Do you know what to do if your beloved pup experiences an emergency? It’s essential for pet owners to be prepared for any type of emergency that may arise so you can be assured your canine companion stays by your side for years to come. Unfortunately, you never know when an emergency might occur, so taking the time to become knowledgeable about dog emergency care is essential.

Yellow labrador with e-collar after emergency surgery.

At Urban Veterinary Associates, we provide the highest quality and best service to pet owners. We understand how important your dog is to you, and that’s why we strive to help you understand the different types of dog emergency care, the signs and symptoms to look out for, the importance of quick treatment, and the different ways to give your pup the help they need.

What is considered a dog emergency?

A “dog emergency” pertains to sudden and serious health conditions in dogs that require immediate medical intervention. Dog emergencies can range from obvious situations, such as injuries from traffic accidents, to less evident circumstances, such as internal conditions. Some common dog emergencies include severe bleeding; choking; difficulty breathing; nonstop coughing and gagging; bleeding from the nose, mouth, or rectum; the presence of blood in urine or feces; inability to urinate or pass feces or pain while doing so; injuries to the eyes; ingestion of toxic substances; seizures; broken bones; severe lameness; severe pain; extreme anxiety; heat stress or heatstroke; severe vomiting or diarrhea; refusal to drink for 24 hours or more; and unconsciousness. Other situations, such as bite wounds and swallowing foreign objects, also constitute an emergency.

What are some signs and symptoms that my dog might be experiencing an emergency?

Knowing the signs and symptoms of emergency situations in dogs is crucial for pet owners. Some signs and symptoms include abdominal issues (bloating, swelling, or pain), respiratory distress (difficulty breathing or coughing/choking), eye injuries (inflammation or noticeable injury to the eye), obvious pain (excessive vocalization, changes in behavior, appetite, or mobility), mobility issues (staggering, stumbling, lameness, or inability to walk), uncontrolled bleeding, repeated vomiting/diarrhea, unconsciousness, dilated pupils, seizures, severe injury, difficulty with birthing puppies, inability to urinate or defecate, ingestion of poisonous foods/substances, sudden blindness/loss of balance, and blood in diarrhea. Any of these signs could indicate an emergency situation that requires prompt medical attention.

Shepherd mix dog getting foot wrapped after emergency accident.

Is it best to call an emergency hospital first before coming in?

It is recommended to call the emergency hospital before coming in. This allows the emergency pet care team to prepare and immediately assess the severity of your pet’s condition upon arrival. Additionally, calling ahead can help you make informed decisions about the necessity and urgency of your visit. The staff member on the phone can ask and answer questions to help guide you on the best approach for your pet’s medical condition.

Many veterinary practices have protocols in place for emergency scenarios, so if you call ahead, they can guide you on the appropriate procedures to follow and help ensure your pet’s safety. By calling ahead, you will also allow other pets with more life-threatening conditions to be treated first.

Should I give my dog first aid at home, and what should you have in your first aid kit?

It is important to have a pet first aid kit at home in case of an emergency. It should include items such as important contact numbers, pet license and vaccination records, a muzzle, a carrier or blanket, first-aid guide, flashlight or headlamp, latex or nitrile gloves, instant cold packs for bruises and swelling, tweezers for removing ticks or splinters, saline eye wash, tongue depressors, wound cleaning and bandaging supplies (sterile gauze pads, cotton balls, q-tips), Chlorhexidine 2% and povidone-iodine liquids to flush and disinfect a wound; styptic/blood clotting powder (especially for torn toenails), an Elizabethan collar to prevent your pet from licking a wound; and a pet thermometer. Regularly checking and updating your pet first aid kit is essential to ensure you have all the necessary items in case of an emergency.

When it comes to providing first aid at home, the most important thing is to remain calm. Assessing the situation is key before taking action. The next step would be keeping your dog warm and quiet while restricting movement if necessary – especially when there’s potential trauma involved. It’s also important that you contact your veterinary hospital for specific advice on how best to proceed with the treatment of your dog.

How do you perform CPR on a dog?

Performing Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) on a dog involves a sequence of actions that can be vital in saving a dog’s life during an emergency. The entire procedure can be divided into several key steps:

  1. Check for breathing and a heartbeat: Before beginning CPR, it’s crucial to establish whether the dog is breathing and has a heartbeat. If the pet’s chest isn’t moving and no heartbeat can be detected, CPR should be initiated.
  2. Chest compressions: The placement of hands for chest compressions varies depending on the size and breed of the dog. Regardless of the method, the compression rate should be 100-120 compressions per minute, compressing 1/3 to 1/2 the width of the pet’s chest. The chest should fully recoil before compressing again.
  3. Rescue breaths: After 30 chest compressions, provide two rescue breaths. This involves closing the pet’s mouth, extending the pet’s neck to open the airway, covering the pet’s nose with your mouth, and exhaling until the pet’s chest rises.
  4. Continue CPR: This cycle of 30 chest compressions and two rescue breaths should be repeated until the dog begins breathing on its own.
  5. Check again for breathing and a heartbeat: Every two minutes, briefly pause to check for breathing and a heartbeat.
  6. Seek professional help: Continue CPR until you reach a veterinary hospital, or call ahead so they are prepared when you arrive with your pup!

Knowing how to perform CPR on a dog is a fundamental skill for pet owners, as it can potentially improve outcomes for pets in emergency situations and provide peace of mind knowing you’re prepared if something happens.

Dachshaund with iv fluid drip.

How will a veterinarian treat my dog in an emergency situation?

In an emergency, the veterinarian will assess your pet’s condition and perform necessary tests to determine the extent of the injury or illness. Common emergency surgeries include unblocking urinary obstructions, repairing trauma-related injuries, removing foreign bodies ingested by the pet, and treating uterine infections.

After stabilizing your dog, treatment might involve intravenous fluids or medications to stabilize circulation; antibiotics and painkillers; wound cleaning and suturing; chest tube insertion for collapsed lungs; endoscopy for foreign body removal from the gastrointestinal tract; removal of bladder stones; splenectomy for ruptured spleen; and more. The severity of the situation would determine what type of treatment or surgery is required.

Why is prompt treatment in an emergency so important to my dog’s health?

Prompt treatment in an emergency can make a significant difference in a pet’s health. It is essential for pet owners to seek immediate medical attention when their dog is showing signs of distress or illness. Prompt treatment increases the chances of a successful recovery and minimizes the risk of further complications.

Delaying medical care can exacerbate the condition, leading to more severe complications, longer hospital stays, and increased costs due to prolonged treatments. Additionally, it can lead to a worsening of any underlying health issues, putting your pet at greater risk.


Dog emergencies can be stressful for pet owners, but being prepared and knowing the signs and symptoms can help ensure that you are able to provide the best possible care in an emergency situation. The ASPCA dives into greater detail on each of the above topics for additional emergency care guidance.

At Urban Veterinary Associates, we believe in offering educational resources to help pet owners make informed decisions about their pet’s health. We also have an excellent client success team who are always available to answer any questions or concerns you may have. If you live in or near Westmont, IL, contact us today at (630) 541-8088 to set an appointment or if you have any questions about dog emergency care.