Did you know that owning a pet has actually been scientifically proven to be good for your health? It’s true! Having a dog or cat around can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, boost your mood, fight stress, combat PTSD, and soothe chronic pain. There’s even evidence that retirees and seniors who own dogs live longer, are less lonely, and get more exercise.
But what happens when your dog’s health takes a turn for the worse? Since she can’t talk and tell you what her symptoms are, it can be difficult to know what steps to take. Read on to find out when to take a sick dog to an emergency clinic or veterinarian’s office.
Being a Responsible Pet Owner Means Being Prepared
There are a few important steps to take when you first bring your pup home from the shelter or breeder. These actions will help you be prepared in the event of an acute illness or an injury. In an emergency, you do not want to waste precious time looking for information or gathering the supplies that you need.
Have a veterinarian already chosen, and keep their contact information programmed into your phone and posted somewhere in your home. The refrigerator is usually a good place to put helpful information like this.
You should also know where the closest emergency veterinary clinic is located, and have that contact information on hand, too. Your regular vet may already have a relationship with a clinic, or can recommend one to you.
Assemble a first-aid kit so that you can provide triage care for your dog if necessary. It’s always best to see a veterinarian, but there may be a time when you need to tend to a cut, scrape, sting, or other emergency. Having supplies on hand will be invaluable.
While you’re at it, read up on how to take care of an injured or sick dog.
Make sure that your dog’s carrier is set up and ready to go. Have a soft towel — or better yet, a piece of your clothing that still has your scent on it — already inside the carrier. This will also come in handy if you need to travel with your dog on a moment’s notice.
Your dog should wear a collar with her contact information at all times. In the event that she gets separated from you, or that she takes ill when in the care of someone else, that information will be invaluable. Again, include not just your telephone number, but your veterinarian’s, too.
A Few Things to Keep In Mind
Your dog may feel like a part of the family, but remember that they are also still very much creatures of instinct. One of those instincts is to hide illness as a self-protective mechanism. In the wild, showing any kind of illness or weakness makes pack animals like dogs vulnerable.
Sick dogs are also much more likely to behave normally than sick humans. We have a lot of emotional baggage tied up with our health, which in turn affects our behavior when we are ill or hurting. Dogs do not.
That means their symptoms can be subtle, especially for minor illnesses or at the beginning stages of more serious ones. Pay careful attention to their body language, and trust your gut — if you sense that something is amiss, something probably is.
Visit the Vet Immediately If You Notice These Symptoms
These symptoms may be signs that your dog is suffering from a serious illness or injury, but don’t panic. It’s also likely that the cause is something minor or easily treated. The best thing to do is to contact your veterinarian or local emergency animal clinic.
- Loss of consciousness or unresponsiveness
- Collapse or inability to walk
- Dizziness, circling, or imbalance
- Change in temperature (104 F or under 99 F)
- Blue, white, or pale gums
- Labored breathing
- Abdominal bloating
- A visible injury of any sort
- Signs of acute pain (crying out loudly, acting aggressively, or other unusual behavior, especially when touched or approached)
- Any sudden or extreme change in behavior or demeanor
You know your dog best. Get in touch with the vet’s office if your dog’s actions are unusual, if her appearance seems amiss, or simply if you sense that something might be seriously wrong. After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Keep an Eye on Your Dog If She Exhibits These Symptoms
If you observe any of the following symptoms in your dog, keep an eye on her over the next few hours. And visit the vet if she isn’t making improvement within a day or two.
- Weakness or lameness
- Change in appetite or thirst levels
- Excessive salivation
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Change in frequency of urination
- Inappropriate urination or defecation
- Excessive scratching or changes in her coat’s appearance
- Wheezing or panting
- Sneezing or a runny noise
- Listlessness, or lack of interest in her usual pursuits and pleasures
- Signs of mild or moderate pain (whimpering, favoring a body part, reluctance to be touched)
- Any behavior or appearance that seems abnormal
Just as with the acute symptoms listed above, pay attention to your instinct. And play it safe; if something seems amiss, call the veterinarian to make an appointment or to ask about whether or not you should bring your pup in.
Final Thoughts About Dealing with a Sick Dog
We all hope that we’ll never have to worry about anything more serious than a case of the sniffles. However, it’s always best to be prepared when it comes to taking care of a sick dog.
Keep a first-aid kit and other emergency supplies easily accessible, trust your judgement about your dog’s behavior, and don’t hesitate to call for help.
Want to learn more about how to live your best life? Check out this blog post.