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Call the Vet?

Call the Vet?

Not sure if you should take your dog to the vet?

Customers often ask us for advice as to whether or not they should take their dog to the vet or try the “wait and see” approach when something isn’t right. Sure, we’ve seen a lot, but we’re not vets and sometimes we feel uncomfortable offering this advice, weighing what we would do if it were our own pet against how badly we would feel if we gave the wrong advice.
In that vein, we’re re-sharing some information we gathered a couple of years ago at a talk hosted by Dr. Scott Bainbridge at Dundas West Animal Hospital on the subject of ‘recognizing pet emergencies.’


Not surprisingly, the first topic of discussion! Many dog owners, especially new puppy owners, book vet appointments for diarrhea, but Scott says you don’t always need to do that. Many owners panic when they see blood in their dog’s stool. We get it! But it’s important to know that drops of red blood after a bout of diarrhea are completely normal: it’s usually the result of repeated straining. If your dog’s stool is dark and tar-like in colour, that’s a different type of blood and you should see a vet as soon as possible.

So at the first sign of diarrhea, Dr. B recommends:

  • A fast. 24 hours is an appropriate amount of time to give the bowels a chance to recover.
  • Reintroduce food, start with a simple homemade concoction of white rice (cooked more than you would for a human), lean ground meat (cooked and fat drained) and low fat cottage cheese.
  • Feed small, frequent meals for two days. When your dog produces a normal stool, start to mix in the “diarrhea diet” with his regular food. The issue should clear up but if it doesn’t, your vet will arrange to either have your dog seen or have you drop off a stool sample; sometimes diarrhea can be caused by parasites such as Giardia.
  • NOTE: If your dogs is also lethargic or vomiting in addition to the diarrhea, this is an emergency. Call your vet or emergency hospital.

Sometimes there are underlying diseases IBS/IBD are at play and flare-ups can be caused by dietary indiscretion (new treats, or a found ‘snack’ in the park), or sometimes they occur for no apparent reason, it may also be stress- related. If you have a dog that experiences chronic bouts of diarrhea, mucous coated stools or flatulence, it’s wise to explore the cause.

Bug bites and poison ivy

The inflammation is most obvious in the face/jowl area, you also might see hives, but unless your dog is having trouble breathing, don’t panic. Try administering Benadryl – your vet can advise the dosage.


Owners of deep-chested or barrel-chested dogs should all be warned of the signs and danger of Gastric Torsion AKA Bloat. This is a very serious condition where the stomach actually flips and blood supply is cut off. You have a 2 hour window to save a dog’s life, so rush to the nearest vet.


  • Gagging and unproductive vomiting
  • Bloated bellies (sometimes)
  • Pale gums
  • Often an arched back
  • Circling, looking uncomfortable, and/or not wanting to lie down.

Heat stroke

Dogs are very susceptible to heat stroke. Brachycephalic (squish faced) breeds, even more so. During extreme heat shorten your walks and avoid strenuous activities.
Clinical signs of heat stroke: excessive panting and drooling, choking, gasping, blue tinged gums, glassy eyes, coma and seizures. What to do? Cool your dog with lukewarm water (never cold. ever) and transport him to the vet immediately.


Vomiting paired with constipation? It could be a foreign body obstruction, like rope from a toy, pantyhose, tin foil. Your dog will likely also show symptoms of abdominal pain (arched back, inability to get comfortable, assuming the downward dog position). This is a definite emergency.
Vomiting on its own isn’t necessarily a big deal, but if your dog vomits multiple times over the course of a short period, you should call your vet since this could be gastroenteritis and it’s important for him to receive fluids and something to relieve the symptom(s).
Note: if your dog is a chronic (once or more per month) vomiter of foam or bile, it’s worth exploring some natural remedies that can help ease his symptoms and repair his gut.

Dog fights

If your dog is in a fight with another dog, check him over thoroughly for puncture wounds. They are not always obvious. Clean wounds with antiseptic soap and visit your vet for further inspection during regular hours. Sometimes an abscess will form and this is something you really want to prevent, as it is painful and dangerous.


If the lameness is minor, you need to rest your dog for at least seven days. Obviously if your dog is not weight-bearing or vocalizes very loudly at the time of injury, it means a trip to the vet.


Generalized seizures involve a dog laying on his side, vocalizing, shaking, paddling, and often they will defecate/urinate. When the seizure is over the dog may have trouble seeing or walking, but this is rarely permanent.
Try to keep your dog on a soft surface and talk to him calmly to reassure him.
After the seizure, record how long it lasted. If he seems fine afterwards, book an appointment with your vet. But any seizure that lasts 5 minutes or more requires immediate medical intervention.


Signs include pawing at the face, coughing, drooling, gagging, collapsing.

  • Attempt to open your dog’s jaws (may need two people) and reach back to scoop out the object.
  • Check the roof of the mouth, usually between back teeth where sticks often become wedged. Pull it out.
  • Modified Heimlich: compress the trachea just below the larynx with a few quick squeezes.
  • If your dog is small enough you can try picking them up and shaking them gently upside down.

Eye Injuries

For immediate relief you can flush with saline and apply Polysporin Ophthalmic from the pharmacy.
Make a vet appointment. Eyes are very sensitive and unforgiving.

Still in doubt?

It never hurts to call your vet and ask the question. After hours call your nearest emergency clinic:

  • Downtown VEC: 416-920-2002
  • Midtown CTVRC: 416-784-4444
  • West End Norseman: 416-239-3453
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