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: (312) 583-1921

In an emergency, time is of the essence, please seek veterinary attention as soon as possible. We are here from 7am-8pm, Mon - Sat. Our address is:

1556 S. Michigan Avenue, Ste.100
Chicago, IL 60605


After hours, please contact: Premier Veterinary Group or MedVet

What To Do In Case Of A Dog Emergency

IMPORTANT! ~ Do not give any medication until a veterinarian has examined your ill pet and has made the appropriate recommendations.  Even common over-the-counter medications for humans may have unexpected effects in animals – for example, acetaminophen and ibuprofen, common pain medications for humans, can be fatal to dogs and cats. By giving medication without the advice of a veterinarian, you may delay appropriate treatment or risk injury to your pet.

Our experienced veterinary team can help increase the odds of recovery for your beloved canine friend, even in the face of the most severe dog emergency care situations. We are staffed and equipped to handle all types of emergencies. Emergencies are very stressful and it is important that you do your best to remain calm.

However, there are times when you are very concerned but not convinced that it is an emergency requiring immediate care. Unfortunately, dogs will quite often mask symptoms and it may be difficult to determine the seriousness of the illness. In these cases, it is generally best to err on the side of caution have have him or her examined by a veterinarian. When in doubt, contact us at (312) 583-1921 for help.  When you call, our staff will discuss your pet's symptoms and help you to decide the best course of action. We are here for you and will take care of your dog in the best way possible.

When traveling with your pet during an emergency, please remain calm and have someone drive you so you can focus on your pet. Your dog will be soothed by your ability to remain calm and speak and a calming tone while driving it to the hospital.

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 illnesses and trauma 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 GVD
  • GVD 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 emergency clinic located at:

1556 S. Michigan Avenue, Ste.100
Chicago, IL 60605

(312) 583-1921

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 pick them up or secure them. If your dog needs to be transported for veterinary care, 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 a veterinary clinic who ca see your dog. If possible, call ahead to alert the staff to your pending arrival so they can adequately prepare while you are en route.

Simple Tips to Help Prevent Dog Emergencies:

  • Keep your pet’s vaccinations and checkups current.   Routine maintenance is the first step to prevention.
  • Tape or align electrical and phone cords to the wall.
  • Unplug any corded electronic item (e.g. laptop computers, vacuum cleaners, phone chargers, etc) after use.
  • Keep drapery cords out of reach.  Also, any kind of string/linear item such as shoelaces, tinsel can be dangerous to pets.
  • Keep all medication well-sealed and out of reach. Pocketbooks (even when closed) left on the floor, gym bags (even when zippered) or countertops are a prime target for exposure. 
  • Never give your pet over the counter medication without specific instructions from your veterinarian.
  • Remove poisonous houseplants.  The ASPCA has a wonderful database that you can search for poisonous and non-poisonous plants.  You can find it here: ASPCA plant database. Pro Tip: Create a list of the plants in your yard and home with their scientific and common names. They should be kept in a folder, so the information is available when necessary.
  • Feed your pet a high-quality diet appropriate to the animal’s species, age and needs.
  • Remove or make pesticides and rat poisons secure. Remember, pets are curious and can be determined to get into, ‘trouble’.  Do not use free-standing bars or pellets.
    • First step for safety is to look for a ‘child and dog resistant’ bait station. 
    • Second step is to keep these bait stations protected and out of pet reach.  
    • Third is to ALWAYS know the type of bait that you or an exterminator has used.  This will save time and money if an exposure happens.
  • Keep your pets from treated lawns until products have had time to dry.
  • Dispose of anti-freeze properly as animals are attracted to the sweet flavor.
  • Keep pets off roof decks and balconies.
  • Walk dogs on leashes and keep cats indoors.
  • Perform regular brushing and grooming.

Six Mistakes that Contribute to Dog Emergencies:

  1. Waiting too long to take your pet to the veterinarian after you note symptoms that signal a problem.
  2. Giving your pet over-the-counter human medication without discussing with a veterinarian, or not following instructions for pet medications exactly as prescribed.
  3. Not regularly visiting a veterinarian for routine check-ups.  A pet should be examined at least once a year, to detect possible health problems, prevent existing issues from going untreated and treat issues before they become an emergency.
  4. Not providing basic behavioral training to your pet.
  5. Not having identification on your pet.
  6. Exposing your pet to harmful situations (off leash, access to balconies, not pet-proofing your home, self-medicating).

Pro Tip: Although the internet has a lot of helpful information, there are in fact ignorant people with good intentions, as well as animal hating predators who post bogus home remedies that hurt pets.  We do not want you to chance endangering your pet’s life with some made up, Internet-discovered, erroneous home remedy.  Many of these ‘remedies’ are wrong and are not only dangerous but delay appropriate action!  It is equally important that you do not give your pet human medication or medication ‘left over’ from a previous pet’s illness without the recommendation of a veterinarian.  Lastly, it is never helpful to give medication, human or otherwise, and then ask your veterinarian if it was ‘OK’.  If you have a question or concern, it is wise seek veterinary advice.

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. We will often direct you to call or call on your behalf, one of the poison control numbers below. 

Dog Poison Phone Numbers

If you are concerned about something your pet ingested, we recommend calling

National Poison Control Centers: There are charges for these calls and therefore you should ask your veterinarian for guidance prior to contacting these services.  Some toxicities require consultation with these services:

  • ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center: (888) 426-1435
    • In order to provide this 24 hour critical service, please be advised that there is a $65 per incident fee, payable by credit card. This fee covers the initial consultation as well as all follow-up calls associated with the management of the case.
  • Pet Poison Helpline(800) 213-6680
    • In order to provide this 24 hour critical service, please be advised that there is a $59 per incident fee, payable by credit card. This fee covers the initial consultation as well as all follow-up calls associated with the management of the case.

How to Perform the Heimlich Maneuver for Small Dogs:

  1. Perform abdominal thrusts by lifting the pet with the pet’s back/spine against your chest/stomach, head up and legs hanging downwards.
  2. Place both of your hands around their waist and create a fist, placing it centrally, in the hollow space just under the last rib.
  3. Press the fist inward and upward simultaneously, quickly and firmly.
  4. Release and repeat 5 times.
  5. If you are able, sweep/check the mouth for the foreign abject. 
  6. If this is unsuccessful, suspend the cat or small dog by the hips with their head hanging down.
  7. Check the mouth again. 
  8. If still unsuccessful, give 5 sharp blows with the palm of your hand between the shoulder blades.  
  9. Sweep the mouth again. 
  10. If the Heimlich maneuver doesn’t work, utensils such as cooking tongs can be used to remove the object when it can be seen.
  11. If the animal becomes unconscious, give 5 rescue breaths, followed by 5 abdominal thrusts, checking the mouth after each sequence. 
  12. Seek veterinary attention.

How to Perform the Heimlich Maneuver for Large Dogs:

  1. Position for abdominal thrusts by straddling the animal from over and behind, lifting the dog up on its hind legs with back towards you, next to you, on their back or laying on the floor. 
  2. Wrap your arms mid-way around the dog. 
  3. If you put the pet on its back, place your hands over the abdomen near the bottom of its rib cage. 
  4. Place your fist just behind the last rib in the center.
  5. Push sharply inward and forward in several quick movements.
  6. Release and repeat 5 times. If you are able, sweep/check the mouth for the foreign object.  If this is unsuccessful and the dog can be lifted, suspend the dog by the hips with their head hanging down. If they are too large to suspend, hold the animal’s hind legs in the air (like a wheelbarrow) so the head hangs down.  Check mouth. If no object, give 5 sharp blows with the palm of your hand between the shoulder blades. If the Heimlich maneuver doesn’t work, utensils such as cooking tongs can be used to remove the object when it can be seen.

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. By nature, emergency situations are never planned or convenient. Time is of the essence and a few simple techniques can mean the difference between life and death. The first thing to understand is that, like humans, a beating heart and working lungs are the two most critical body functions. So, if your dog cannot breathe, or if he or she does not have a heartbeat, then emergency CPR is in order. If a dog emergency like this occurs, take the following steps to perform CPR on your beloved canine companion and seek veterinary care:

  1. First check to see if he or she is breathing and if not, proceed. 
  2. Chest Compressions:
    1. In Small Dogs(With the patient lying on their side, apply external compressions directly over the heart. Squeeze the chest using one or both hands around the chest. Depress the rib cage by ½-1 inch or by 25-35% circumferentially. Do this 100 to 120 times per minute. Focus the compressions to a single spot. 
    2. In Medium to Large dogs: Place your pet on its side and position yourself with your pet’s back toward you.  This way, you can use your legs or thighs to keep the animal from moving during compressions.  Straighten your arms, interlock the fingers of both hands together, and place your hands on the widest portion of the chest.  Direct compressions over the heart will not be as effective as compressions over the widest part of the chest.  Depress the rib cage or sternum 1.5 to 4 inches or 25-35% width, depending on the dog's size. Do this 80 to 120 times per minute.  Focus the compressions to a single spot. 
  3. Rescue Breathing: Extend the head and neck and pull the tongue forward. Look in the mouth and remove any saliva or vomitus. If it is too dark to see into the mouth, sweep your finger deep into the mouth and even into the throat to remove any vomitus or foreign body. Be aware of a hard, smooth, bone-like structure deep in the throat. This is likely to be the hyoid apparatus (Adam's apple). Serious injury could result if you pull on the hyoid apparatus.
    1. Dogs   Cover and seal their entire mouth and nose with your mouth. You may need to hold the corners of the mouth tightly closed to prevent air from escaping while you force in the air.  You should see their chest rise.   Also, the smaller the dog, use more gentle breaths. Take your mouth away when the chest has fully expanded. The lungs will deflate on their own. Air should be forced into the animal's lungs until you see the chest expand.
    2. Dogs > 30#:  The tongue should be pulled forward and the mouth and lips held shut using both hands cupped around the muzzle. Force the air into the lungs until you see the chest expand. Take your mouth away when the chest has fully expanded. The lungs will deflate on their own. Air should be forced into the animal's lungs until you see the chest expand. Forceful breaths should take no longer than 1.5 seconds per breath. Give 3 to 5 Full Breaths.
  4. After several breaths are given, stop for a few seconds to recheck for breathing and heart function. If the pet is still not breathing, continue rescue breathing 20 times per minute. Push down on the stomach area every few seconds to help expel the air that may have blown into the stomach. If the stomach is allowed to distend with air, the pressure will make the rescue breathing efforts less effective. Try to coordinate breaths with chest compressions for 2-person CPCR. If Breathing is Shallow or Non-existent and the animal is still unconscious, continue rescue breathing 10 to 15 times per minute and transport the animal to the nearest veterinary facility.
  5. Remember that because each moment without oxygen results in an exponentially grim recovery prognosis, knowing how to perform CPR on your cat can greatly increase the chances for not only a better recovery, but also for the quality of life that will follow.

Finding The Nearest Emergency Dog Clinic

Proudly serving the [practice:practice_city] metropolitan area since 2012, Metropolitan Veterinary Center is open for any emergency cat care situation that arises from 7am-10pm, 7 days a week.

After hours, please contact:  Premier Veterinary Group or MedVet