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Discussion Starter #1
Here’s our list of "emergency" symptoms:

1. Vomiting that persists for over a day. Here I worry about dehydration (you should now the color of your dog's gums in his or her healthy state. If that color becomes pale, dehydration's present.) I know that dogs eat grass and sometimes other things that aren't great for their digestive system. As a result sometimes they vomit up the alien morsel, and that's fine. But persistent vomiting and something's going on.

2. Vomiting blood. I don't fool around with this. If I see it, it's time to get to the vet's.

3. Cuts or lacerations which I can't stop the bleeding myself, or which appear to be deep. Prince had this knack for stepping on broken glass. If there was a piece of glass anywhere within a mile of where we were, he'd find it. Once cut, it's hard to stop the bleeding on a dog's pads. On the other hand ears bleed profusely but can usually be stopped by applying pressure.

4. A temperature over 103.5 degrees Fahrenheit always precipitates at least a call to the vet's. Anything over 104.5 deg. F. and I'm calling for an appointment. I don't like firm standards like that, and I've gotten to the point where I know my dog's average temperature (quiet, at rest).

For example Shalimar's normal temperature is 100.5 deg. F. So for her a low grade fever is anything above 101.5 deg. F. If she's much above 102, I start monitoring her more closely. Every shepherd that I've had cringes when they see me coming with a jar of Vaseline and my (really their) thermometer.

I recall King dealing with a bout of diarrhea that had me concerned. I had already contacted the vet and he wanted me to keep track of King's temperature. Suffice to say that I knew that I shouldn't be taking his temperature when he saw me coming and "smiled". I found out why he was "smiling" soon after. If I recall correctly, it took me days to clean up the mess, get the carpeting back to where it was, and get the odor out of the house.

5. Symptoms of bloat. If you don't know what that is, check the article entitled, "My Bloat Notes" as well as other Internet references. Bloat scares me more than anything else because shepherds are notorious for getting bloat. Worse the experts haven't been able to pinpoint the cause(s). Dogs have bloated after eating horse grain and then drinking a lot of water. Others have bloated after having a single "munchie bone".

I don't feed my dogs within an hour and a half after they've been out playing. And I don't leave them for two hours after they've eaten. And everyone that thinks about inviting me out to dinner knows that. Holiday dinners away are always fun because they're scheduled around when my dogs eat. I guess there's nothing wrong with that. It makes more sense than scheduling them an hour after "Uncle Harry" arrives.
Refer to Dog Bloat Symptoms this web site for a complete list of symptoms and a detailed explanation of bloat.

Another excellent site is Dog Bloat: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments.

6. Blood in your dog's stools. There's blood and then there's blood. Blood that appears red and that is easily discernible certainly justifies a call to the vet. But blood that is dark (a caveat here is in order. I often give Shali Pepto Bismol for her sensitive stomach. Pepto Bismol remnants in the stool appear like dark blood), tarry, and odorous is another story. If you see the latter and you've just started your dog on Rimadyl, stop the drug immediately and notify your vet.

One year in June, I started Shali (She was 15 at the time) on Rimadyl. I was pretty sure (absent definitive x-rays) that she had some arthritis, and figured that the Rimadyl could help her. After all she was over fifteen, and you have to figure that a do that's off the age scales is got to have something going on that a pain reliever like Rimadyl would help. And besides, I had had my last male shepherd, King, on Rimadyl for over two years without a single problem. Nonetheless I've read enough about canine NSAIDs to know to be careful.

For a week everything was fine, then the dark, odorous, tarry blood showed up in her stools. Obviously the Rimadyl had caused hemorrhaging somewhere in her GI system. We immediately took her off the Rimadyl, and started her on Sucralafate to help stop the bleeding and heal her stomach.
Since I got Rex in 1957, I've shared (for lack of a better term) all kinds of doggy smells. But the odor of blood in the stools is entirely something else. Trust me, there won't be any doubt in your mind that something's seriously wrong.

7. Automobile accidents. If one of my dogs ever gets hit by a car, we're going to the vet's for a complete check-up even the dog seems entirely normal. First, you never know if there are internal injuries. Second shepherds tend to be stoic and don't often show pain until it's really bad. Third, after an automobile accident, I want the dog checked out for my own peace of mind. I know that the aforementioned advice seems obvious. But there are some people out there who don't see any reason to have their dog checked out if the dog is acting normally. I do.

Check your canine emergency medicine book on the issue of moving a dog after it has been hit by a car, and follow the instructions.

8. Poisonous snake bites. Know what poisonous snakes are living where you are and how to identify them. Even a non-poisonous bite might justify a trip to the vets and shot of antibiotic. Shali became curious about a seven foot long "black snake" that was in her yard. The snake wasn't that curious about Shali and nailed her. And if that didn't make Shali happy, she was definitely not thrilled about the shot of antibiotics. Suffice to say that she hasn't continued her studies of snakes.
In eastern Maryland, the only poisonous snake that's around is the copperhead. Realizing that I might one day encounter one, I made a point to be able to identify this guy as quickly as possible. When I checked with a local expert, I was told that they have a noticeable hour-glass pattern and that they smell like cucumbers. I wonder how close you have to be to a copperhead to smell him.

For my purposes, way too close.

I did encounter one copperhead when walking King one morning. We live in a rural area, and I had seen black rat snakes. Because we live where we do, the dogs get walked without a leash as long as we’re on our property, and King was always cool for the black rat snakes. So I was shocked when he sidestepped this oddly marked snake.

Once I got King away, I stepped closer trying to discern the markings on the snake. And when you’re not a fan of snakes in general, it’s hard to figure out whether the one in question is “poisonous” or not.

So by the time that I figured out that this was a copperhead, the snake also figured out that this human represented a threat to him. Copperheads are usually not dangerous, i.e. they don’t bite unless cornered. So I wanted to be sure that I didn’t corner him—just in case. He went his way, and King and I went mine. Trust me it wasn’t the same direction. And I went faster.

9. Seizures and/or convulsions-Symptoms of convulsions might include: falling down, champing jaws, and/or a stiffening of the body. The dog may void its bladder and/or bowels. You might see paddling motion in the legs or jerky, uncontrollable movements lasting for a few minutes. The dog is conscious but unresponsive. A mild seizure may involve just a short period of body stiffening and confusion.

10. Wild animal bites. Rabies, although not as widespread as it was a few years ago, is still around. I live in a rural area, sharing my property with all kinds of wildlife. Only once in some twenty plus years here did I encounter an obviously rabid raccoon, and that fortunately was without the dogs. My policy is this: regardless of how the bite occurred, a rabies booster is in order. Even if I'm not one hundred percent certain that a dog has been bitten, I'm going to opt for the shot. Why? Because the downside risk with rabies is simply too great.

One year, I was waxing my car while Shali was dozing near the garage. It was dusk on a nice summer evening and I had just finished. Shali got up and started to walk toward the house (about fifty feet away) and we both smacked into this raccoon. He literally walked under Shali, but when he saw me blocking his path he got agitated. I grabbed a push broom and gently tried to keep him at bay until Shali was out of the way and I could beat a hasty retreat.

This didn't make Mr. Raccoon very happy, and he growled at me. We finally parted ways. He decided that the human with a push broom has the right of way. I decided that a raccoon with an attitude had the right of way.

I checked Shali out carefully and found nothing to justify an emergency run to the vets. Nonetheless the next day she got a rabies booster. No vaccine is one hundred percent perfect and that includes the rabies vaccine.

11. Burns. Whether they're chemical or caused by a heat source, it's off to the veterinarian. If it's a chemical burn, first remember to protect your hands with rubber gloves. Then to be on the safe side, I'd rinse the area with cool water, making certain that the water reaches the lower layers of fur and the skin. Soak the fur for two minutes, then apply hand soap or a gentle shampoo. Keep the dog under the stream of water for a good ten minutes and until all traces of the chemical have washed away. Then cover the burned skin loosely with a clean, non-adhesive dressing or cloth and get your dog to the vet's. If your dog's mouth is red or burned, wash it out too.

If the burn is a first or second degree burn, don't put any pressure on the area. Observe your dog for shock and get ahold of your vet ASAP. And, of course, don't apply any antiseptic sprays or ointments until you've spoken with your vet.
A first degree burn is where the dog's fur has been singed or burned off. The skin may be red or otherwise discolored. A second degree burn is characterized by the fur being burned off and the skin having blisters or has turned red or mottled. Finally, in a third degree burn, the skin is white or charred.

12. Electric Shock. Again, I want someone who knows what they're doing to tell me that everything's all right. Electrical shock from biting an electrical cord is evidenced by red sores in the corner of the dog's mouth; charred lips, gums and teeth; profuse thick salivation; and/or a dazed expression (on the dog, not its owner).

Before touching your dog, turn off the power. If you can't stand on something dry and push the dog away with a dry board or pole. Alternatively you can pull the dog away from the downed (hot) line with a dry rope looped around one of its legs. If you don't know how to give your dog CPR, find out because more than likely you'll have to.

Treat for shock, burns, and of course, call your vet.

13. Poisoning-There are too many poisonous things around the average house to list. Suffice to say that anti-freeze and chocolate rank up amongst the top ten when it comes to dogs.

14. Shock-Know the symptoms and get professional assistance as fast as possible.

15. Heat Stroke-It doesn't take a lot to have a dangerous situation on your hands. It's absolutely critical to get the dog's temperature back down to 103 deg. F. immediately.

16. Pale gums and/or tongue, and white gums are even worse.
 

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you'll be surprised by how many people ask "what should i do"
when they encounter anything on your list.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I have seen too many dogs on far too many bulletin boards go without a vet appointment when the owner is dealing with an emergency. And the owner posts the dog's symptoms and waits for someone to post an answer.

GET AHOLD OF YOUR VET OR THE NEAREST VET ER.
 

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I have seen too many dogs on far too many bulletin boards go without a vet appointment when the owner is dealing with an emergency. And the owner posts the dog's symptoms and waits for someone to post an answer.

GET AHOLD OF YOUR VET OR THE NEAREST VET ER.
I know my vet won't give ANY advice over the phone. If you had an appointment previously, they will call and follow up, but if I call and say "such and such happened, what should I keep an eye out for" they can't say anything. I'm sure it's because they wouldn't want to be liable, but I think people go to the internet because they might not be able to call the vet for info, the vets far away, or too expensive for what may be nothing.

I'd take my dog in for sure if any of the above situations happened, but sometimes I can't be sure if a situation is "vet worthy." But I'm a total weenie and couldn't have the guilt when we have insurance for him, so I usually go in...and it's usually nothing. This is a good list for reference though for sure.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I am not a vet, just a GSD owner who has experienced a number of emergencies over the years. If you are unable to contact your vet, or the vet doesn't like diagnosing a situation over the phone, then your only recourse is the nearest vet ER. Most large cities have at least one Vet ER in the area.
 

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The one symptom that has saved more than one of the Hooligans lives is vomiting white foam (not yellow bile type foam) which can indicate some type of obstruction including bloat or bloat w/torsion:
Echo bloat w/torsion
JR mesenteric torsion accompanied by several other symptoms, and a year later bloat w/torsion
Kelly bloat w/torsion
Bruiser unknown illness where he almost died. He also gets what I call bloat w/partial torsion but it has always resolved itself (within minutes), even before I can give him Gas-X or get ready to take him to the e-vet, so I had his stomach tacked.

And yes, I've had a couple false alarms, where the condition has disappeared on its own. Once after I gave JR Gas-X (before bloat could torsion ... a few months later he actually had bloat w/torsion), and a couple times Niki had the symptoms disappeared on their own before I could get ready to get him to the vet.
 
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