Avoid Emergency Vet Visits with Preventative Dog Care
Each year, about 1 out of 6 dogs will need an emergency trip to their veterinarian. In addition to being stressful for the dog and its loved ones, emergency vet visits tend to be expensive. Common vet emergencies can range from $250 to upwards of $3000.
Fortunately, you can eliminate the need for many emergency visits with proper preventative dog care. Here are some of the most preventable emergency issues, along with what you can do to lessen your dog’s chances of becoming a statistic.
Gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms, like vomiting, diarrhea and inappetence, are among the most common reasons for emergency veterinary visits. They are usually caused by dietary indiscretion (that is, your dog eating something he should not).
To prevent the ingestion of foreign objects, it is important to “puppy proof” your home. Be diligent about picking up children’s toys and other objects on the floor. Keep garbage and compost piles locked up or out of reach of dogs. If it is impractical to “puppy proof” your home, leave your dog in a crate when you are not home or cannot supervise him closely.
In addition, consider the following 6 easy measures you can take to reduce the chances of a GI emergency:
- Feed your dog a high-quality, commercially prepared diet.
- Avoid sharing table scraps, especially fatty meats, bones or corncobs.
- Close all medications and cleaning products securely, preferably with “child proof” caps.
- Fit your dog with a basket muzzle during walks, especially if your dog has a history of eating objects he finds on his walks.
- Use raised food and water dishes to help prevent bloat.
- Do not encourage vigorous exercise immediately after eating.
Many emergency visits are due to metabolic conditions that could be easily diagnosed and treated during your dog’s routine wellness visit. Heart disease, liver problems, kidney problems, diabetes and other hormonal imbalances can result in an emergency visit when they are not addressed at the early stages.
Visiting your veterinarian at least once a year for a checkup can help identify metabolic issues early. This makes the problem easier and much less expensive to treat. Older animals may need more frequent exams, perhaps twice a year. Most veterinarians also recommend yearly blood work to screen for metabolic issues.
Bacterial diseases spread by ticks, including Lyme, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis, babesiosis and many others can cause serious issues that sometimes lead to emergency veterinary visits.
The best way to prevent these diseases is through year-round use of heartworm preventatives and flea/tick preventatives. Many heartworm medications have the added benefit of medications that effectively de-worm your dog every month.
Avoiding Heat Strokes
Heat stroke is a life-threatening emergency that happens when your dog’s temperature becomes dangerously high. Signs of heat stroke can include extreme panting, bright red, blue or grey gums, collapse, vomiting and bloody diarrhea.
To avoid heat stroke, never leave your pet in a hot car, even with the windows open. The temperature in a closed car can quickly reach over 100 degrees and cause death within 10 minutes.
Also avoid leaving your dog tied up outside. If your dog must stay outside, make sure he has access to a shaded area and plenty of water.
Tips for breeders
If you are a dog breeder, it would be wise to invest in a cooling system for the summer. A quality cooling system for your dogs could be the difference between life and death. Every year breeders lose hundreds of dogs due to heat stokes. This is especially common in Texas and Arizona.
If you don’t have a high-end cooling system in the budget, flexible misting lines may be installed above your dog’s kennel.
Outdoor Dangers to your dog
In the great outdoors, dangers lurk around every corner. Trauma from being hit by a car is a very common reason for a canine emergency visit. Bite wounds are another common occurrence for pets that have free access to the outdoors. Wild animals pose additional risks to dogs, such as the awful experiences of being sprayed by a skunk or receiving a hefty dose of quills from an unhappy porcupine.
The best way to avoid these situations is to keep your dog confined to a fenced-in yard. Install automatic lights to help scare off wild animals if your dog goes out at night. When outside the yard, make sure your dog is on a leash and in your control at all times.
Foxtails have seedpods that are covered in small barbs. They can easily get caught in your pet’s fur or between his toes. They also sometimes become lodged in the ears, mouth or nose. The barbs have a tendency to work their way into the pet’s skin and continuously move deeper into the tissues, causing severe damage and pain. They sometimes require surgical removal.
To prevent foxtail emergencies, try to avoid areas where foxtails grow. Check your dog’s coat, between his toes and in his ears after a trip outside and remove any visible foxtails. Consider giving your dog a “summer cut” so there is less fur to attract foxtails. Keep the fur on your dog’s feet as short as possible to help prevent foxtails from becoming stuck between the toes.
Unfortunately, many pregnant dogs can experience dystocia, or a difficult birth. Unspayed female dogs are also at risk for pyometritis, an infection in the uterus that usually occurs soon after the heat cycle.
Spaying your dog eliminates the risk for dystocia and pyometritis. It also virtually eliminates the risk of mammary cancer.
Spaying or neutering your pet also makes the dog less likely to roam and become injured through trauma and other outdoor hazards.
More life saving tips
Unfortunately, you cannot prevent every emergency, but with due diligence, the chances of an emergency can be significantly reduced. In case an emergency does arise, be prepared with these tips so you can deal with the emergency as quickly and safely as possible:
- Always keep the name and phone number of your pet’s veterinarian with you.
- If your vet does not provide 24-hour emergency care, keep the nearest veterinary emergency hospital’s number with you.
- If you travel with your pet, download a smart phone app that can help you find the nearest vet regardless of your location.
- Keep the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline number (1-888-426-4435) with you at all times. They do charge a consultation fee ($65 at the time of this writing), but their information could be life saving in the event of an emergency.
- Carry a canine first aid kit with you, but hopefully you will never have to use it!
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