The Ultimate Guide To Emergency Dog First Aid
What would you do if you happen to come across an injured dog? We know the thought is terrible even if it’s not your pooch. But it’s crucial for every dog lover to be prepared for emergencies. Knowing what to do can actually save a dog’s life! In this blog post, we’ll cover the basics of every pet emergency and what to do should the need arise.
First Aid Kit Checklist
Got a first aid kit in your bathroom? Good. It’s time you put together a kit for your pets as well. Getting the right supplies ready is important as they may just save your pet’s life before a vet arrives.
Must-Have Items For Your Pet’s First Aid Kit
- Bandages – A roll of self-cling or crepe bandage would do
- Specially-designed scissors or blunt-tip scissors that make it easy to cut bandages and tapes, and remove bandage near the skin as well.
- Wipes would come in handy to wipe wounds if there’s no water available
- Blanket or a foil emergency blanket is used to prevent hypothermia
- Sterile Saline Eye Wash is used to irrigate or rinse eyes in case toxic chemicals, debris or smoke gets in your pet’s eyes
- Cotton balls for padding, protection and cleaning the wounds
- Hydrogen Peroxide is used to induce vomiting in dogs only if your vet instructed you to do so
- Non-Latex Disposable Gloves are used to prevent contamination
- Rectal Thermometer is the most reliable way to take your pet’s temperature
- Petroleum Jelly should be used with the rectal thermometer
- Antibiotic Ointment to treat minor cuts, burns or scrapes on the skin and prevent infections
- Rubbing Alcohol is used to disinfect wounds, but only if your vet says it’s okay
- Ear Syringe to flush your dog’s ears clean
- Generic Benadryl Capsules are used for allergies
- Hydrocortisone Acetate to treat infections, skin inflammation, allergies, and itching
- Buffered Aspirin for reducing pain and inflammation
- Kaopectate Tablets act as antacids, anti-inflammatory, and antibiotic
Other Essential Items To Keep Nearby
- A First Aid Book is important because this will serve as your guide in different emergencies.
- Paperwork such as your pet’s medical and vaccination records
- Place important numbers in a contact card. Numbers should include your vet’s and the poison control center.
- Restraints are important because injured pets are often aggressive and unpredictable. Use a dog muzzle to prevent accidental biting.
- Water is most often overlooked in first aid kits. From flushing wounds to soothing burns, a bottle of water shouldn’t be absent in any pet first aid kit.
What About Pre-Assembled First Aid Kits?
Don’t want to forget anything when assembling your pet’s first aid kit? Check out the Kurgo 50-piece complete first aid kit that includes a comprehensive dog first aid guide. It’s handy, functional and can easily fit in your car’s glove box or kitchen drawers.
First Aid Kit Reminders
If your pet has special needs or medication prescribed by your veterinarian, include these supplies and medications in your first aid kit. Don’t forget to go through your supplies regularly to check for expiration dates and replace those that have already expired.
Emergency Treatment of Shock in Dogs
Shock is often considered a silent killer. It comes after body trauma or blood loss due to a car accident or other circumstances such as being bitten by another animal. Most of the time, fur parents are not able to recognize the signs until the last stages. Before we discuss the symptoms, let’s take a look at the other causes of shock in dogs aside from car accidents and altercations with other animals:
- Heart failure
- Allergic reactions
- Nervous system damage
- Diarrhea and vomiting
- Blockages in the airway
Symptoms of Shock in Dogs
Important note: As soon as you recognize shock symptoms in the first stage, call your vet immediately. Don’t wait for your dog “to come out of it”.
First or Early Stage
A rapid pulse is one of the signs of shock in its early stage. At this point, your dog will hyperventilate and become anxious. Also, check your dog’s gums for an unusually red color.
Your dog’s heartbeat will continue to rise, but it will be more difficult to locate the pulse. He’ll be lethargic, weak and immobile. You may feel that your pet is starting to feel cool especially the mouth, legs, and skin. Check for pale color around the lips, eyelids, and gums. Temperature is likely lower, but will possibly remain normal.
Watch out for the rectal temperature as it will be very low. Respiratory failure and severe lethargy or coma will manifest. Check for the gums’ color again which will be turning white by this stage. Pupils are dilated; finding a pulse will be difficult as your dog gets weaker.
How to Treat Shock in Dogs
The first thing that any dog owner should do is to call their vets no matter what stage of shock your dog is in. Listen to their instructions carefully and stay calm. Dogs mimic your energy; a frazzled human means a panicky dog as well. While waiting for your vet to arrive or on your way to the vet, take note of the following first aid procedures:
- Keep your dog warm, preferably with a foil blanket. This is done to keep his temperatures from falling too fast.
- Some dogs are still able to run around in spite of feeling unwell. Use restraints to prevent them from doing so.
- Check for sprains or fractures.
- As much as possible, use only fresh and clean water to flush out wounds.
- Massage your pet’s body and legs to keep blood circulation going. Do these gently and be careful with injuries. Even the most docile dogs tend to bite when in pain.
- Unconscious dogs need to have their heads lowered to facilitate blood flow to the brain. Use a makeshift pillow like a folded blanket to prop their rear up.
- Talk to your dog in hush tones to reassure him that help is coming.
What NOT To Do
Although fluid therapy will immediately be administered to your pet at the vet’s, it’s important NOT to give him any water or food as these may be drawn in to their lungs. Avoid using artificial heat such as a heat pad as heat from these sources cause the blood vessels to open up, causing unnecessary stress to the heart. Dogs in pain and in shock are unpredictable and may lash out at anyone, including their owners.
Emergency Care For Injured Dogs
How many times have you walked away from a situation involving an injured dog? It’s incredibly frustrating not knowing what to do in an emergency situation. It’s crucial to learn the basics in first aid care especially if you are a dog owner. Accidents can happen anytime and anywhere. Here’s what you need to do just in case you come across an injured dog:
Approaching A Hurt Dog
The first thing that you need to do is assess the area and the situation. Most injuries happen in the middle of the road, around a blind corner, and places where cars are usually speeding. The next critical step is to move the dog to a safer location where you can assess the injuries.
Animals that are severely injured are frightened and will, therefore, be unpredictable and will most likely bite. Even if it’s your pet, don’t attempt to hug him to make him feel better. You might be doing more harm than good. So, make sure that you have a muzzle to restrain the dog before attempting to move him. If you don’t have any, a tie, scarf, leash, or belt can be used to tie a dog’s mouth.
When NOT To Muzzle an Injured Dog
Restraining a sick or injured dog will allow you to examine him thoroughly, administer first aid or transfer him to a makeshift stretcher without the danger of bites. But there are situations where you cannot use a muzzle. Avoid restraining if:
- Your dog is unconscious
- He has difficulty breathing
- Your pet is choking
- The animal has a mouth injury
- He is vomiting
Assessing The Injuries
Now that you have the dog restrained, check the extent of his injuries. If the dog is bleeding profusely, refer to the “Emergency Care For Bleeding Dogs” section of this blog. Examine for any broken limb slowly and gently. Stop probing if the dog suddenly becomes agitated or growls at you.
First Aid For Broken Bones
One of the most obvious signs of a broken limb is a bone protruding through the skin. But a dog wincing in pain and looking utterly uncomfortable can mean there’s a fracture or dislocation that’s not obvious to the untrained eye. Whining and limping are two indicators that there’s an obscure fracture or dislocation in the dog’s body.
The main goals in first aid for broken bones are to reduce pain and infection and prevent further injuries. Do not attempt to realign or set the dislocation or fracture.
- Broken Limbs – If it’s an open fracture, cover the exposed bone with gauze or a clean towel. There’s no need to use bandages if it’s a close one, but use a cardboard, newspaper, magazine or anything sturdy to immobilize the limb. Don’t force splinting if it causes your dog more pain.
- Broken Back – Be as gentle as possible when sliding a sturdy flat board. Make sure that the back is not bent. Put straps on the dog to keep him from moving, but don’t attempt to splint the back.
- Broken Ribs – If your dog has difficulty breathing, don’t use a muzzle on him. Before wrapping him in a clean sheet or blanket, check for open wounds and make sure to cover with gauze if there are any. Wrap your dog’s chest area with the sheet firmly but not too tight.
Emergency Care For Bleeding Dogs
We all know how mischievous our furkids can get. Curiosity may have led them out of your gates and into the path of a speeding driver. Rough play could have caused that bleeding leg. Minor wounds are easily treated and will heal on their own, while large, gaping ones have to be attended to immediately as blood loss that amounts to two teaspoons per pound of your dog’s body weight can cause shock in dogs.
There are four ways you can control external bleeding:
1. Putting direct pressure on the wound
Use gauze (or a compressed clean cloth, if you don’t have gauze on hand) to put a firm but gentle pressure directly on the cut. Don’t throw away the gauze if blood seeps right through it. Get a fresh one instead and place it on top of the soaked gauze or cloth. Continue to put pressure on the cut until a veterinarian is able to assess the severity of the wound.
2. Elevating the limb
Is your dog’s foot bleeding profusely? Raise it until it’s directly above the heart. Gravity will help in slowing the bleeding down by reducing blood pressure around the wound area. This technique is best used on larger breeds. Elevating the limb will work best with putting direct pressure on the wound.
3. Putting pressure on the artery
If putting direct pressure on the wound and elevating your pet’s limb do not work, applying pressure on the artery that’s supplying the blood to the injury might work. If the wound is on the front leg, apply pressure on the upper leg. This is where the brachial artery is found. If your pet has a bleeding wound on the back of his leg, press firmly on the groin area where the femoral artery is.
4. Using a tourniquet
The only time you should use a tourniquet to stop the bleeding in dogs is when the injury is on the tail or leg. A tourniquet is fashioned out of a two-inch cloth wrapped around the injured limb twice and knotted with a pen, pencil or stick. Then, the pen or stick will be tightened until the bleeding stops. Make sure that you loosen the tourniquet every 20 minutes. Count 15 seconds, then tighten the tourniquet again.
Note: Tourniquets should only be used as a last resort as it may lead to amputation of the limb or a permanent disability.
Transporting an Injured Dog
The first thing you have to assess when transporting an injured dog is his mobility. If he has restricted mobility and unable to get up, it’s best to treat it as a spinal injury. Take care to move him as gently as you can by sliding him onto a board. Keep his spine straight, and secure him firmly to a sturdy board with a belt or gauze. Finally, cover him with a foil blanket to keep him warm and calm.
How To Administer CPR To Your Injured Dog
Imagining your dog in a life-threatening situation is the last thing you’d want to do right now. But for a moment, place yourself in a situation where your dog is lying down, immobile and without a pulse. Would you know what to do?
We can’t predict the future, but the least we can do is be prepared for the inevitable. If your dog is not breathing or doesn’t have a pulse, a cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can increase your furkid’s chance of survival. Here are the steps to performing CPR on dogs:
- Check for signs of breathing by holding the back of your hand against your dog’s nose and feel for air. If they’re not breathing, check and clear the mouth and airways for any blockages
- Check the pulse. The easiest way you can locate the pulse is by looking for the femoral artery which is located on the upper inside thigh of your dog’s hind leg. You can feel for a pulse near the point where the leg and body are connected. You will feel a slight dip in that area, and that’s where you can gently press down and feel for the pulse.
- If you can’t find a heartbeat or pulse, position your dog on a flat surface with their right side down. To perform chest compressions, lay one hand over the other and place it near the heart. This should at the top of the widest part of your pet’s rib cage. Keep your elbows straight as you administer quick compressions. Perform 15 compressions per 10 seconds. Note: For smaller dogs, make sure to do 17 compressions per 10 seconds, using only your thumb and fingers to press the chest.
- Start artificial respiration by sealing your dog’s mouth with your hand. Perform mouth to nose respiration by blowing gently and watching his chest expand. If it doesn’t happen, check for blockages again. Check for the tongue and make sure that it’s propelled forward and resting against the back of the dog’s teeth.
- Perform 1 artificial respiration (1 breath) for every 15 compressions (17 for small dogs). If you have someone who can assist you, have that person administer the compressions while you perform artificial respiration every 5 compressions.
- Repeat CPR until your dog is able to breathe on his own. Make sure that your pet’s pulse is beating steadily.
Important CPR Precautions
Practicing CPR on a healthy dog can result in serious physical harm. It’s important though to be familiar with the process. You may practice looking for the pulse, but avoid administering chest compressions and artificial respiration.
If not done properly, CPR can result in broken ribs. Some dogs experience pneumothorax or what’s commonly called as collapsed lung. However, these injuries can easily be treated by a veterinarian. You don’t need to discontinue if you feel you have caused a broken rib or injured your dog in some way. Use soft chest compressions instead.
First Aid For Heatstroke
It doesn’t have to be summer for dogs to suffer a heatstroke. Dogs only perspire through their paws and nose and are at a greater risk for heatstroke. If you live in very humid conditions, make sure your dog stays cool by providing a cool or shaded area.
Learning how to perform first aid for dogs suffering from heatstroke can increase their chances at surviving this life-threatening condition. Some irresponsible dog owners forget that their dogs are more prone to heatstroke and leave their dogs in the car for a few minutes. A mere 5 minutes inside a confined environment that doesn’t have access to fresh air can kill a dog!
Symptoms Of Heatstroke
When a dog is feeling hot, they’re likely to pant as well. Have you noticed how pugs have their tongues out more often than other breeds? That’s because dogs with short muzzles, mostly belonging to the Brachycephalic breeds, are more prone to overheating. But how can you tell if a dog is suffering from heatstroke? Here are the warning signs:
- Excessive drooling
- Panting more heavily than the usual
- Body temperature is more than 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius)
- Lethargic or Drowsy
- Bluish-purplish gums due to lack of oxygen
If a Dog is Suffering From Heatstroke, immediately…
- Transfer the dog to a cool, shaded area.
- Use wet towels to lower his temperature.
- Douse the dog with cool (not cold!) water. Take care not to fully submerge the dog in the water.
- Let him drink water.
- If you are taking the dog to the vet, turn on your car’s air conditioner to keep him cool.
Emergency Care For Poisoning in Dogs
Dogs get into mischief all the time, especially if they’re free to roam in wide and open spaces. Because they’re highly curious creatures, it’s not rare for them to eat or swallow poisonous fruits, household products, and stuff inside the trash can. They’re also prone to snake and spider bites.
When a dog is poisoned, it’s important to act immediately. Your quick reaction can save your dog’s life! To properly administer first aid to poisoned dogs, take note of the following symptoms first:
- Swelling tongue
- Having difficulty breathing
- Vomiting excessively
- Loose stool or diarrhea
- Loss of appetite
- Irregular heartbeat
What To Do If Your Dog Was Poisoned
- Determine what caused the poisoning and how much your dog ingested. Search for evidence such as broken medicine bottles.
- Call the Pet Poison Helpline at 1-855-213-6680 immediately. They will determine the toxicity of the food or product your dog swallowed.
- Avoid administering homemade concoctions if you were not instructed to do so.
- Be prepared to transport your pet if further treatment is required. Make sure you have your pet’s medical records on hand.
- Depending on the instructions from the poison control center, you may be asked to do any of the following:
- For skin poisoning: wash your pet’s skin with soap and water
- For eye poisoning: flush out toxins with water
- For ingesting poisonous food and products: induce vomiting upon your vet’s instructions. DO NOT induce vomiting if you feel that your dog ingested poison more than two hours ago, if he swallowed cleaning or petroleum products, and if your pet is unconscious, lethargic or convulsing.
Prevention is Key To Healthy, Happy Dogs
Cliche as it may sound, but the best cure is still prevention. It’s a sad fact that too many dogs do not survive the trauma caused by being hit by a vehicle. The number of pets dying from ingesting poisonous products is heartbreaking. As fur parents, it’s our responsibility to ensure our pets are safe from harm.
To cap off this blog post, here are essential prevention tips to ensure a long, quality life for your pets:
- Dog-proof your house. Remove poisonous products by keeping them in a locked space, away from the curious noses of your pets. Fence off shrubs and plants that are harmful to dogs.
- Don’t leave your dog unattended. Even if you bought chew treats to keep them busy, it’s absolutely important to keep your eye on them.
- Keep gates close. Not only will closed fences and gates prevent other dogs from attacking your pets, but they will also keep them from running into the streets and getting hit by a car.
- Don’t leave dogs in your car. Just a few minutes of being in hot, airtight space can be detrimental to your pet’s health.
In spite of our best efforts to keep our pets safe, accidents can happen. We hope you find this guide helpful. Learning first aid skills can make a huge difference in saving a pet’s life.
Disclaimer: This guide is written to help you with first aid care, but should not be a substitute for proper veterinary care. Always call your vet first before attempting pet first aid treatment.