Common canine emergencies

Sick puppy

What to do until you get to a veterinarian, if necessary


If your canine kid is stung by a bee

Being stung by a bee, can be quite a shock to a dog’s system and especially so for short-nosed breeds, whose upper airways are already restricted.


According to a veterinarian, unless you have a Pug or Bulldog, if you keep calm and are able to calm you dog, remove the stinger from the skin. Unfortunately most bee stings are found on a dog’s face. Use cold water or a compress to limit swelling. If necessary, the face could be held under cool running water and you can simply wipe the water off with your hand. That would also have a calming influence on your dog.


If you have canine anti-histamine on hand, administer it according to instructions. Many dog owners also believe that, in the absence of a proper anti-histamine, to simply squirt some carb soda with water into the mouth. And feel free to give a good dog cookie afterwards.


However, constantly monitor your dog. Should its face swell up, there is difficulty breathing (if not a short-nosed breed), hives break out or vomiting and diarrhoea occur, rather take it immediately to a veterinarian. Do not wait until the dog collapses.


Scavenging cooked chicken bones

No matter how many treats and what special foods we feed our dogs, they are scavengers and it is impossible for most of them not to quickly snatch a chicken bone which someone had thrown away or is found in an uncovered garbage bin.


Especially in South Africa, where some of the population consume vast amounts of chicken in public places of which the bones get thrown down and not in a rubbish container, dog owners should always be alert when taking their canine kids on a walk.


Very often, a chicken bone’s splinters can either get stuck in the dog’s throat or even perforate the intestines. Apart from leading to costly surgery to save the dog’s life, it is a hugely traumatic experience for animal and owner and many times, the dog battles with gut problems throughout its life. Better safe than sorry. Being a hysterical canine parent is okay if it means your animal is kept out of danger.


Some bigger dogs could be fed a high fibre diet and would eliminate the bone through pooping, but do not rely on that to happen. Look out for vomiting and a bloody stool, lethargy and discomfort. Should this occur, take it to your veterinarian as soon as possible.


Your chocolate had disappeared – Fido ate it!

One sweet lick is not enough and a dog will consume an entire slab of chocolate. Chocolates are to dogs what poison is to humans as their bodies cannot metabolise theobromine in chocolate. Some owners in showing their love had accidentally killed their beloved pooches by feeding them chocolate.


Call the vet immediately and explain how much chocolate and what type was ingested, the breed and its weight. The darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is, meaning that a 22 kilogram dog can be killed by a mere ounce of baker’s chocolate. However, it would need to ingest 250grams of milk chocolate to experience the same problems. Vomiting can be induced by using hydrogen peroxide, but do not trust Dr Google, seek professional advice for when and how to do this.


Another dog has bitten yours

Just as with humans, dogs have different personalities and because of its upbringing, many dogs may not be socialised and would bite when encountering another dog.


If the skin is broken, there is a risk of infection as a dog’s mouth is full of bacteria. If it does not need stitches, clean it with Dettol and put on some cotton pads before wrapping the wound/s in sterile gauze. Do not tighten it too much, just so that Brutus would not mess with it. Change the gauze daily and watch for pus, heat or swelling. In that case it should be taken to a vet.


What to do if your dog gets into a fight

According to Modern Dog magazine, most scuffles are all bark and no bite, but there are definitely times when you need to intervene. The trick is to know the difference. If a fight is going to resolve on its own, it will likely be over by the time you had a chance to respond, but owners should do something if any of the dogs are in trouble.


The smarter tactic is to get loud, yell and clap as loudly as possible, say dog trainers and behaviourists. Failing that, your next step is to throw something between the dogs, but not hurt them, an object such as a purse or a water bottle. When dealing with canines with a history of aggression, it is also advised to carry a citronella spray specifically formulated to deter dogs. It’s easy to carry or clip to the end of a leash, but should only be used if other methods had failed.

What to do if your dog is sprayed by a skunk
The CEO of Aussie Pet Mobile in Canada, Richard Avis, describes the effect of skunk spray as “horrendous,” adding that pet owners attempting to de-skunk their animals themselves would “stink out the house, the tub, and everything in the close vicinity.” The smell is so bad that his mobile grooming firm won't clean a skunked dog in the morning because it takes “a solid hour” to sanitise and clean the grooming van afterwards.


The problem doesn't normally require a vet visit unless the dog had been squirted directly in the eyes or mouth, which can cause irritation. But the problem does require quick action. Skunk spray contains several oily chemical compounds which means hosing off Fido with water alone won't clean it away and the oil will saturate your dog's skin and start smelling worse.

The American Humane Society recommends bathing your dog with a mix of one quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide, quarter cup baking soda, and one teaspoon of liquid dishwashing soap. You may have to double the recipe for long-haired or large dogs. Use gloves and protect your dog's eyes. You can also use vinegar diluted with water if you don't have those ingredients. Follow up with a good soaping of your dog's regular shampoo and your pooch should smell sweet again.


What to do if your dog is choking
Choking is one of the most common reasons for canine ER visits. However, most dogs have a good chance of dislodging a stuck item themselves as long as they’re conscious and can still cough or gag, according to pet first aid expert Jillian Myers.


Confine them to a small area such as a bathroom and stay with them for observation, she says, but head to the vet if the object doesn’t come up within a few minutes. If a dog cannot cough or gag and wheezes, she says chest thrusts could do the trick of dislodging the stuck item.

Place your hands on each side of your pet's chest and compress inward. The amount of pressure depends on the size of the dog, but needs to be forceful enough to get the object out. A follow-up with a vet is recommended to check for any damage. Never perform abdominal thrusts, (the Heimlich manoeuvre), on animals as it could have severe, even fatal, complications.

When Brutus has bad diarrhoea

A case of rather unpleasant pooping can occur if your dog had disrupted the flora in its intestines or bowels by eating, drinking or licking something unusual.


If a pup is very young, there is blood in the stool or the pooping is excessive such as every hour in the house, the best is to take the animal to a vet.

Remove food for 24 hours and offer water only, unless the dog is a young puppy. Once the diarrhoea settles down, introduce small amounts of bland foods such as boiled white rice and chicken breast. Also consider hard-boiled egg whites or low-fat cottage cheese for protein. If faeces firm up in a day, the dog can go back to normal food.

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