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We take CPR lessons before our first child is born, and water safety classes before we learn to sail. We know preparation makes all the difference in an emergency. That’s true when it comes to your dog too.
Knowing what to do in common dog emergencies can determine whether or not a dog survives. Increasingly, dog owners are educating themselves through dog-oriented first-aid classes, such as those sponsored by the American Red Cross, which also sells a dog first-aid manual. Visit RedCross.org to order the manual or to find a class in your area.
Pet Tech — a Carlsbad, Calif., company — also offers pet first-aid classes around the country. “We teach you how to be proactive in your pet’s health,” explains owner Thom Somes. Visit PetTech.net for more information about Pet Tech classes and the Pet Tech smartphone app, which offers first-aid information.
A Guide to Common Scenarios
More often than not, our dogs get into trouble in predictable ways. Here’s a look at some common difficulties — and tips to produce the best possible outcome.
Scenario No. 1: Your dog storms through the baby gate and into your bathroom. Before you can even move a slippered foot, he jumps on the countertop and scarfs down the ibuprofen you were about to swallow to ease your back pain. Should you be worried?
What You Should Do: A single dose of ibuprofen (often packaged as Advil or Motrin), tranquilizers, acetaminophen (Tylenol) or even a birth control pill won’t hurt your curious friend. Multiple doses, however, could be problematic. Call a veterinarian immediately if he chews more than one pill. The ASPCA also operates a 24/7 animal poison-related emergency hotline at 888-426-4435. (You might be charged a $65 consultation fee.)
Scenario No. 2: Lucky, your Border Collie, couldn’t help himself: He had to chase the neighbor’s Volvo. But he got hit this time. Thankfully, he doesn’t seem to be hurt. Is veterinary assistance required?
What You Should Do: Your dog needs to be checked by a veterinarian, as many injuries aren’t immediately obvious. Of course, breathing difficulties are especially critical. So if your dog appears to be having any trouble inhaling, go to your vet or an emergency clinic ASAP.
Scenario No. 3: You’re camping and you take your dog on a romp. He loses his ball and goes to search for it in the thick brush, returning to you with a deep gash on his leg. Is it important to head back to the lodge?
What You Should Do: If the cut continues to bleed after a half hour or if his gums are pale (pale gums indicate excessive blood loss), you’ll need to seek medical attention.
Scenario No. 4: Your dog was so interested in the new dog next door that he tried to jump your privacy fence to get to her. Now, he’s limping. Do you allow him to learn a love lesson, or take him in to be checked?
What You Should Do: If his limp goes away immediately or soon after the incident, he’s probably fine. But if he refuses to put pressure on it or if the leg looks like it is bent out of shape, contact your dog’s health care provider.
Scenario No. 5: Your aunt Georgia says your Miniature Pinscher looks skinny and gives her several pieces of Godiva chocolate. Are they a threat to his health?
What You Should Do: That depends on what kind of chocolate your aunt gave your dog and how much your dog ate. The darker it is, the more dangerous for canines. Only 1 ounce of baking chocolate is toxic to a 10-pound dog, though he can get away with consuming 10 ounces of milk chocolate. (He still might suffer from severe tummy troubles.) You shouldn’t guess. Always call your vet and report what you’ve seen.
Scenario No. 6: You’re playing catch with your dog and he keeps missing the ball, despite your detailed tutelage. Then he finally catches it — but it goes down his throat. Does he need to see the vet?
What You Should Do: Most dogs yak up anything that gets stuck in their mouths, but on occasion their airways can become obstructed. If he doesn’t seem to be able to breathe, or if his breathing is labored, take him immediately to an emergency clinic. Never try to yank out the object, as it might get pushed further down the airway.
Emergencies are never planned. But since they do happen, it is important that you know how to handle them. Furthermore, you can prepare for the worst dog emergencies by programming your vet’s number into your cell phone and printing out directions to his office — as well as a map to the after-hours clinic — and keeping them in the glove compartment of your car. After all, you never know when a squirrel will fight back.