5 holiday emergencies to watch out for

Holiday emergencies when your usual veterinarian is on leave can be a nightmare. Being aware of possible dangers and what to do should they occur will save you – and your pet – a lot of heartache and anxiety.

Here are 5 holiday emergencies to watch out for:

1. Heatstroke

This is a frighteningly common summer ailment and is due primarily to owner neglect: dogs left in cars while owners shop; dogs left without fresh, cool water to drink; dogs left without adequate shade on hot days.

Heatstroke can be deadly and if your pet shows symptoms you need to get to a vet as soon as possible.

Symptoms of heatstroke include excessive panting, drooling, bluish-purple gums, restlessness and unsteadiness on their feet.


Help your pet by allowing cool water to flow over your pet. Use a hosepipe but keep the flow gentle, not strong. And keep a fan or air-conditioning on to maintain airflow over your pet’s body while you drive to a vet. You can also use a spray bottle to lightly cool them with water but never submerge them in ice or ice water.

2. Snake bites

In the event of an animal being bitten by a venomous snake, get it to the nearest vet as soon as possible, no matter how far you have to travel. There is no other solution. In serious cases antivenom will be required and in such cases the animal will not survive without antivenom. In cytotoxic bites (Puff Adder, Mozambique Spitting Cobra, Rinkhals, Stiletto snake, Night Adder) there may be excessive swelling, pain, blistering and subsequent tissue damage and the sooner the antivenom is administered, the less the tissue damage.

In Black Mamba and Cape Cobra bites the situation is critical and the sooner the animal reaches a vet, the better its chances of survival. Few animal hospitals have ventilators for animals and that may be critical in these bites. If your pet stops breathing on the way to a vet you could do mouth-to-nose resuscitation but there is little else one can do.

If your dog is spat in the eyes, immediately wash them with water  under a tap or using a hose pipe. Gently rinse the eyes for about 15 – 20 minutes and then get the animal to a vet. A bit of local anaesthetic and some antibiotic eye drops usually do the trick and the animal should be fine within a few days. There is no evidence that other substances, like Rooibos tea or baking soda, are more beneficial

3. Swimming

If you’re taking your dog to a holiday spot with water, make sure he can swim. Bulldogs, Pugs, Corgis and Greyhounds find swimming very difficult and breeds like Maltese are susceptible to arthritis and chills. It’s a good idea to consult your vet too, as they will have useful advice specific for your pet.

Rivers and lakes often look safe because the water is calm, however stagnant water can carry serious diseases or be susceptible to blue-green algae. Lakes and pools are often chemically treated to a level that’s safe for humans, but unsafe for pets. The most important thing is that you know the area and its dangers.

If you’re on the beach, prevent your dog from eating anything unusual and train the ‘leave it’ command before you go. If they do each something you’re not sure of, keep a close eye on them for symptoms of illness and if these show, get to the nearest vet.

If your pet is thirsty enough, he or she may drink chlorinated or salt water, both of which are unsafe for pets. Carry lots of clean water and a collapsible bowl for your pet to drink from.

If he’s been in chlorinated, salty or dirty water, it’s a good idea to wash your dog afterwards. This will prevent them ingesting chlorine or disease when they are grooming.

4. Festive food

We know that it’s hard to resist those soft brown eyes pleading for that mince pie but raisins are toxic to dogs, as is chocolate and anything flavoured with sweetener so please avoid sharing your Christmas dinner with your pets.

If you want to share your food, opt for the turkey or chicken – lean meat without sauce and trimmings – but the best way to treat your pet is to stock up on dog-friendly treats and chews. Ostrich chews and Boredom Buster bones (available at Ebervet Vetshops) are not only healthy for your pet they also keep his teeth clean and will keep him entertained for hours.

5. Constipation

Constipation should never be ignored  as extended periods of distress can cause serious health concerns.

If you can see a thread or string in the anus, DO NOT try to pull it  out. This can cause internal damage. Other important things to note:

  • Always wear rubber gloves when dealing with faeces and related anal problems.
  • If you can see grass in the anus, gently ease it out.
  • If faeces are matted around the anus, trim carefully with scissors.
  • Wash the anal region with warm, soapy water and apply a soothing, water-soluble jelly (such as K-Y) to the inflamed area.
  • Take the dog’s temperature. If it is abnormally high or there is blood on the thermometer or resistance when inserting the thermometer, see your veterinarian immediately (within 24 hours).
  • If the constipation persists for more than 24 hours, see your vet. It could be indicative of a more serious health problem.

Although it is natural for a dog to eat grass on occasion, this habit should be controlled as much as possible. Avoid giving your dog bones; substitute a chew toy instead. Chat with your EberVet Vetshop or veterinarian about gentle laxatives to soften the stool and above all else, provide your dog with water regularly.

Neutering your dog at an early age will also prevent growth of the prostate, which can lead to constipation in dogs.