Many accidents and emergency situations can lead to your pet having to undergo emergency and often life-saving surgery. This very often life-threatening condition in your pet requires rapid diagnosis, possibly with immediate surgical management.
Examples of situations that require emergency surgery are dogs or cats who are accident victims (car accident, fall from a great height).
Diagnoses that can lead to emergency surgery:
Diaphragmatic hernias: the diaphragm tears due to trauma and the organs of the abdomen get into the chest. This leads to difficulty with breathing, among other things, and must therefore be corrected promptly by an operation. Diaphragmatic hernias can also be congenital, however, and these do not need emergency surgery.
Frequent vomiting within a short period can also be a symptom of an emergency situation and necessitate an immediate operation. This can, for example, be due to bowel obstruction because of an ingested foreign body (e.g., swallowed dog‘s toy, corncobs, thread-like object in cats, etc.) or telescoping of the intestine with inflammation.
Sometimes, foreign bodies or bones when large pieces are swallowed too fast can stick in the gullet and block it. The dog shows this by retching and trying to vomit. To deal with this situation, the foreign body must be removed immediately by endoscopy. If this is unsuccessful, it is removed by an emergency operation.
A distended belly, unsuccessful attempts to vomit and apathetic behaviour in dogs can be symptoms of gastric torsion. In this case too, immediate surgery is needed to save the animal’s life.
Pale mucous membranes, an unnaturally fat belly and reduced general wellbeing can be signs of abdominal bleeding. Unfortunately, this happens often because of a splenic tumour or due to trauma. The entire spleen can be removed in an emergency operation as it is not essential for life. As a result of the high blood loss, a blood transfusion can be life-saving.
Birth complications occur in both cats and dogs. There are various causes for this (including puppies that have grown too big, weak contractions in the mother, obstruction of the birth canal by the puppy being in the wrong position etc.). If the birth of the puppies lasts too long or the time between the emerging puppies increases markedly or the mother’s condition deteriorates, a caesarean section performed as an emergency can save both the mother’s life and that of the puppies.
An operation in acute emergencies is often riskier than planned surgery. The animal is usually hospitalised after the surgery to ensure constant monitoring of its condition. Intensive care (possibly with infusions, blood transfusions, regulation of body temperature, monitoring the cardiovascular situation etc.) is often essential.
Many emergencies are not recognised by the owner immediately. A call to your vet can help you to assess the situation and initiate the correct measures.
The described emergencies are only a few examples of emergency surgery that can save your pet’s life with quick action and correct management. When your pet’s condition is unclear, the motto is “better react once too often than once too little.”
© AniCura, Daniel Eschlböck MA