Recognizing a Dog Emergency Requiring Hospitalization

Often a dog emergency is not easy to recognize. Most pet owners worry that they're over-reacting; however, there are some emergencies that require immediate care.


Vomiting and diarrhea are not the only signs of poisoning. If your dog is foaming at the mouth, has labored breathing or seems disoriented, look through your house and yard for the remains of a toxic substance. There will often be remnants left behind such as a wrapper or container.

Recognizing which poison your dog swallowed helps him get the proper care, so determining the toxic substance is worth a very quick scan of your house. The poison probably came from your kitchen, bathroom or garage, so start there.

En route to the veterinarian, or to determine the severity of the situation, contact the ASPCA Animal Poison Control hotline. There may be something you can do to help in the interim.


Seizures are characterized by falling, chomping jaws, stiff body, paddling motion of the legs and jerky uncontrollable movements that last two or three minutes. Any time your dog has a seizure that is noticeably worse than the previous one (including his first seizure), take him to the veterinarian immediately.

Even if your dog has epilepsy, if the seizures are getting worse, they may continue to get progressively worse, leading to more serious problems.

Physical Injuries

If your dog is hit by a car or suffers another strong impact, take him to the veterinarian immediately. Even if he doesn't show any signs of injury, he may have internal injuries that won't be apparent initially. You should also head to the emergency vet if your dog breaks a limb or is bleeding profusely. Any type of extreme pain is worthy of a vet visit.


Bloat can kill your dog in less than an hour, so if you suspect bloat, especially in your large-breed dog, immediately visit a veterinarian. Symptoms include unsuccessful attempts to vomit, significant anxiety or restlessness, a hunched-up appearance, refusal to sit or lie down, a wide stance, curling in a ball, hiding, drinking excessively or an abdomen that feels tight like a drum.

Other Illnesses

In general, any type of extreme behavior changes should be recognized and handled quickly. If your dog is excessively pacing, whining or acting unusual for more than a couple hours, call your veterinarian.

Difficulty breathing should always result in a trip to the emergency room. There are many things that can cause this symptom, and most of them, such as obstructed airway, poisoning and heart problems, are serious.

Continued vomiting, especially with blood, or bloody stools should also be checked out immediately. At the very least, this can lead to dehydration, which can easily be resolved at the veterinarian's office.

Recognizing an emergency is not always easy, but your gut is often right. Don't ignore anything that seems serious, including severe behavior changes. It may save your dog's life.