Just like us, our animal companions certainly aren’t immune to diseases or mishaps. Unfortunately, they can be masters at masking their aches, pains, and hurts until the problem becomes major and obvious. But by knowing the early warning signs of trouble, you can step in and help your pet maintain good health–while keeping your veterinarian bills down.

Symptoms That Signal An Emergency And You Should Call a Vet Immediately



Hit By A Car Or Other Serious Knocks And Blows

If you think your Lab may have been hit by a car, suffered a harsh blow or fallen from a height then immediate veterinary attention is required.

Even if your dog initially appears fine, the adrenalin and fear that kicks in during an accident sometimes enables even badly injured dogs to bounce up and carry on. At first sight they can seem fine.

But blows can result not only in broken limbs, but internal bleeding and other injuries that don’t always have outwardly showing symptoms. With no obvious signs of trauma there could still be very serious things wrong on the inside.

If after a severe blow you think your Lab may have a broken leg, internal bleeding or a head injury, the best advice is to try to calm them and prevent them from moving if possible.

Carefully slide them on to a blanket or large towel and use this as a kind of stretcher to move them. Contact your vet right away and follow whatever advice is given.

Cuts, Wounds And Bites

First of all, very deep cuts or severed arteries bleed so severely that nobody needs telling that an emergency vet is required. You will just know!

In this situation you must stem the bleeding as much as possible with direct pressure, preferably with a bandage or if not with whatever’s at hand, until you can get your dog to a vet.

Don’t be tempted to lift the bandage to check the wound as you’ll just allow further blood loss and please be careful as applying pressure can cause pain and your otherwise passive dog may bite.

For other cuts and bites that don’t bleed much and may not seem a problem, clean the wound with fresh water and apply a dressing, bandage or towel, but still call your vet and follow their advice.

Wounds that may not seem severe are often shrugged off by people assuming their dog will heal themselves, but this is a mistake.

Infections and disease may settle in over the proceeding hours and days leading to serious pain and illness. You should always call your vet and follow their advice.

Collapse Or Unconsciousness

There are many reasons your Labrador may suddenly collapse, fall unconscious or be difficult to wake, all of which should receive urgent and immediate medical attention.

Most Labradors are alert and lively and although they slow as they age and become arthritic, any sudden changes in energy, refusal to move, inability to wake or episodes of collapsing should be treated as serious.

Causes could be heat stroke, neurological conditions, heart and lung problems, ingestion of poison or toxic substances or a multitude of serious diseases and conditions.

If your dog collapses or cannot be woken from sleep, it’s important to have your pet examined as soon as possible, so call the emergency vet.

Breathing Difficulties

Occasionally your Lab may cough and splutter, much as we do. Food down the wrong hole, or a little something in the throat that soon clears.

But extended coughing, wheezing, noisy breathing, choking or extremely shallow breathing can be a real sign of danger.

Difficulties with breathing may result from heart and lung disease, allergic reactions, poisoning or a foreign object lodged in their airways.

Any difficulties with breathing are very serious and could be life-threatening so please call the emergency vet immediately.

And a word of caution: If you do suspect something is stuck in your dogs throat and airways it’s a bad idea to try to remove it yourself. There’s a very high risk you can push the object further down and instead of your dog having difficulty breathing you could completely block their airways and it isn’t worth the risk.

Seizures And Epileptic Fits

A dog having a seizure loses awareness, shakes uncontrollably, falls over, their legs start kicking, they may lose consciousness, could salivate excessively and may lose control of their bladder and bowels.

Seizures are most commonly caused by epilepsy and if your dog’s been diagnosed with this then a single, isolated seizure lasting less than 2 minutes is not an emergency. But fitting for more than a couple of minutes or repeated seizures in a short period of time certainly is!

Also, if your dog has never had a seizure before then it should be treated as a real emergency and you should call your vet immediately.

Epilepsy isn’t the only cause of seizures, it could be hypoglycemia, poisoning / toxicity or insulinoma among other things.

All of these can be a real danger to life but if caught early can be diagnosed with blood work and usually treated and managed.

If you find your dog having a fit, move any nearby objects and hazards to prevent them injuring themselves and then contrary to popular belief there’s no need to hold them down.

Stay away from their head as they cannot control their muscles and jaws and you may get bitten.

Try to darken the room and make sure the area is quiet until your dog starts to recover and if nobody else has yet called already, now call the emergency vet and follow their advice.

Lameness And Inability To Walk

If your Lab suddenly starts limping for more than just a few hours, or suddenly cannot stand up and walk this is a real emergency and a vet should be called immediately.

Causes are usually trauma after a traffic accident or severe blow, but could also be due to other things such as a blood clot in the spinal cord.

The difference between getting prompt medical attention and not could be the difference between your Lab ever being able to walk again or not. Do not wait, get help right way.


Bloat, or GDV (gastric dilation and volvulus) is where the stomach becomes twisted and swells, resulting in an abdomen distended (bloated) with gas.

This is a very serious life-threatening situation for which you simply must get treatment for your dog as soon as is humanly possible because the situation worsens very rapidly!

Visible symptoms will be a swollen abdomen, perhaps accompanied by feeling weak, difficulty breathing, retching and unsuccessful vomiting, excessive salivation and eventually collapse.

Other reasons for a swollen abdomen can be internal bleeding, hormonal diseases, fluid distension and even liver failure. Whatever the possible cause, a swollen abdomen always requires an immediate call to the emergency vet.

Possible Poisoning

There are many every day human products, prescription medicines, fertilizers, plants, foods and more besides that are toxic to dogs.

If you believe your Lab may have ingested something poisonous or toxic, immediately contact your vet.

You might be advised to seek immediate veterinary attention, may be asked to merely keep an eye on your dog, or may be told to induce vomiting.

It’s a good idea to keep some hydrogen peroxide at home to use for this purpose but only if instructed to do so by your vet.

Stings, Bites And Allergies

If your Labs face is swollen or they appear to have an outbreak of hives (small, raised, pale red itchy bumps) the most likely reason is an allergic reaction to a bite or sting.

Although rarely fatal, if their face literally swells up like a balloon due to an allergic reaction, the airways can be obstructed and this is when it becomes serious and you should call your emergency vet immediately.

Other signs of a severe allergic reaction to look out for are swelling throughout their body and being in a state of shock.

When To Call The Emergency Vet For Vomiting And Diarrhea

With Labs being keen to eat almost anything they find remotely edible, sickness and diarrhea due to ‘an upset tummy’ is a very common problem. So although it can be a sign of a serious issue, usually it will pass within 24 hours.

But if it lasts for more than 24hrs, or if the vomit or excrement contains blood, or if additional symptoms are seen such as pain or feeling weak and lethargic, then you should immediately call your emergency vet.

You should also call your vet before the recommended 24hr wait period if your Lab is elderly or a very young puppy, if they’re unable to keep down any water after trying for a few hours (dehydration is a real threat) or if they already have another diagnosed disease or disorder that could be aggravated by additional illness.

Inability To Urinate Or Blood In Urine Or Feces

If you see your Lab having extreme trouble passing urine, or if there’s blood when they do, this can be the sign of a serious urinary infection or blockage and needs urgent medical attention.

Female dogs tend to suffer urinary infections while male dogs suffer with blockages. In either case, urgent attention is needed. The infection requires antibiotics but a blockage is very serious, usually requiring surgery and you should call the emergency vet immediately.

very Pale Gums

Any sign of pale gums in your dog is enough of a concern for an emergency visit to the vet.

The ingestion of some poisons can lead to internal bleeding and pale white or blue gums would be the first thing you would notice.

Any other extreme internal bleeding such as a ruptured spleen can also result in your dogs gums going pale and obviously this is very serious.

Anemia, a lack of red blood cells, is also a cause of pale gums and although not as life-threatening as the above, your vet will still have to treat this.

Eye problems

Problems with the eyes can worsen very rapidly, ending in blindness or even the loss of an eye.

Symptoms of disease or other problems with the eye that need urgent veterinary attention are:

  • Appearing bloodshot / Very red
  • Discharge from the eye
  • Swelling
  • Constant squinting or inability to open the eye
  • Constant pawing and rubbing of the eye.

It could be an infection, glaucoma, or maybe just a foreign body stuck in the eye. But regardless of the cause, seek medical attention ASAP as catching things early could prevent a small problem becoming a permanently damaging one.

Bleeding From Any Orifice

If your Lab is visibly losing blood from any orifice such as their mouth, nose, ear or anus, then the emergency vet should be called immediately as you’ve no way of telling the reasons for the bleeding or where it’s actually stemming from. Seek advice right away.

Obvious Signs Of Pain And Distress

If your Lab is showing obvious signs they’re in pain but you cannot see why or the cause of the pain, then it’s a good idea to give your emergency vet a call.

If they’re crying, short of breath, restlessly pacing or the opposite are refusing to move around but generally look to be in discomfort, then it’s a good precautionary measure to call the emergency vet and follow their advice.

It’s not always possible to see why your dog is feeling pain and it’s never a good idea to ignore it.

When To Call The Emergency Vet – Final Thoughts

The list above isn’t complete, but it covers most emergencies.

Always have your regular vet and a 24 hour emergency vet number stored in your phone as you’ll never know when they may be needed.

If there’s anything serious or something that you don’t understand wrong with your Labrador, call your vet immediately. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

When you call, the vet may say you only need to make an appointment. They may even say everything’s fine, don’t do anything at all. But there will be a time when the vet says your dog needs immediate attention and you’ll be glad you called.

Your vet is there to be used. Call them in an emergency or when there’s any suspicion it’s an emergency and more than anything else, follow their advice and not what you read on the internet or advice from a good meaning friend.

Only trust your vet when it comes to medical advice, and not our good friend Dr. Google who often gives incorrect advice.