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Encinitas Emergency Dog Clinic - What To Do In A Dog Emergency

If your dog has suffered a sudden trauma or is experiencing any life threatening symptoms, please call us immediately at: (760) 456-9556

Featured Quote:

Call your veterinary hospital first. So if you call us, again with her seven days a week, seven to seven, Monday through Friday, and we're here till five o'clock on Saturday and Sunday, but our doctors, one of our doctors is on call every night till 10 o'clock at night.

Video Transcript:

Hi everybody. It's Dr. Michelle Drake here and I'm with Moki today, and we're here to talk to you and answer some questions you may have about emergency care for your dog or cat.

Dr. Drake, what should I do if my pet is having an emergency?

So there's some super obvious ways of determining if your pets having an emergency. Obviously, if there's trauma involved, you need to get in to us right away. You need to get in a veterinary hospital right away and that's because you can't always see what's going on the inside. For instance, we'll have a small dog, big dog fight sometimes. And there may just be puncture wounds on the outside of the dog's belly, but really what's happened on the inside is much worse. So any kind of traumatic event like that, obviously hit by car or something similar to that, that's just you need to get in because you can't always see what's going on in the inside and they do need to be monitored by a veterinarian. So that's the obvious.

What are some signs that my pet is having an emergency?

Yeah. So at the Drake Center, we're here seven days a week and we take emergency calls for our clients until 10 o'clock at night. And some of the most common things when they call during open hours are, hey, something just happened. I always tell people, you know your dog or you know your cat well. And when things are not going the way they're supposed to be. So let's say with Moki, I know his behavior super well. If I came in in the morning and he wasn't immediately on my desk asking for attention, and he was hiding in a corner somewhere, that's an emergency. That's a cat I know super well, just like you guys know your own pets and his behavior is super not like himself and it probably means there's something serious going on because cats, they're better at hiding illnesses and urgent care needs than dogs are.

But with dogs quite often, they'll just be more quiet and just into themselves, even if they're having something super serious going on. So if you're used to your dog every morning, greeting you in the morning and being ready for that walk or for his food, and he's not doing those things. Those are emergencies. So like I said, there's the obvious trauma or incident that occurred, that's super obvious, and then there's the not so obvious things, but if your dog or cat are behaving in a way that's super different, or obviously if they're losing blood from somewhere, their nose or their peeing blood, or having diarrhea, that's just blood coming out, those are all emergencies.

Okay. Who should I call first, if my pet is experiencing an emergency?

Well, call your veterinary hospital first. So if you call us, again with her seven days a week, seven to seven, Monday through Friday, and we're here till five o'clock on Saturday and Sunday, but our doctors, one of our doctors is on call every night till 10 o'clock at night. So we'll get on the phone with you because sometimes something that's truly not an emergency and we want to help you decide whether or not you need to go to an emergency or critical care facility. And there are differences. There are some urgent care hospitals in Encinitas, but there are no true critical care facilities. So sometimes we actually want you to go to a critical care facility where the equipment and the level of care is different.

Let's just say something like one of the dogs bit the other one's ear and there's bleeding, so it needs to be cared for, it's nine o'clock at night. We're going to say, hey, this probably isn't truly an emergency, but you don't want blood everywhere. So let's just go into one of the closest spots for you to get cared, taken care of and get things started. So we're going to be on the phone to help you decide what is an emergency, but I would just say, you know your dog or cat well and for the most part, if you're calling us, you probably need to be seen.

How quickly will my pet be seen by staff if they were brought into the vet during an emergency?

So any dog or cat that's brought in here for an emergency is going to be triaged immediately by our doctors and technicians. So even if we are completely booked with appointments, we did this all through COVID and we saw tons of other hospitals patients, because they were unable to get them in and they still needed to be seen. So what we're going to do is we're going to have you come in when we allow you to come in, but in the meantime, another month or two of curbside, we're going to get your dog or cat in here right away, and the doctors and technicians are going to assess to see, is this something we have to drop everything and immediately care for your pet? Or is this something we can just maybe get some pain meds on board, check some basic lab work and then monitor a little bit and then get back to it, but the most important thing is we are going to assess your pet immediately.

How will my veterinarian treat my pet during an emergency situation?

So the most basic line is we're always going to treat your dog or cat as if they were our own, for sure, but it depends on the emergency. There's some things with in cats that have a respiratory emergency, meaning that they're either have fluid in their lungs, or they're having a asthma attack that's very severe, the way we manage that cat is going to be very different from, let's say a broken leg, and that's because we need to go super slow and careful, and sometimes even use sedation or pain meds before we even do much of handling. And that's all based on a lot of education that we have, but also a lot of experience that we have in handling pets and different kinds of emergencies require different kinds of care.

Obviously, if your dog just ate a bottle of medication, we're going to get you in here immediately and induce vomiting. So that's where we all drop everything we're doing and we get that going right away because we want that to happen immediately so that we don't absorb any more of that poison or medication or whatever it is that your dog may have ingested. So everything's a little bit different, but remember, we've gone to school for a long time. We're doctors of dogs and cats, and we know what to do. So just get them in here and we'll help determine what the next best plan is.

All right. Last question. Why is prompt treatment so important during a pet emergency?

Well, again, if we're talking about things like bleeding, if your dog is acting or say if Moki was in a corner when I came in here, he could be bleeding internally or having a hard time breathing, or he'd have an arrhythmia in his heart and I want to address that immediately. I don't want things getting worse.

The obvious emergencies, such as trauma, of course, you want to start to make sure that the vitals are covered and pain management and fluid therapy, shock therapy, all those things are on board and that we're assessing blood pressures and body temperatures and heart rates and things. So it really depends on the emergency and the situation, but we want to start immediately so that we can decide what's the best thing to do. So if you have any more questions about emergency or urgent care, give us a call and we're going to make sure that you get in here and get seen right away.

What To Do In Case Of A Dog Emergency

There are times when you are certain that your dog has an emergency (ie: hit by a car) and there are times when you are very concerned but not convinced that it is an emergency requiring immediate care. When possible call us so we know you are coming and can prepare for your arrival by having a doctor and necessary medical equipment in place and ready to provide care.  We will also know to watch out for you and can provide assistance when you arrive.  Although we can typically address most emergencies there are certain situations where going directly to a 24-hour emergency facility would be a better option for your pet.   A phone call will help us direct you for the best possible outcome.    

Do your best to remain calm and when possible, have a friend drive you to the hospital. Emergencies are very stressful and it is important that you do your best to stay calm. Speaking with a soft quiet tone of voice to your dog while on the way to the hospital will also help to soothe your dog and keep him from panicking. 

Some types of situations may concern you, but may not have you convinced your dog needs immediate care. In these cases, it is still best to err on the side of caution. Please call our office and we can help you determine if your pet should be seen.  Do keep in mind that our pets are able to mask symptoms and it may be difficult to determine the seriousness of the illness. We are here for you and will take care of your dog in the best way possible.

Dog Emergencies That Require Immediate Veterinary Attention

We have compiled the following list of emergency situations in order to help you decide whether or not your dog requires emergency care:

  • Difficulty Breathing: This is may be the most serious of all non-trauma-induced injuries, because hypoxia (low oxygen levels) and the events that follow can lead to respiratory arrest and possibly death if not treated quickly. In addition, when this is occurring, your dog is suffering and panicked. Difficulty breathing is an immediate emergency. It may arise slowly or acutely. Regardless, when you notice any of these symptoms, your dog is in trouble and needs veterinary care. Symptoms include labored breathing (this can be subtle but it looks like your dog chest is moving faster and more pronounced while breathing), making alarming noises, or puffing of the lips. If you see or suspect these symptoms, seek immediate emergency dog care
  • Restlessness: Simply put, restlessness is when your dog simply cannot get comfortable. Restlessness can be a sign of many urgent or emergency situations. It can include excessive panting, inability to lie down comfortably, abdominal distension, or unsuccessful attempts to vomit. Restlessness can also be a primary sign of GDV
  • GDV and bloat are two of the most urgently life-threatening situations a dog can face. It is generally seen in deep chested large breed dogs such as German Shepherds, Great Danes and Standard Poodles. Some dogs will exhibit all of these symptoms, but others may only pant and act restless. It is essential for your dog to receive emergency care if you witness any of these symptoms
  • Seizures: Although a solitary seizure may not be life threatening, seizures often come in clusters and can become progressive. Seizures have many causes including ingestion of a toxic substance or medication. If your dog has never had a seizure and is not currently under the care of a veterinarian for a seizure disorder, we recommend seeking immediate medical attention
  • Collapse or Profound Weakness: These can be symptoms of a major illness like internal bleeding, anaphylactic shock, certain poisons, an endocrine condition, and some types or organ failure. No matter the cause, seek emergency dog clinic care immediately if your dog collapses or seems to be uncharacteristically weak
  • Major Trauma: It is essential to seek immediate medical attention if you have reason to suspect hemorrhaging, or if your dog has fallen, been struck by a car, or gets into an dogfight. Remember, some dogs hide their injuries as an instinctual defense mechanism, so if something has happened that would cause you to suspect major trauma, seek immediate medical attention
  • Dog Fight: All dogs should be seen by a veterinarian after a dog fight. The bite wounds or puncture wounds on the outside of a dog are usually just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the amount of damage the dog may have sustained during the fight. This is especially important when a small dog has been attacked by a larger dog. A puncture wound on the skin may involve severe damage on the inside of the dog's abdomen or lungs which include a lacerated liver or spleen which will cause internal bleeding or a punctured lung which will cause hypoxia and death if not treated
  • Protracted Vomiting or Diarrhea: If your dog vomits once or has a single loose bowel movement, he or she may not require any treatment other than a few hours of resting the stomach and a day or two of bland food. However, repeated vomiting and diarrhea, especially with the presence of blood, can rapidly lead to life-threatening dehydration. This can also be a symptom of major problems such as gastrointestinal obstruction
  • Struggling to Urinate: This could signify a bladder infection, which is painful but not life threatening. However, this could also represent obstruction of the urinary tract by bladder stones, which is a very urgent condition. Because of this, if you do notice that your dog is struggling to urinate, seek urgent veterinary care
  • Not Eating or Drinking: This is a judgment call on your part. Your dog will not finish every bit of kibble in his or her bowl every time. However, if he or she goes for an extended period of time, like 24 hours or more without eating or drinking, then seek medical attention
  • Coughing: Excessive and repeated coughing could be a symptom of kennel cough or eating bug bait. When in doubt, the safest course of action is a veterinary visit
  • Loss of Use of Rear Legs: This is especially common in Dachshunds, Corgis and other breeds with short legs and long backs. It can be a sign of injury to the spinal cord. This paralysis or partial paralysis is usually very painful, and rapid treatment can make a big difference in outcome. This is an emergency situation and you should seek immediate care for it
  • Severe Pain: This is always an emergency. If your dog is restless, hiding, vocalizing, panting, profoundly limping, or exhibiting other symptoms of agony, don't let him or her suffer, and seek immediate emergency dog care
  • Known Exposure to Toxins: We discuss this more in depth in its own section on this page, but if you know or suspect your dog has ingested toxins or medications, contact the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline, or an emergency dog clinic immediately

The above list is not exhaustive and there are many more situations that may necessitate emergency care for dogs. If the situation appears immediately life threatening, please call us immediately or simply bring your dog to our hospital located at:

195 N El Camino Real

Encinitas, CA

 (760) 456-9556

Our staff will do everything possible to save the life of your canine friend and restore it to full health.


Tips For Getting To A Dog Emergency Room Safely

Although your dog might be very well behaved and trained, please remember that in an emergency situation, their instinct, as well as feelings of pain or fear, could lead them to bite you if you attempt to secure them. If your dog needs to be transported to an dog emergency room, you have a responsibility to ensure no subsequent injuries occur to any party. Follow these tips for safely transporting your canine companion to an emergency dog clinic:

  • Approach your dog slowly and calmly
  • Kneel down and say his or her name
  • If your dog shows aggression, you may need someone to aid you in securing and transporting your dog. Towels may be used around the head or neck to attempt to keep the dog from biting while you move it
  • If he or she is passive, fashion a makeshift stretcher and gently lift him or her onto it
  • Take care to support the neck and back in case they have suffered any spinal injuries


Once secured, immediately transport him or her to an emergency dog clinic. If possible, call ahead to alert the staff to your pending arrival so they can adequately prepare while you are en route.

First Aid For Dogs

Sometimes, it is necessary to perform first aid in order to stabilize your dog before transporting it to an emergency clinic. Other times, first aid for dogs can be performed at home in order to save their life and buy you enough time to make the trip to a 24 hour dog hospital. Some first aid techniques you can use on dogs include:

  • For external bleeding due to trauma, try to elevate the affected area, and apply direct pressure to the wound. This could include constructing a makeshift tourniquet to isolate an affected limb. Most importantly apply firm pressure with towels and keep pressure applied until you arrive an emergency hospital. Placing pressure over a wound will help to stop the loss of blood.
  • For choking emergencies, place your fingers in your dog's mouth to see if you can remove the blockage. Be careful to not push the blockage farther back into the throat, and mind your fingers to ensure they're not bitten due to fear on the part of your dog.
  • If you cannot remove the object, perform a modified Heimlich maneuver by giving a sharp rap to your dog's chest. This should help dislodge the object. We recommend learning how to perform this maneuver beforehand in order to minimize the risk of injury in the case of an actual dog emergency.


We recommend learning various ways to perform first aid for dogs. The only way to be prepared in an emergency situation is to educate yourself before any emergency occurs.

How To Perform CPR On Your Dog

It is a very good idea to know how to perform CPR on both humans and animals, because you never know when you might need to use it to save a life. Performing CPR on your dog may be necessary if he or she remains unconscious after you have removed an obstruction. If a dog emergency like this occurs, take the following steps to perform CPR on your beloved canine companion:

  • First check to see if he or she is breathing
  • If not, place him or her on their side and perform artificial respiration by extending the head and neck, holding the jaws closed and blowing into the nostrils once every three seconds
  • Make sure no air escapes between your mouth and their nose
  • If you don't feel a heartbeat, incorporate cardiac massage while administering artificial respiration. This includes three quick, firm chest compressions for every respiration, until your dog resumes breathing on his or her own


What To Do If Your Dog Eats Something Poisonous

If you see your dog ingest a toxic substance, or even if you suspect that he or she has, it is important to seek emergency dog care immediately.

Go directly to the veterinarian. Bring the bottle or know the type of medication or poison ingested. Call on your way in and tell them what the dog ingested and how long ago it was ingested and the amount.


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