Foreword: This article is my personal opinion and experiences with using Emergency Vet services and pet emergencies; specifically dog related. I am not a Veterinarian; and while I have a considerable amount of experience with pet emergencies you should always consult your personal vet and take every situation differently considering your dog’s history and condition.
We have unfortunately all had an experience where we thought to ourselves “do I need to take Fido to the vet?” shortly followed by the thought of “not another vet bill”. From friends and family I am frequently receiving texts or calls of “Fido did this, what should I do?!?!” Emergency vet visits can cost anywhere from $100 - $800 just to walk in the door! Add in the exam, diagnostic testing, medication, and a possible stay? You’re looking at thousands of dollars. These are some easy tips and tricks to help you, help your pooch in these situations before rushing to the vet.
Some easy things you can check at home to help you determine if this is a “true” pet emergency. First, check the dogs capillary refill time; this is an easy way to check to see if your dog has good circulation. Simply press on your dog’s gum line with your thumb for a moment and release, a healthy capillary refill will result in the gum area turning pick shortly after you let go of your thumb, an unhealthy or sick dog with poor capillary refill time will result in a pale color or a sluggish return to pink color. While you are doing this take a mental note of the condition of the gums, are they warm and bright pink? Or are they sticky, pale, and cool to the touch? Poor capillary refill time would be a good indicator that your dog is sick and needs medical attention. Check your dog’s breathing, if Fido hasn’t been running around all day a heavy panting would not be a good sign, shallow breathing can also be an indicator of poor health.
Owners are often caught off guard and alarmed when their dog has blood in their stool, it’s scary! But fret not, most “bloody poop” is simply the bowel being irritated and does not require an emergency vet visit. Internal bleeding has an extremely unique odor and looks like dark brown or black coffee grounds. My personal suggestion when encountering a dog with bloody stool is to not feed the dog for 24 hours, keep an eye on vitals, always provide water, and feed a bland diet after 24 hours. This will help relieve the bowels from irritation and return the dog to normal.
A dog can choose not to eat for a number of reasons, this shouldn’t be taken lightly but also wouldn’t always need a trip to the emergency vet. Let the dog skip a meal, offer food at their next meal time, and monitor vitals. Remember; the gums of a dog can tell you a lot about what’s going on. Try adding some chicken broth to the dog’s next meal and monitor.
Ticks happen! Even with preventative dogs can be bitten by these little demons. Some preventatives repel but others work by having the tick bite and be killed. But fret not! There is an easy solution. Pull the tick off. Yup, it’s as easy as that. But Taylor, what if I can’t get the head of the tick?! Don’t worry about it. The tick will die, or is already dead, and the head will simply fall off. Use tweezers, locking hemostats, or even your own fingers. Make sure you dispose of the tick down a sick, in a toilet, anywhere that it can’t come back. The dog will form a scab where the tick was removed and be none the wiser. Indicators of Lyme disease are intermittent lameness, loss of appetite, and low grade fever.
The worst smell in the world. Fido just wanted to make friends with that silly black and white critter and it had the audacity to spray him in the face! Does it constitute a trip to the emergency vet? Not exactly. A dog being skunked is something you can easily take care of at home, Cornell Vet School has a great recipe for deskunking your pooch; 1 quart of hydrogen peroxide + ¼ c baking soda + a squirt of dish soap, mix it all together, lather up Fido and wait 5 minutes before rinsing. If your pooch got sprayed in the eyes flush with water and monitor.
All of these situations are atypical but should be taken seriously; you know your dog better than anybody so use your own judgement. When faced with an emergency and your vet is not open try contacting their office anyway, many vet offices have an on-call doctor who can give you advice after hours.
About the Author: Taylor Justice is a professional dog trainer, certified dog and cat nutritionist, photography hobbyist, dog show competitor, animal science graduate, and dog rescue advocate. You can find her on Instagram as @blitz_theditz, and Facebook as facebook.com/flyingfurphoto.