emergency care for dogs

Dog Emergency Care

Dog emergencies can be frightening experiences. And without prompt treatment, they can lead to serious injuries or death. If you have turned to the internet for help because you think your dog may be having an emergency, we strongly recommend calling your veterinarian immediately. Because emergencies can be fatal, Dr. Google is not an appropriate source of information.

Here at GeniusVets, we understand that you might be online searching for information on what to do if your dog ever has an emergency in the future. For this reason, we decided to send some of the most frequently asked questions about dog emergencies to trusted veterinarians throughout the U.S. and created this resource based on their responses.

The information below comes directly from veterinarians, but it is not a substitute for the guidance of your veterinarian. If your dog has an emergency, contact your veterinarian or use the GeniusVets Directory to find a trusted local vet.

What should I do if my dog is having an emergency?

If your dog is experiencing an emergency, contact your veterinarian immediately. And if you are not sure whether a problem is an emergency, call your veterinarian and explain your dog’s symptoms. They will help you determine if you need to bring your pet in for emergency care.

Some problems that always require emergency veterinary care include:

  • Major trauma
  • Ingestion of toxic substances
  • Eye injuries and problems
  • Pregnancy or birthing issues
  • Abdominal bloat

Anything that affects your dog’s immediate health and could lead to death or serious future illness warrants a trip to an emergency veterinarian.

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

Emergencies cause a wide range of symptoms in dogs, and it’s often difficult for pet owners to determine whether their dog needs emergency care. There are some signs and symptoms you should never ignore.

There are several common signs of emergencies in dogs, including:

  • Uncontrollable bleeding from external wounds
  • Pale gums, which could indicate internal bleeding
  • Respiratory difficulties or distress
  • Increased heart rate
  • Excessive panting
  • Sudden collapse
  • Seizures
  • Excessive vomiting or diarrhea
  • Serious injuries

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

Absolutely. It is always best to call the facility you are taking your dog to prior to your arrival. If it’s during regular business hours and your veterinarian is open, give them a call to let them know you are on your way. If it’s outside of regular business hours and you need to take your dog to an emergency facility, you should call them, too. Calling ahead gives the facility a chance to set up a table and prep an IV catheter and other supplies, etc. The veterinarian can get everything ready and expedite the process of helping your pet once you arrive.

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

In certain situations, providing first aid at home is appropriate. For example, suppose your dog has suffered a laceration and is bleeding profusely. In that case, you can apply a bandage or pressure to the cut to slow the bleeding until you get to the veterinarian’s office. Remember, though, that your dog is not in their usual state of mind during an emergency. If they are struggling to breathe or in pain, they may lash out. If you administer first aid, be careful as your dog may not react how they normally would. The best and safest option is wrapping them in a towel or blanket, placing them in a secure carrier, and getting them to your vet as quickly as possible.

How will a veterinarian treat my dog in an emergency?

In an emergency, stabilizing the dog is the first step. This process usually involves inserting an IV catheter and pushing fluids. Your veterinarian may also start your dog on oxygen therapy to help them stabilize. Once your dog’s breathing and heart rate are steady, the vet will begin looking at diagnostics to get to the root of your pet’s problem.

Your veterinarian may perform the following diagnostic tests:


Depending on the nature of the emergency, your dog may need additional lab tests. Your veterinarian will communicate with you every step of the way.

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

A true emergency can’t wait, and failing to seek prompt treatment could result in serious injury or death. When in doubt about whether a situation warrants emergency care, call your veterinarian. Consulting with an expert is the best way to determine if your dog needs immediate treatment or if you can treat the problem at home. Emergencies are time-sensitive, and it is wise to err on the side of caution and call your vet when something is wrong.

The AVMA is an excellent source of information about dog emergencies. If you still have questions or suspect your dog is having an emergency, reach out to your veterinarian right away. If you don’t have one, we are here to help you find a local veterinarian!