Dedicated pet owners know that feeling when you notice your pup acting odd. It could be anything depending on how well you know your dog and how obvious it is. How do you know when it is time to take your pup to the vet? What are the symptoms to watch for?
Because dogs cannot tell us what is wrong, it can be difficult to know when to be concerned or when to let time correct the issue. While there are many concerns with dogs, let’s focus on emergent situations in this article. There are four categories of emergencies that I am going to discuss today:
- No eating for more than 3 days
- Bloody stool or vomit
- Excessive vomiting (5+ occurrences)
- Hard rigid abdomen
- Lethargy or listlessness
- No bowel movement for more than 2 days
Dogs have impressive digestive systems that can handle many a rotten carcass, sticks, or other fun finds your pup can discover. But every now and then, their systems can develop an issue. If your pup is displaying any of the listed symptoms, it is time to call the doc. Most GI issues will pass within a few days and you can always call your veterinarian to consult whether or not you should bring your pup in, but trust your instincts. You know your dog!
- Lack of coordination or lack of control of limbs
- Shaking or twitching
- Listlessness or lethargy
- Abnormal behavior (aggression, fearfulness, etc)
- Sudden incontinence or inability to walk
Neurological symptoms are never a good sign. If your dog displays anything like the above mentioned symptoms, time to call the doc! One case I urge all dog owners to consider is if you have an older dog and they start developing symptoms like incontinence. Sometimes this can be normal aging, but if it comes on suddenly, it may be time to think about an end of life plan.
- Coughing up fluid or blood
- Distressed breathing (heavy panting or breathing not related to exercise)
- Sudden activity intolerance (pup becomes tired very quickly)
- Persistent sneezing or coughing lasting more than a day or two
Respiratory issues can be a sign of something underlying, like cardiac disease or a foreign body in the airway. So any respiratory symptoms that do not resolve after a day or two should be investigated by the vet. Sometimes it’s something as simple as allergies and sometimes its as serious as heart failure. Veterinarian offices generally are very open to a phone call and inquiry into whether or not it is time to see the doc! Don’t be afraid to call. 🙂
- Sudden rash or swelling
- Persistent itching with hair loss
- Animal bites (snake, dog, etc..)
- Bee stings on the face or neck
- Skin that is painful and/or warm to the touch
- Lumps or bumps that last more than a week
Skin issues are always tough to decide when enough is enough. Dogs roll in everything, sniff everything, and can’t tell you whether that new bump is a mosquito bite or a cancerous lump. My rule of thumb is if it lasts more than a week or seems to be bothering my pup, I call the vet. Any animal bite should be treated immediately as infection can set it very quickly and can turn fatal. Persistent itching can be allergies which can cause secondary infections on the skin or it could be an autoimmune disorder or mite infestation. My rule of thumb for itchy skin (or pruritus) is to bathe the dog thoroughly in hypoallergenic shampoo to see if that alleviates the symptoms. Either way, persistent itching and biting for longer than a week is something to be evaluated to give your pup some relief.
It is always tough to make that call, but trust your gut when it comes to your loved pooch. I hope this guide helps a little, but I also hope you, devoted readers, never have to use it! When in doubt, call the vet’s office for advice on how to proceed and (I cannot state this enough) trust your instincts! You know your pup, trust that relationship.
Happy wags and healthy tails to all of you!
Hailing from sunny Southern California, Brianna is a Registered Nurse, former dog foster mom, and Marine Corps spouse. She enjoys beach trips, hikes, and any other various adventures with her two rescue pups, Kibeth and Ajax, as well as writing or reading about anything canine.
Dogs give us the purest physical example of unconditional love and pure unadulterated joy in the world.