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4 Signs Your Dog's Life is in Grave Danger


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Sometimes it is difficult to know just how serious an injury or illness situation is. Can I wait to take my dog to the vet tomorrow when they open? Do I need to go to a 24-hour emergency vet hospital? Do I even have time to do that or do I need to do something right now to save my dog’s life? While it’s hard to know the right thing to do in every situation, knowing some of the signs that your dog’s life is in immediate danger can help you to have a clearer head if you and your dog find yourselves in a life-threatening situation.

The severity of some situations is obvious such as excessive bleeding, broken bones protruding from the skin, unconsciousness, paralysis, or your dog foaming at the mouth next to a puddle of household cleaner. Other times, however, it’s not quite as obvious that your dog is in danger. Here are four symptoms that, if you notice them and seek treatment immediately, may save your dog’s life.  

Difficulty Breathing

Dogs will be dogs. Sometimes they eat something without chewing it, get ahold of a chicken bone, or submerge half their face in the water bowl to gulp it down. Then your dog coughs a couple of times, maybe deposits the problem onto your favorite Persian rug, and then goes on with life. This is what usually happens. But on occasion, you may realize that your pup is having trouble breathing – gasping, hacking, wheezing, shallow breath – that is prolonged. Since air is, of course, necessary to stay alive, a dog that is having trouble breathing is likely in need of emergency care.

Your dog could have something stuck in their airway that they cannot clear. In other words, they are choking. Your dog could also be showing signs of advanced lung disease, cancer, or heart disease. Your four-legged companion may also be having a serious allergic reaction or asthma attack.


If your dog gets cut and the cut starts bleeding, it’s easy to see how serious the situation is. But what if your dog has blood coming from inside the nose, ears, or anus, or is throwing up blood? This means they are bleeding inside, and this is always serious. Your dog may have internal bleeding from a trauma that you were unaware of, may have eaten rat/mouse poison, have bowel cancer, or any number of other serious, life-threatening reasons.

Vomiting and Diarrhea that Lasts Longer than 24 Hours

Sometimes dogs eat gross stuff – like parts of a long-dead animal – or stuff that just isn’t going to settle well, like that bowl of spicy chili you left on the coffee table when you went to the bathroom. These will likely cause your dog to vomit and/or have diarrhea. While it’s not good for your carpet, most times your pooch will be just fine after they get it out of their system. If you’re concerned about your dog, it might be a good idea to go ahead and call your vet during those first 24 hours. Also, during that time you should do your best to check for blood in your dog’s urine and stool and call your vet if you observe blood.

If your pup is still having vomiting and diarrhea after 24 hours, then you should be concerned enough to take your dog in to see a vet as it could be a symptom of various kinds of poisoning, cancer, bacterial infection, or having swallowed a foreign object that can cause a painful and life-threatening bowel obstruction.

A Swollen Abdomen

Like humans, sometimes dogs get gassy. They may fill with gas and then expel it. While this is often the case, there is a very painful and deadly condition that dogs can develop called bloat. This is life-threatening.

Bloat occurs when your dog’s abdomen dilates, or becomes very large, and then sometimes the stomach twists, like a towel being rung out. Even just the dilated stomach is very dangerous as it pushes on the lungs and blood vessels in the abdomen. A twisted stomach closes off both the entrance and exit of the stomach and must be surgically repaired. This condition usually occurs in large dogs and takes place after the dog has eaten a large meal quickly.

Bloat will usually be accompanied by difficulty breathing, repeated unsuccessful attempts to vomit, and eventually collapse and loss of consciousness. If this is what is happening to your dog, your dog is in tremendous pain and in grave danger.  Immediate emergency veterinary care is necessary.

Be Aware

Your dog is a beloved member of your family. You want to do everything you can to help your canine companion live a healthy, happy life. Hopefully, you will never have to, but sometimes your love for your dog will involve making decisions in a possibly life-threatening situation. These four concerning symptoms – difficulty breathing, bleeding, vomiting and diarrhea that lasts more than a day, and a swollen abdomen – are a good place to start in learning what conditions should set off your internal alarms. Those alarms just might be what ends up making the difference between saving and losing your furry friend.

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© 2023 Wag Labs, Inc. All rights reserved.