In Case of an Emergency

This article appeared in the November 2008 issue of Bagpipes.

We have all experienced that worrisome moment at 10:00 pm on a Sunday night. You had hoped your Beardie would be feeling better by now, but your dog is still lethargic continues to vomit, and hasn’t eaten for almost 24 hours. Should you call the vet? Go to the emergency clinic? Or could you wait until the morning? Owners who are in touch with their Beardies have the advantage of recognizing early signs of illness in their dogs. If you know how your healthy Beardie acts, eats, pees, poops, moves and even smells; you will be more likely to spot differences in behaviors and bodies that will help you to determine whether a trip to the veterinarian is needed. Below are some guidelines which can help you to decide which conditions are emergencies and which ones can take the “wait and see approach”. Please keep in mind that normal values are approximate and do not apply to every Beardie in every situation. If you have concerns, you should always contact your veterinarian. When it involves your Beardie, it’s better to err on the side of caution.

Below are several important vital signs you can monitor at home to help assess if your Beardie has a serious medical condition. (Keep in mind that Beardies tend to have a slower heart rate when compared to other canines). It’s a good idea to know what is normal for your Beardie, so you can more easily discern when something is abnormal.

*You may have done this in past, without really understanding the significance. When you press on your dog’s gums with a finger, and then release the pressure you are checking your dog’s capillary refill time. There are many small blood vessels called capillaries in a dog’s gums. When an area of the gum is pressed, blood is forced out of these capillaries. When the pressure is released, the blood should almost immediately refill the capillaries. A prolonged capillary refill time (CRT) occurs when the blood is not flowing adequately. This can occur if the dog is in, or is going into shock. It can also occur in certain heart conditions.

It would be wise to contact your vet within 24 hours if your Beardie has any of the following conditions:

It would be wise to contact your vet the same day if your Beardie has any of the following conditions:

Contact your vet or emergency vet clinic immediately if your Beardie has any of the following conditions:

In a true emergency, you need to stay calm. You should know the phone number and the directions to the nearest emergency vet clinic. If available, it's best to have someone drive you so you can continue to monitor your dog’s condition and perform CPR if necessary. The signs that indicate the need for CPR include unconsciousness, lack of arousal, lack of physical movement, or eye blinking. If your Beardie becomes unconscious, respiratory arrest may occur, and usually precedes cardiac arrest since the heart may continue to beat for several minutes after the dog stops breathing. Artificial respiration must be given immediately! If the heart stops beating, chest compressions must be given to keep blood pumping. Artificial respiration and chest compressions given together are called cardiopulmonary resuscitation or CPR.

The key to canine CPR is remembering the ABCs : Airway, Breathing, and Cardiac compression.

Artificial respiration (if your dog has gone into respiratory arrest)

  1. Lay the dog on a flat surface.
  2. Be sure the dog is not breathing — look for the chest to rise and fall, feel for breath on your hand, or examine the gums, which will turn blue from lack of oxygen.
  3. Make sure the airway is clear- open the mouth and look for a foreign object.
    If something is blocking the airway, remove it with your fingers or a pair of pliers. You may need to perform the Heimlich maneuver*. Once the airway is clear, begin rescue breathing.
  4. Lift the chin to extend and straighten the dog’s neck.
  5. Place one hand completely over the muzzle to hold the mouth shut.
  6. Put your mouth completely over the nose and blow gently, just enough to make the chest expand.
  7. Wait for the air to leave the lungs before breathing again.
  8. Continue this process giving 20 breaths per minute (approximately 1 every 3 seconds)
  9. Continue to check for a heartbeat in between breaths.

CPR (if your dog has gone into cardiac arrest)

  1. Lay your dog on a flat surface.
  2. Place one hand on top of the other hand over the widest portion of the rib cage, not over the heart.
  3. Keep your arms straight and push down on the rib cage.
  4. Compress the chest ¼ of its width.
  5. Squeeze and release rhythmically with a rate of 80 compressions per minute.
  6. Continue CPR until your dog breathes on his own and has a steady heartbeat.

For one person performing CPR, alternate one breath with five chest compression. If you’re lucky enough to have someone else available; one person can deliver the breath while the other performs chest compressions. In the case of two person CPR, alternate one breath with three chest compressions.

* Canine version of the Heimlich maneuver

Option A

  1. Lay the dog on its side.
  2. Put one hand on its spine and the other hand on its belly.
  3. With the hand on belly, push inward and upward with quick short motions.
  4. Look in mouth for object and remove.

Option B

  1. Lift the animal off the ground and hold it vertically (head up and spine against your chest).
  2. With arms around belly push inward and upward with quick short motions.
  3. Look in mouth for object and remove.

Connect with your Beardie and trust your instinct. Know the number and how to get to the closet emergency vet. Learn how to take and monitor important vital signs, and remember what you don’t know can hurt you (and your Beardie)!

Maryann Szalka