8 Common Dog Medical Emergencies and What to Do

From allergic reactions to choking, bloat and more, find out how you can prepare yourself for 8 common dog medical emergencies right here.

~ This is a guest post written by Stephanie N. Blahut of Figo Pet Insurance. ~

When your beloved dog is ill or in pain, it’s hard not to panic — especially since they can’t tell you what’s wrong. Instead, it is up to you to figure out what steps are necessary to ensure that your pet gets the appropriate medical treatment they need.

To help you determine if your dog is suffering a major medical emergency, check out the handy guide below.

8 Common Dog Medical Emergencies

8 Common Dog Medical Emergencies and What to Do - Hey, Djangles. When to take your dog to the emergency vet, how to know when and what to do when your dog is having a medical emergency.

Image by Jackson Simmer via Unsplash.

1. Allergic Reactions

Your dog stumbles into a wasp nest and is stung several times. Soon, your pup is having trouble breathing and their face is swelling. These are obvious signs of an allergic reaction. So, what should you do?

  • If the insect left a stinger in the skin, remove it carefully with tweezers.
  • Apply a paste of baking soda and water and/or apply an ice pack to the sting site to relieve pain and reduce swelling.
  • Take your pet to the vet as soon as possible. 

The following may also cause allergic reactions in dogs: 

  • Vaccines
  • Medications
  • Food
  • Environmental allergens

Other symptoms of an allergic reaction can include vomiting, diarrhea, fever, hives, swelling and/or trouble breathing. If your dog has environmental or food allergies, you may notice them chewing at their paws and/or scratching incessantly.

2. Bleeding (Internal and External)


On an evening walk, your dog spies a deer and takes off after it. The deer lashes out and strikes your canine in the ribs. Your pup is now having difficulty breathing and may be bleeding internally. You need to:

  • Take your pet to a vet immediately.
  • If your dog has been impaled by an object, do not remove it. Instead, stabilize the protrusion to prevent further injury before going to the vet.

The following can also cause internal bleeding:

  • A heavy blow or being struck by a car
  • Falling from a great height

If your pet has pale gums with red/blue speckling; blood in their vomit, urine, feces or saliva; and swollen or painful abdomens, they may be bleeding internally. Internal bleeding can be potentially life-threatening. Don’t take any chances, get your pet to a vet immediately.


External bleeding is much more obvious than internal bleeding and can be caused by a range of things, including sharp objects, broken glass, and animal attack. If your pet is suffering from external bleeding you should:

  • Clean the wound with water or saline solution, then press down firmly on the area with gauze pads or a clean cloth to help stop the bleeding.
  • Wrap large wounds with clean gauze, a bandage or clean towel and take your pet to a vet immediately.
  • A vet-prescribed course of antibiotics may be required to prevent potential infection.

3. Bloat (Gastric Dilation Volvulus)

You discover your large dog trying to vomit and in obvious distress. This could be a sign of bloat, a potentially life-threatening condition that requires immediate veterinary attention (and often urgent surgery).

You should get to the veterinarian as soon as possible.

While the exact cause of bloat is unknown, large dogs with deep chests, such as German Shepherds and Great Danes tend to be most susceptible (although small dogs are not immune).

It is believed that factors such as stress, ‘gulping’ of food and eating before exercise can also cause bloat.


Other symptoms of bloat include productive and non-productive vomiting, anxiety, abdominal distress and excessive salivation.

4. Cardiac Problems

You notice that your pup is in respiratory distress and has pale gums. It’s possible that your dog is having a cardiac issue. If so, you will need to restrict your canine’s activity as much as possible and visit the vet immediately.

Cardiac issues can be caused by a number of conditions, including but not limited to:

  • Congestive heart failure
  • Aortic thromboembolism

Other symptoms include weakness, rapid or slow heart rate, coughing, and vomiting.

5. Choking

Your dog suddenly starts pawing at their mouth and retching. You realize they’re choking. You need to:

  • Try to remove the object that is blocking the airway or remove/loosen the object that is restricting breathing
  • If your pup’s airway is obstructed, perform the pet-version of the Heimlich maneuver
  • If you’re unable to remove the object yourself, seek emergency veterinary assistance immediately

Causes of choking include:

  • Food or an object stuck in your dog’s trachea
  • An item that has tightened around your dog’s throat

Other symptoms of choking are coughing or gagging forcefully, pawing at the face or rubbing the muzzle on the ground.

6. Hyperthermia (Overheating)

You’re walking on a hot day when your pooch begins to pant excessively and appears disoriented. Your canine is overheated, so you will need to:

  • Move to a cool spot or, if possible, find a place with air conditioning
  • Spray cool or tepid water on your pup
  • Give your dog water, but don’t force it to drink
  • If your pet’s rectal temperature is above 105 degrees, go to the vet immediately

Dogs can overheat for a number of reasons, including overexertion.

Additionally, it is extremely dangerous to leave your pup in a hot car, even for a short time.

Dog breeds with short faces, such as Bulldogs and Pugs have a harder time lowering their body temperatures on hot days, as do canines with thick or double coats.

Other symptoms of overheating can include vomiting, diarrhea, weakness and a bright-red tongue or gums.


7. Poisoning

On a walk, your dog scarfs down something before you can stop it. Not long afterward, the pup appears weak and can’t move. Your canine may have ingested poison, so go to a veterinarian immediately.

If you are able to save any of the material that the dog ate, bring it to the vet. Alternatively, if you know what your pup ate but aren’t sure if it is toxic, call the National Animal Poison Control Center.

Many substances may cause your pet to become ill if ingested, including antifreeze, rodent poisons and medications. Even some items that are harmless to humans — such as chocolates and xylitol — can be dangerous for dogs to eat.

Other symptoms of poisoning include disorientation, seizures and excessive salivation.

8. Seizures

You discover your dog on the ground, and its paws are moving in an odd swimming motion. Your pet may be having a seizure, and you will need to:

  • Don’t try to restrain your pet during a seizure
  • Move objects that could injure your pet away
  • Avoid your pet’s mouth, as it may accidentally bite you
  • Take your dog to the vet immediately

Possible causes of seizures include low-blood sugar, ingestion of a poison or trauma.

Other symptoms include an inability to stand up, loss of urinary and bowel control, and shaking.

Don't Take Chances!

Finally, if you suspect your dog is having a medical emergency, don’t wait! Call or take your pet to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Your pet’s life and long-term health may depend on it!

A huge thanks to Stephanie of Figo Pet Insurance for this super-handy and helpful write-up on common dog medical emergencies and what you should do if the worst occurs.

About the author:

Stephanie N. Blahut is Director of Digital Marketing and Technology for Figo Pet Insurance. Figo is committed to helping pets and their families enjoy their lives together by fusing innovative technology — the first-of-its-kind Figo Pet Cloud — and the industry’s best pet insurance plans.


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8 Common Dog Medical Emergencies and What to Do - Hey, Djangles. When to take your dog to the emergency vet, how to know when and what to do when your dog is having a medical emergency, pet frist aid, allergic reactions, choking, bloat, seizures, bleeding, overheating + more.

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