What to do in a Pet Emergency

Our televet team gives you advice on the steps to take when your pet has an emergency

Pet emergencies occur at any time. And in many emergencies, time is of the essence.

There are many “remedies” that internet searches will tell you you can use on your pet at home in an emergency that may appear to be good idea, but can actually be quite dangerous. Here we present some common emergency situations and how to avoid causing your pet more harm than good in these situations.

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke is a common emergency in the summer months and in year-round warm weather locales, most often seen in dogs, and especially those dogs that are of the brachycephalic breeds (Bulldogs and Pugs for example). Although heat stroke seems like a very straightforward emergency that occurs in humans as well, when it comes to pets, instituting treatment at home with an incorrect diagnosis can be dangerous and even deadly.

Dogs with heat stroke will show symptoms during or immediately after being in the heat or undergoing strenuous activity or exercise. Symptoms vary widely and may include collapse (98% incidence), shock (79% incidence), seizures (37% incidence), mentation changes (e.g. depression), tachypnea (rapid breathing), tachycardia (fast heart rate), prostration (weakness) & gastrointestinal signs (vomiting, diarrhea, etc.). But certainly the telltale sign is hyperthermia or an elevated body temperature (well over 103° F). Without confirming a high body temperature do not cool your pet! Hypothermia (a low body temperature) is also dangerous and potentially life-threatening! If you suspect heat stroke, and you do not have access to a veterinarian, take your pet’s temperature to aid in the diagnosis before cooling them. Overcooling them is also dangerous and this treatment should only be done under the direction of a veterinarian. The cooling process should be discontinued once a temperature of 103.5° F is reached.

Ingesting Something Potentially Harmful

Administering hydrogen peroxide by mouth to your pet is a commonly spoken about remedy to make a dog vomit who ingested something inappropriate (any item that is not meant for normal consumption, e.g. foreign body). However, not every case of foreign body ingestion warrants the induction of vomiting with hydrogen peroxide, either because the ingested item is not really a threat or the vomited item may cause more harm on the way up.

Examples of those which can be vomited after consumption are:

  • marijuana ingestion
  • most human food ingestions
  • inappropriate ingestion of human or pet medications
  • And more

A local or online veterinarian should be consulted prior to making a determination, but these are some common examples. Items that cause more harm on the way up the throat after vomiting is induced include ruptured batteries or other power sources, sharp objects and string. Once again, consultation with a veterinarian is imperative prior to making such a decision to induce or not induce vomiting, but these are just some common examples. Either way contact a veterinarian immediately because there is only an 40 to 60m minute window after the ingestion before the opportunity to make them vomit successfully is lost!

Medications that help people may be quite dangerous to our pets. Although the anatomy and physiology of our dogs and cats is similar to that of humans, the differences between us can be monumental. For example, dogs and cats cannot tolerate anti-inflammatories used in people. They are unable to metabolize such drugs and liver failure, kidney failure or gastrointestinal ulceration are a severe and, some of the time, irreversible risks.

Some compounded human medications are made with xylitol, the same product used as a sweetener in chewing gum. This causes hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and liver failure in dogs and cats who ingest it. Even human medications that are safe for pets can be dangerous or ineffective if they are given with other medications that should not be given simultaneously or if the dosing is incorrect. Always check with a veterinarian if you’re considering giving your pet medications made for humans. Some medications can help, some are ineffective and others can be very, very dangerous.

Despite having an infinite amount of knowledge at your fingertips, it is always recommended to diagnose and treat under the direction of a veterinarian. The above are only a few common examples of how the best of intentions can turn out horribly wrong. Instead of taking time with internet searches, take the time to seek veterinary assistance. The VetTriage team is here 24/7/365 to help you and can be accessed from any location on any device.

In pet emergencies, time is of the essence.