Common Summer Emergencies in Dogs and Cats

June 2011

Common Summer Emergencies in Dogs and Cats

By Megan Lamon, DVM, Pilchuck’s Companion Animal ER Department

While most people welcome summertime, the season brings its own set of hazards for our animal companions. With the warmer weather, we ER veterinarians see an increase in certain types of emergencies:

Heat-related emergencies:Know the signs of heat stroke (excessive panting, drooling, rapid pulse and fever). If you suspect heat stroke, call a veterinarian immediately. Lower the pet’s body temperature by applying towels soaked in cool water to hairless areas of the pet’s body. On especially warm days, avoid strenuous exercise with your pet. Never, ever leave a pet in the car. Provide shade if your pet is outside, and fresh, cool water at all times.

Dog attacks. Be aware when walking your dog on a leash or when at parks. Be wary of dogs that are not kept on a leash or appear to be aggressive. Injuries for attacks can vary in severity, but it is always best to have a veterinarian assess your dog. Antibiotics for infections may be necessary, along with pain medications. More critical patients may require hospitalization or surgery.

Common gardening poisons. Snail/slug bait ingestion can result in neurotoxicity, causing seizures, generalized muscle tremors, coma or death. Take your pet to an emergency clinic immediately post-ingestion, where the animal can be induced to vomit and given medications to help clear the system of toxins. (Related: Try to keep your pet away from compost piles. They can contain moldy foods, and mold contains a toxin called “mycotoxin,” which causes seizures.)

Antifreeze toxicity (ethylene glycol): Your pet may be tempted to drink from puddles in the street on hot days, but beware! These puddles can contain antifreeze and other chemicals toxic to pets. Kidney failure and death can occur if an animal ingests enough antifreeze. There is an antidote, but it must be started within hours of ingestion for the best outcome.

Rodenticide toxicity: There are different types of rat bait. Some cause seizures, brain swelling and death. Pets that ingest these rodenticides have a very poor prognosis, especially if left untreated. Another type of rodenticide (anticoagulant) causes spontaneous bleeding and can also result in death. However, this type of rodenticide has an antidote. In either case, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Hit-by-car emergencies: If an animal is struck by a motor vehicle, remain calm, think rationally, and get the pet to a medical facility as soon as safely possible for stabilization. Be very careful in how you approach the animal; animals in pain may bite unintentionally. If the pet is not walking or you have concerns of a back injury, try to slide the animal onto a rigid board to minimize movement of the spine. 

PilchuckVeterinary Hospital’s companion animal ER is open 24/7: 360.568.9111. Online at