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Following is a collection of articles and information that I have shared with the GSMDCA, please enjoy and feel free to ask me any questions or to cover other topics.  Please refer to the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Club of America for all sorts of great information.  This is all from the point of view as me, an emergency veterinarian.  Always consult your vet for specific information about your pet.

What is an emergency?

•Pale gums

•Weakness, inability to rise or walk normally

•Gagging/retching especially without vomiting

•Dog bite wounds

•Intractable vomiting or diarrhea

•Severe lameness

•Any type of trauma including vehicular

•Labored breathing

•Any penetrating object


•Temperature over 104

•Not eating- depending on the dog

•Seizures lasting more than 5 minutes or more than 2 in 24 hrs

First aid kit

•Muzzle and large sheet/blanket to use as a stretcher

•Gauze and bandaging material such as Vetwrap

•Blood clotting powder


•Saline solution for cleaning out wounds or eyes

•Hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting- do not use for wounds

•Helpful medications (ask your vet for doses): pain medication of some type from your vet (no human pain medications), Benadryl, Immodium, Famotidine

First Aid

•First protect yourself- do not get bitten by a painful or unaware dog- use a muzzle or leash, and do not let other people get bitten

•If a dog is seizing, do not put your hands in or around their mouth- they cannot swallow their tongue, but do clear the area around them

•Try to remain calm as this will reassure the dog

•Get help- a large down dog is very hard to get in the vehicle yourself without hurting your back

•Can often roll them on to a blanket and use that as stretcher or can sometimes use it under their belly and they can walk on front legs


•Dog is pawing at his mouth and struggling to breathe, especially after eating a treat or playing with a toy

•Can try Heimlich although often does not work well in dogs

•Lay dog on side and punch/pound on chest at the end of the ribcage to try to dislodge object

•If the dog is standing up, stand behind them and apply sharp pressure up behind rib cage

•Try to stick hand in throat if possible- do not get bitten -and sweep object out with your finger

•Get to vet ASAP


•If your pet is not breathing, you can hold your hand around the muzzle and breathe into the nose with deep breaths

•Chest compressions- about 80 per minute with dog on his side- hard pressure in the middle of the chest more so that over the heart, do chest compressions about 20 times then breathe into muzzle about 4 times

•Stop once pet is breathing or heart beating


•Bandage the area if bleeding severely – do not make it too tight but if it is still bleeding through bandage, need to make it a bit tighter

•When stopping bleeding, it is important to apply pressure for about 5 minutes without peeking- blood stopping powder is good for external wounds (do not put toenail powder in wounds), large band-aids are good for ears- can also wrap around head

•Bandaging- gauze first, then soft bandage then vetwrap, tape if needed to hold it all on

•Pee pads/ diapers and loose duct tape work fine in an emergency

Bandaging Fractures

•In general, do not splint/bandage them at home- it is too painful and will need to be re-done anyway. 

•It takes a lot of force to break a large dog's bone so there is likely significant other internal damage as well


•Can happen to heavy coated large dogs even in the car with the owner and AC on- sun comes in the window and heats them up; can happen when running around outside in the summer from long seizure or if dog has a breathing problem such as weakness of the larynx

•Hose them off with a hose just to get them wet, lay cold wet towels on them and get to vet- AC on in car

•Do not spend long hosing them down/cooling them as cooling too quickly can cause other problems- do not let temp get below 100

•Heatstroke can lead to organ failure and blood clotting issues- very serious


•Common toxicities include: Sugar free gum (xylitol), albuterol inhalers, human medications (especially pain medications, blood pressure, antidepressants) large doses of dog medications including Proin; Raisins/grapes, onions, pesticides, batteries, Sago Palm, rat poison, chocolate

•Hydrogen peroxide :dose is about 3-4 TB for an adult Swissy or 2 tsp for a Farmdog, but do not give if dog is not able to stand or has breathing problem-can sometimes mix with ice cream and get them to eat it.  May take up to 10 minutes to vomit, if no vomit in 15 minutes then can repeat- but do call vet

Before you go to the ER

•Know which ER is best in your area (ask your vet)

•Call the ER first to tell them you are coming

•They will go over fees – don’t be put off by that

•Know when your dog’s last heat cycle was and bring any medications they are on or recent bloodwork

•Tell them if you do not want hair shaved (this may not be possible)

•Have a budget in mind that works for you.  There are some payment plans such

as CareCredit


How to save money at the ER

•The independent clinics are usually better than chains such as Blue Pearl or VCA

•Tell them the budget you are working with

•Do not ask for an exact diagnosis- this can be hard because we all want to know answers but I often will treat for what is treatable and if they are not responding then we know it is something more serious

•Tell the doctor that Swissies have large spleens and may be prone to splenic torsion- but do not think that every illness is related to your dog’s spleen

•Let them do anesthesia the way that they are most comfortable with as new ways can be less safe for the dog

•Be kind – the doctor may seem young or curt with you but the ER is a very stressful place and kind clients and patients get treated better

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