perform CPR if you remove an item from your dog’s mouth or throat that he has been choking on but he is still unconscious. Before you start, see if your dog is breathing. If he is not breathing, turn him on his side. You can perform artificial respiration by pulling out his head and neck, holding his jaws closed, and blowing into his nose once every three seconds. Make sure that no air is escaping between your mouth and your dog’s nose. If you still don’t feel a heartbeat, start including cardiac massage while you are giving artificial respiration. Give three quick, firm chest compressions for each respiration, until your dog starts breathing on his own.


If you think that your dog has swallowed something toxic, call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center’s 24 hours hotline at 888 426-4435. There is a charged for calling the ASPCA. You may be asked to induce vomiting or directed to take your dog to an emergency clinic right away.


Pet owners can play a life-saving role in protecting their dogs from injuries and disease. Providing a safe environment free of dangerous hazards is an important part of caring for your dog or puppy. Dogs need to be safe at home and when they’re away from home. There are some simple things you can do to help keep your dog safe and secure.

Talk to your veterinarian about their emergency policies. Make sure you have a plan in case of an emergency and you know who to call. In some cases there is some first aid you can give your dog at home which can make a difference.

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Tatiana is a Los Angeles, CA based dog care and behavior counselor with 26 years of experience working with dogs and their families. She holds a M.S. in Psychology with an emphasis in Animal Behavior.