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5 Reasons to Immediately Bring Your Dog to the ER

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If you missed our 7 Reasons to Immediately Bring Your Cat to the ER, click here!

Now, for the dog owners! Deciding if your dog needs to be seen through an emergency vet can be difficult. Here are a few of the most common reasons to immediately bring your dog to an emergency animal hospital:

1. Difficulty Breathing or Rapid Breathing

When sitting calmly or resting, dogs should normally breathe at a rate between 12-40 breaths per minute. If your dog’s breathing rate is more than 60 breaths in a minute, seek emergency care. If your dog is showing signs of difficulty breathing such as panting (despite being in a cool area and resting), gasping, excessive coughing, or other abnormal sounds, then remove any restrictive neck collars and drive your dog to the closest animal ER in a vehicle with cool (not cold) air flowing.

2. Active Bleeding or Open Wounds

A common cause of external bleeding is from a wound which is often the result of a fight with another animal, trauma such as being hit by a car, or grooming accidents. All external wounds have a risk of continued bleeding or infection if not treated by a veterinarian. Do not attempt to clean these wounds with any chemicals at home, and do not apply any topical ointments. Instead, use a clean cloth or towel to hold pressure on the area to help slow the bleeding while you transport your dog to the vet.

3. Abnormal Mentation or Unresponsiveness

Dogs who have altered mentation need to be seen immediately. Altered mentation can range from dull or comatose to hyperactive and overly-sensitive to touch and sound. This may indicate a serious illness, an exposure to a drug or toxin, pain, or a neurologic disease.

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4. Seizures

If your dog is having or just had a seizure, they need to be seen by a vet immediately. It’s important to transport your dog to the car carefully, and only once it is safe to do so. Keep in mind, a dog who is having a seizure is not aware of their surroundings and may accidentally bite anything near their mouth. We recommend rolling your dog onto a blanket and lifting the blanket to transport your dog to the car to avoid being injured. Dogs who have seizures will continue to have altered mentation for minutes to hours after a seizure, and their behavior can be unpredictable.

5. Exposed to Toxins

If you witnessed your dog eat something toxic or if you suspect they did, go to the nearest animal emergency hospital right away. You may also choose to call ASPCA Poison Control Center if you need help determining the next course of action, but we recommend calling them as you travel for the ER vet in case immediate decontamination is needed. Common dog toxins include chocolate, grapes/raisins, xylitol, rat and mouse poisons, antifreeze, human medicines, and unbaked yeast dough…just to name a few.

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There are many issues that can wait to be seen by your family veterinarian the next day – but these five issues warrant an immediate trip to the animal emergency hospital. If you’re still debating whether or not to get Fido in the car, remember this – you know your pet best. If you feel something’s wrong and it cannot wait until morning, then bring your dog in!

Still not sure if you should go to the ER vet or not? Check out this list by Dr. Justine Lee, one of Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota’s board-certified veterinary criticalists and a board-certified veterinary toxicologist.

Written by Nikki Scherrer, DVM.

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