Dog News


by Shawn Finch, DVM

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Having a sick or injured pet is scary.  The following is a list that I hope will be helpful as you decide if your pet needs to be seen NOW or SOON or can be adequately cared for at home.  If in doubt, ALWAYS bring your pet in and call on the way to let your vet team know you are coming and to make sure they are there and ready for you.

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Our Beautiful Ebony Dog always thought "Empty Food Dish" should be on the top of the Emergency List

EMERGENCY:  Bring in immediately – call on the way

  • bleeding that does not stop
  • seizure that does not stop
  • suspicion of poisoning/known toxin ingestion (examples:  xylitol, antifreeze, naproxen)
  • hit-by-car or other blunt-force trauma
  • heat stress
  • animal bites
  • suspected allergic reaction
  • inability to urinate/straining to urinate
  • loss of consciousness
  • inability to stand or walk/difficulty walking
  • incoordination/gait problems
  • suspected or known fractures
  • burns
  • bloated abdomen
  • uncontrolled retching or vomiting
  • breathing difficulty
  • severe, unrelenting pain
  • neck or back pain
  • eye trauma
  • eyeball out of the socket
  • inability to open one or both eyes


URGENT:  Bring in as soon as possible – call first

  • depression/lethargy
  • lameness without bearing weight on affected limb
  • seizure that has stopped
  • other neurological issues (trembling, circling, confusion, etc.)
  • lacerations without active bleeding
  • torn nails
  • painful or very itchy skin problems
  • blood in the urine
  • vomiting
  • suspicion of foreign body ingestion
  • eye discharge, especially when discharge is not clear, sudden or accompanied by pain or vision loss or eye redness


WORTH A VISIT:  Bring in within a day – call for an appointment

  • lameness with weight bearing
  • decreased appetite
  • blood in stool/diarrhea
  • straining to defecate/inability to defecate
  • any painful condition
  • new swellings and lumps
  • cough
  • ear redness, pain, itchiness and/or discharge
  • skin problems
  • fleas
  • swollen ear flaps
  • snotty nose, respiratory issues that are not causing breathing difficulty
  • aggression issues
  • drinking more than normal/urinating more than normal – ALWAYS have this checked out!
  • changes in eating habits
  • scooting or licking the bottom
  • ticks and tick bites
  • hair loss
  • eye discharge with no pain or other signs


WORTH A CALL – Vet teams cannot diagnose over the phone or internet, but they can help you decide if your pet needs to be seen – if in doubt, make an appointment!

  • decreased energy
  • decreased appetite
  • missing a heartworm preventative dose
  • unusual ingestions
  • “slowing down”


WORTH A MENTION AT THE NEXT WELLNESS VISIT – Make an appointment earlier if needed, but do not forget to make a note and mention any changes in your pet, including the following, at the next visit!

  • halitosis (bad breath)
  • tartar buildup
  • slow weight gain
  • changes in hair coat-dullness, thinning
  • non-urgent behavior issues, including potty training regression and other issues

Great Points From Readers:  

  • When in doubt, call the vet!  Better a benign condition found than a serious condition missed.
  • Never feel badly that you have had me check your pet/answer your questions and things turned out to be just fine.  That is the time to celebrate!
  • The time invested in a phone call or time and money invested in an exam are well worth the peace of mind of knowing something was a false alarm (best case scenario) or finding something early or even with serious issues, knowing exactly what is wrong.
  • Take a pet first aid and CPR class.  Red Cross has an excellent course that may be found in your area.  Many pet related businesses and veterinary hospitals also offer courses.
  • Have a pet first aid kid readily available.

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May all of your pet issues fall as far down on this list as possible.

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