When you live with dogs medical emergencies can and do occur. Last week, Corey had an health crisis that required me to put my “emergency plan” into action. It worked pretty well so I thought I’d share it with you.
Friday morning I gave Corey some medication and followed by a treat as a reward. Rather than swallow it, Corey choked on the treat. I knew instantly that it had gone into her airway.
1. Confine other dogs. As soon as Corey gagged, the other dogs came running. The puppy was licking Corey’s face and the other two dogs were milling around nervously. I quickly locked them away. Their behavior is normal for dogs but not helpful. Dog fights are not unusual at times like this. A sick dog may be frightened or in pain so may lash out. The healthy dogs may be confused by the sick dog’s behavior so may attack. It’s best to separate them to keep the situation as calm as possible.
2. Prioritize problems. Years ago, I was taught the following priorities for human medical emergencies that I also use them for my dogs:
a. start the breathing
b. stop the bleeding
c. treat for shock, and in the case of dogs, bloat
If they cannot breathe, I cannot stop the bleeding, or they are showing signs of shock (pale gums, shallow breathing, withdrawing) or bloat, we head immediately to the vet.
3. Think about how your dog’s history might affect the situation. While I was observing Corey, my mind was thinking about her health and temperament. She’s a 12 ½-year old golden retriever so she is a senior citizen. Two years ago, she had major heart surgery to remove the sac around her heart. She’d bounced back easily but I knew her heart was not normal. As I watched her struggle with the cookie, I was debating about the risk of pneumonia or a heart attack. However since she is a friendly, stable dog, I wasn’t worried about her becoming aggressive due to fear, pain or handling.
4. Assess the situation. Since Corey was able to breathe, I watched her for 15 minutes. She was getting air but her breathing was ragged. She began shivering. I could hear her stomach churning. Suddenly, I saw her stomach expanding. Within minutes we were in the van on the way to my vet. Why did I leave then, not earlier?
a. Breathing. Since Corey could breathe, I was willing to wait to see if she could cough up the treat.
b. Pain. Dogs rarely whine or cry from pain. Instead they shiver just like they are cold. Corey’s shivering showed she was in pain but I was still hopeful she could cough up the treat, which would fix the situation.
c. Bloat. When Corey’s stomach began to expand, I feared she was on her way to bloat from pain and fear. Bloat (gastric dilatation) is when the dog’s stomach fills with air and on occasion twists (gastric volvulus). Bloat is a dire emergency for any dog. If this is happening to your dog, do not pass “Go,” do not collect $200. Go directly to your vet (or a closer one if your dog is showing severe signs).
5. Call the vet sooner rather than later. I have my vet’s phone number memorized but also have it in my cell phone in case I forget in moments of crisis. I had already called to let them know what was happening. Once Corey’s stomach started blowing up, I let them know we were on the way. Between the two calls, they knew what was going on so were ready for us.
6. Know where to go and how to get there. You can’t call 911 for dogs so it’s up to you to know where to go during emergencies. We ended up at the emergency clinic on Saturday so I was grateful I had done some prior planning. Prior to Corey’s emergency, I had:
a. discussed emergency options with my vet at an earlier visit
b. Googled the clinic he recommended, looking for information and reviews
c. driven by when I was out doing errands.
d. called to get some key information
e. put their phone number and address in my cell phone
Thus, when Corey and I headed to the emergency clinic on Saturday, I knew:
a. how to get there
b. how long it would take
c. they had veterinarians and technicians on 24/7
d. they accepted my credit card for payment but they needed a large deposit before any treatment
7. Have accident and injury pet insurance. Years ago another Corey crisis inspired me to get pet insurance for accidents and injuries. Although I save money for my dogs’ routine care, I know how fast emergency vet bills can pile up. Within 15 minutes, I was looking at a $1200 vet bill for a tiny little cookie. Knowing that Pets Best would pay over $800 of that made it much easier for me to approve Corey’s treatment plan.
Thankfully, Corey is resting comfortably and should recover from her Cookie Caper within a week.
What is in your emergency plan for your dogs?