Ask a VCA Vet
If my dog is limping, what should I do and how do I know if she needs to get treatment?
First and foremost, in any situation, if you have concerns about your pet, please contact a veterinarian as soon as possible. This response is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any medical concerns and cannot take the place of a thorough exam conducted by your pet’s veterinarian.
Dogs can limp for a wide variety of reasons (e.g. muscle injury, cuts, fractures, skin issues, neurologic diseases) and the onset and severity may dictate whether or not you decide to have your pet seen immediately or make an appointment with your veterinarian.
Put simply, if your pet has a very minor limp, does not appear to be painful, and is still bearing weight, then the limping (lameness) MAY be less of an emergency and you have time to make an appointment. If your pet is not bearing weight, seems very painful, or has an abnormal limb angle, then straight to the vet you go!
I recommend you check paw pads/nails as you may find a very obvious issue, such as a broken nail or cut on a paw pad. You can gently run your hands down the limbs and put the limbs through range of motion to find a particular area or joint that may feel swollen, warm, or painful.
The easiest thing for people to do at home is EXERCISE RESTRICTION. Unfortunately, a lot of dogs don’t understand “taking it easy” so they are apt to continue to walk/run/jump despite their lameness. So, only take your pet outside for a brief walk to eliminate until you can see your veterinarian. Otherwise keep them confined and try to have them refrain from activity.
There is much more to discuss on the subject but it very much depends on the underlying cause of the lameness.
The number one thing to stress – DO NOT GIVE YOUR DOG ANY MEDICATIONS UNLESS ADVISED BY A VETERINARIAN!!! That means no human or other animal’s medications. Dogs are not small people and do not tolerate a lot of medications people can take. So, don’t let the internet tell you to give Ibuprofen!
What are common first aid issues and how do we handle them?
There are so many answers for this question but I will focus on one of the best things about summer…the heat!
Heat exhaustion and hyperthermia can be a real problem as the days become warmer. Even the healthiest pets are vulnerable to the side effects of hot and/or humid weather. Some dogs (such as the beloved bulldog and other brachycephalic breeds) are highly susceptible to heat stroke.
A few easy things you can do to keep your dogs cool, happy and healthy…
1) Find shady spots when you go for walks or are outside for extended periods
2) Take breaks on your walks and let your pet rest even if you feel fine.
3) Seek air conditioning or fans routinely
4) Lots of water!! Bring extra water, your dog will go through as much or more than you do!
5) Be careful of very hot pavement or long walks on pavement – paw pads are not indestructible
6) Talk to your veterinarian about whether shaving your dog would benefit them – believe it or not, most dogs shouldn’t really have their hair shaved!
7) If your dog is older, overweight, or brachycephalic (bulldog type, short face) – it may be best to keep them inside on warm days or only have very abbreviated outside time. As much as they may like walks, heat intolerance can be a huge issue for these particular pets.
8) NEVER LEAVE YOUR PET IN A CAR, NO MATTER HOW QUICK YOU THINK YOU WILL BE!!! Even if it is cooler outside, the windows in your car will act like a greenhouse and temperatures can reach dangerous levels quickly.
9) Signs of heat stroke include difficulty breathing, excessive panting, drooling, weakness, abnormal mentation, elevated heart rate, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, seizures. Normal temperature for dogs is ~100-102.5 F. If their temp is over 104, get out of the sun and into a vet!
What should I do if my dog’s gums are bleeding?
This is an interesting question. Bleeding gums in dogs can represent a variety of issues. In the first aid setting, some dogs can be hard chewers, meaning they chew sticks/rocks/whatever they can get their mouth on, and they chew it to pieces. Some dogs will chew so hard they abrade or scrape their gums and cause bleeding. However, things like bad dental disease, bleeding disorder, or tumors in the mouth can easily cause the gums to bleed.
If you see your dog’s gums are bleeding, carefully and if they will let you - check their mouth (roof, under tongue, around teeth) to see if there is any foreign object stuck or abnormality noted. If the gums are only lightly bleeding and the bleeding stops, it may not be an emergency and a visit to your vet in the near future would be warranted. If your dog has dental disease, just like in people, bad gingivitis may be the culprit.
Feeding a soft diet (e.g. moistening dry food with water or canned diet) and avoiding any hard treats or toys for a few days may be helpful.
If you see signs of bruising or small red/purple spots on the gums or mucous membranes (fancy term called petechia) this may represent a serious bleeding disorder and recommend consultation with a vet immediately.
What should I do if my dog ate some unknown object on a walk?
If the only thing you noticed was your dog eating then swallowing something, it’s a bit of a toss up. I would never recommend that every dog that eats something unknown be made to vomit, but in certain situations inducing emesis (making them vomit) is absolutely needed and in other cases, it is actually contraindicated (e.g. bleach ingestion). The ASPCA has a great poison control helpline that can be helpful, (IF you now what your pet ingested).
You can always monitor your pet at home for any abnormal clinical signs to develop. If your pet is showing any abnormal signs (e.g. vomiting, retching, abnormal mentation, seizures, etc.) do not attempt to make them vomit, go directly to a veterinarian!
However, sometimes it is better safe than sorry. If you have concerns or a suspicion the mystery material may have been something toxic, then seeking veterinary attention would still be warranted. The ideal scenario to induce vomiting is under veterinary supervision. Here at VCA VRA we use an injectable medication called apomorphine that works great!
If you cannot seek veterinary attention, hydrogen peroxide is really the only good home remedy. The appropriate dose is 3% Hydrogen peroxide (not hair dye!) – one teaspoon per 5 pounds body weight up to 9 teaspoons or 3 tablespoons. If you have an oral syringe one teaspoon equals 5 cc or 5 mL. Once given, walk and gently shake the stomach area. If no vomiting occurs within 15 to 20 minutes, you can repeat this dose ONCE. Hydrogen peroxide can be very irritating to the stomach lining, so I would recommend consulting with a veterinarian before administering. The good news is we are available at VCA VRA 24/7 to help you out
What should I do if my dog seems constipated?
Again, not a simple answer. I preface all of this with, talk with your veterinarian before doing anything else. However, there are a few things you can do if your dog seems constipated. – First and foremost, often owners give a history of “constipation” but in actuality the dog is straining to defecate because it is having DIARRHEA! (The fancy term is called tenesmus). So if you see your dog posturing/straining and nothing is coming out, look closer in the yard to see if you find evidence of diarrhea. I would say more than half the time people say their dog is constipated; the dog is actually straining from diarrhea.
If your pet is truly constipated, often times it takes a trip to the vet to improve. If you notice their feces are very hard and/or small, then increasing water consumption or feeding moist/wet canned food may help. I do not recommend people give over the counter laxatives to dogs without a veterinarian consult, as some can do more harm than good. Some probiotics and occasionally added fiber (e.g. canned pumpkin) can also help.
Where can I learn CPR for my pet?
This is a great question! We recommend checking out some of the great videos available on the internet. We really like this video by the AVMA!