Common emergencies in dogs

These are some of the most common emergencies that occur in dogs and some general advice on how to deal with them.  Always seek veterinary advice if you are concerned about your dog.

  • Wounds. If the wound is very dirty run clean water over the area then gently cover with a clean dressing, cling film or a towel, then seek help. If there is persistent bleeding, pressure can be applied with a bandage. Take care when handling an injury as, your dog may be in pain and could bite. Do not remove the bandage to check it as this will increase blood loss. Have your dog checked by a vet as soon as practical and remember that tight bandages should never be left on for more than a couple of hours.  Do not tie anything around a limb to stop bleeding.
  • Road traffic accidents and other traumatic injuries. If you think your dog has been hit by a car, have him checked as soon as possible. Internal bleeding can occur without showing any outward signs initially. If you suspect your dog has a broken leg or has a head injury, you should carefully slide him onto a towel or blanket. Use this as a stretcher for transportation to the surgery and contact your vet immediately for advice.
  • Collapse. There are various possible reasons for collapsing many of which will require emergency attention, these include heart, lung, bone and neurological conditions. If your dog collapses please contact your vet immediately.
  • Seizures (epileptic fit). When dogs have a fit, they may fall to one side, possibly lose consciousness, start shaking and their legs may “paddle”.
    In the event of a fit:
    – move any hazards to avoid further injury
    – stay clear of your dog’s head.
    – never attempt to put anything in your dog’s mouth as he may accidentally
    bite you
    – make sure the room is quiet and dark until he has started to recover and contact your vet for further advice.
    – there’s no need to hold your dog down if you have moved the hazards out of the way
  • Poisons. Prescription drugs and some plants and flowers can be poisonous to dogs, as can some common foods like onions or garlic. If you think your dog may have ingested these please contact your vet immediately. Read more about poisonings in dogs 
  • Vomiting and diarrhoea. In otherwise healthy adult dogs with a single episode of vomiting and/or mild diarrhoea, read our “my dog has diarrhoea” or “my dog is being sick” articles. If your dog has repeated vomiting or diarrhoea, especially in puppies, small dogs and old dogs or the vomit or diarrhoea contains blood, please contact your vet for advice. IF your dog is trying to vomit unsuccessfully, is bringing up white froth or his
 abdomen appears swollen, contact your vet immediately as he may have a gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV) or bloat – this is life-threatening and needs emergency treatment.
  • Trouble passing urine/cystitis.  If you notice your dog is not producing any urine or is having difficulty passing urine or you notice blood in the urine, go to see your vet as soon as possible. It may be a sign that your pet has a life-threatening blockage (this is more common in males than females).
  • Breathing difficulties. You may notice wheezing, choking, weak and raspy breathing, shallow breathing or coughing. Breathing difficulties can result from foreign bodies in the throat, allergic reactions, heart disease or lung disease. Breathing problems are serious and potentially life-threatening so get your pet seen as soon as possible. Read more about breathing difficulties in dogs
  • Eyes. Eye (ocular) problems can deteriorate quickly and if left untreated can result in blindness or loss of the eye.  Signs of ocular disease include redness of the eye, discharge, excessive tearing, swelling, squinting or a closed eye and constant pawing at the eye. Even if it is just a foreign body in the eye or a superficial scratch on the cornea, prompt veterinary treatment can prevent a minor problem from becoming a serious one.
  • Stings/bites/allergic reactions. These are most commonly seen in the summer months, but can occur at any time of year.  Typical signs are swelling around the face, or hives, most easily seen on the belly.  These can be quite itchy for your pet.  Rarely, severe allergic reactions can lead to respiratory difficulty due to swelling of the airways.  Other signs of a severe reaction include extensive swelling throughout the body, diarrhoea and shock.  Severe reactions are more likely to be seen following multiple stings.  If your pet is showing signs of discomfort or distress, contact your vet.