What Is an Emergency?

Not every sign of illness indicates a medical emergency, but the following situations call for immediate veterinary attention:

  • Being hit by a car (even if the dog shows no signs of injury)

  • Difficulty in breathing

  • Paralysis or limping

  • Straining when defecating or urinating

  • Blood in the stool or urine, or bleeding from body orifice (nose, eyes, mouth, anus, or genitals)

  • Lacerations or bleeding from any part of the body that is not stopped when you apply pressure

  • Broken bones

  • Choking or trying unsuccessfully to vomit

  • Vomiting or diarrhea that lasts longer than 24 hours

  • Swollen joints

  • Bloated belly

  • Snakebite

  • Allergic reaction to insect bite

  • Eyes that look swollen or excessive rubbing of the eyes

  • Temperature over 104 or under 100 degrees

  • Swallowing a foreign object, such as a child's toy

  • Suspected medication overdose

  • Fall from a window or balcony

  • Near drowning

  • Any kind of puncture wound

  • Fight with any wild animal or getting stuck by porcupine quills

  • Loss of motor control such as staggering, walking in circles, a head tilt, or other odd gait

  • Burn or shock from chewing an electric cord

  • Prolapsed rectum or swollen genitals (both males and females)

Hyperthermia (Overheating)

Rapid action must be taken if your small dog gets overheated. Small dogs, especially short-muzzled breeds like the Pekingese, pug, and Boston terrier, are more at risk for this life-threatening event. Heatstroke causes brain damage and kills dogs.

Its signs are rapid panting, drooling, dizziness, trembling, and a rise in body temperature to over 105 degrees. Fainting, seizures, convulsions, coma, brain damage, and death can follow. If possible, cool the overheated dog immediately with the hose, wet towels, and cold compresses before transporting it to the vet.

Never leave any dog in a car in warm weather, even with the windows partially open and even for a short period of time. At home, never leave it outside without adequate shade and water (in a bowl that can't be tipped over).


In cold climates, warm coats and sweaters for smooth and short-haired dogs are not simply fashion statements. Small dogs lose their body heat very rapidly if they get too cold. Hypothermia, an abnormal lowering of body temperature, is a serious condition that can lead to unconsciousness, shock, and death.

Signs include a lowered body temperature, shivering, and vasoconstricting (the body's survival response to cold, in which in which the blood supply flows to the core of the body to warm the organs and the extremities get very cold). At this point, little dogs would be in danger of frostbite, which can result in the loss of limbs, toes, and ear tips. Use a hair dryer (not too hot!), a heating pad wrapped in a towel, heated towels from the clothes dryer, or a heat lamp, and seek veterinary care at once.

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