Last week, we discussed disaster preparedness for your pet. This week we are going to expand on that and discuss some first-aid tips for your dog. Dylan & Rainey are very rambunctious and are always roughhousing. So, we are constantly dealing with medical issues. Rainey regularly has cuts and scrapes on her (she is half the size of Dylan). And Dylan got heat exhaustion over the summer after playing a bit too enthusiastically in the water sprinkler. So, I have been learning as much as possible about dog first aid to avoid frequent trips to our veterinarian.
Every pet parent should have a first-aid kit handy, and thankfully, they are pretty easy to put together. Here is a handy first-aid kit checklist or get our booklet on how to protect your dog in an emergency.
Please, in case of an emergency, make sure you have your veterinarian’s and local animal hospital’s numbers handy. I keep these numbers on my fridge and on my mobile phone. Also, here are two good resources in case your pet eats something potentially poisonous (please note that they may charge an incident fee):
- ASPCA Animal Poison Control: (888) 426-4435
- 24/7 Animal Poison Control: (855) 764-7661
Table of Contents
- 1 BASIC EMERGENCY ACTION PLAN
- 2 FOLLOW THESE STEPS FOR A COLLAPSED DOG:
- 3 Here are some other first-aid tips every dog parent should know
- 4 Hope you find this first-aid & emergency checklist useful: First-aid Kit Checklist or get our more comprehensive booklet on how to protect your dog in an emergency
BASIC EMERGENCY ACTION PLAN
- Assess ABC (Airway, Breathing, and Circulation) and address major issues (e.g., clear airway obstructions, stop major bleeding)
- Keep the patient warm
- Stop minor bleeding
- Phone for help
- Monitor for deterioration and start CPR if necessary
FOLLOW THESE STEPS FOR A COLLAPSED DOG:
Check and clear airway:
- First check that their airway is clear
- Open their mouth, pull their tongue out as far as possible, and examine the back of their throat for any solid or fluid obstructions
- Carefully remove the obstruction or lower their head to let fluid drain out
- Now check if they are breathing
Check for breathing (using one of the following methods):
- Chest movements: Lay your dog with its right side against the floor and watch for the up-down movement of their chest. If your dog is cold or in shock, their respiratory rate can fall, so watch for 15–20 seconds before deciding they aren’t breathing.
- Air movements: Check for movement of air from their nostrils against your cheek. Or, place a mirror under their nose and look for moisture condensation.
If NOT breathing, check for heartbeat or pulse:
Your dog’s heart is located on the left side of their chest. To find it, lay your dog with their right side on the floor and bend their front left leg so the elbow touches the chest. The point on the chest where the elbow touches is the location of the heart.
Alternatively, you can feel for a pulse: Use three fingers to press over the center of the inner thigh near their groin.
IF THERE’S A PULSE—START ARTIFICIAL RESPIRATION
- Completely cover their nose with your lips
- Blow steadily with enough pressure to raise your dog’s chest wall
- Release the pressure and allow the chest to fall back
- Give 1 breath every 2–3 seconds, or 20–30 breaths each minute
- Stop every couple of minutes to check the heartbeat and look for recovery
IF THERE ISN’T A PULSE—START CPR
Please do not practice this on your pet as you could inadvertently harm them!!1
- Lay your dog with their right side against the floor
- Check their airway for obstructions
- Place your hand in the right place:
- Large dogs: Place one hand on top of other and rest both hands over the heart
- Medium dogs: Place only one hand over the heart
- Small dogs or cats: Using only one hand—slide your fingers under their chest, heel of your hand against pet’s breastbone, and your thumb resting on top side over the heart
- An alternative technique for barrel-chested dogs is to lay your dog on its back. Stop them from wobbling from side-to-side by kneeling and gripping your dog between your knees. Cross their front legs over its breastbone and press down directly over this area to give your cardiac compression
- Give 15 chest compression over 10 seconds
- Apply sufficient pressure to compress the chest by 25%, or one-quarter of its width
- Move to the pet’s head, cover their lips and blow into the nose to give a breathe
- Resume chest compression
- Repeat in cycles of 15 chest compression to 1 breathe
- Once the animal has revived, keep them warm and get them to your vet or animal hospital
Talk to your veterinarian about emergency best practices for your specific dog. You can also find CPR training courses online.
Here are some other first-aid tips every dog parent should know
For mild reactions, give your pet an antihistamine such as Benadryl. The usual dosage for dogs is 1 mg/lb. every 8–12 hours.2
Severe allergic reactions (Anaphylaxis): This can occur within 20 minutes of contact of an allergen. Symptoms can include sudden weakness, staggering, and collapse. Seek emergency attention immediately. Remove cause of reaction if possible, keep the animal warm, and follow the Basic Emergency Action Plan above.
- Place a clean cotton pad over the wound and apply constant firm pressure for about 5 minutes. If the pad soaks through, do not remove it, just apply another one on top of it. After 5 minutes, carefully check to see if the bleeding has stopped.
- If it has stopped, slowly remove the padding and assess to see if you need to take your pet to the vet.
- If it hasn’t stopped, apply firmer pressure and hold for another 5 minutes (or apply a tight bandage over the cotton pads and get to vet).
BROKEN NAIL OR CLAW
- If the nail has come away and the quick is bleeding, apply gentle pressure with cotton pad for about 5 minutes. Or apply styptic powder to the bleeding vessel.
- If the nail is bent but still firmly attached, bandage the paw, and have it checked by a vet.
What to do:3
- Keep calm and be careful as your dog may inadvertently bite you. Try and use both hands to open their mouth. Press their lips over their teeth to try and help protect your fingers.
- Pull their tongue out as far as possible, and carefully remove the obstruction or lower their head to let fluid drain out.
- If the object is too small to grasp then use the Heimlich maneuver:
- Heimlich Maneuver for a SMALL Dog:
- Carefully lay your dog on its back and apply pressure to the abdomen just below the rib cage.
- Heimlich Maneuver for a LARGE Dog:
- If the dog is standing, put your arms around its belly, joining your hands. Make a fist and push firmly up and forward, just behind the rib cage. Place your dog on its side after and follow the Basic Emergency Action Plan above.
- If your dog is lying down on its side, place one hand on the back for support and use the other hand to squeeze the abdomen upwards and forwards towards the spine and follow the Basic Emergency Action Plan above.
- Heimlich Maneuver for a SMALL Dog:
- If your dog is still conscious: Stay calm and observe them for clues as to cause. Follow the Basic Emergency Action Plan above. Give your dog a few moments to see if they recover. If they are weak but stable, keep them warm and call the vet for urgent attention.
- If your dog is unconscious: This is an emergency! Immediately follow the Basic Emergency Action Plan above. If your dog is breathing but unconscious, consider if it has a medical condition that could account for the collapse and act accordingly. Otherwise, keep it warm and get it to the vet, ASAP. If your dog goes into respiratory or cardiac arrest, ensure their airway is clear and commence artificial respiration or CPR, as appropriate.
CUTS, LACERATIONS, AND WOUNDS
- Apply pressure to stop bleeding. For small cuts and minor wounds—clip away hair around the wound, if possible, and flush area with sterile saline (or water). For bite wounds, especially if it’s from a cat bite, you may want to take your pet to the vet as these wounds can be quite deep even if they don’t look very big.
- You can apply a topical ointment such as Neosporin or an all-natural balm. Be careful not to get anything in your pet’s eyes.
- Check for signs of infection such as swelling, excessive redness, or discharge, and contact your vet if anything unusual starts to develop.
- If your pet is liable to lick, cover the wound with a dressing (or use a T-shirt). Make sure you change this daily. Small cuts can take up to 10 days to heal.
Make sure your pet has fresh water so it doesn’t become dehydrated. If your pet seems healthy and there’s no blood in its stool, remove all food for 12–24 hours. If the diarrhea stops, you can give your dog a bland, easy-to-digest diet for a couple of days.4
You can give your dog 1 tsp of 100% canned pumpkin for every 10 lbs. of body weight for mild bouts of constipation or diarrhea.5 The pumpkin can be added to a meal or given plain as a treat.
If there is blood in your dog’s stool or if they are lethargic, contact your vet for an immediate appointment.
Ears can become infected for many reasons. You will mainly see a red, inflamed ear with a foul-smelling discharge or thick black-brown wax. Dylan tends to get them in the summer because he spends his days under the water sprinkler, so his ears are always moist inside. If your dog is in pain, shaking its head a lot, or just generally unwell, make an appointment with your vet. These infections can cause a lot of pain for your pet and can spread, so you don’t want to wait too long before seeing your vet.
To prevent infections, it’s important to clean your dog’s ears regularly (we do it weekly) with an ear cleaner. In general, do not pour anything directly into their ear canals. Unless instructed differently by your vet, just moisten a cotton ball with cleaner and carefully clean in and around the ear.
Use a rectal thermometer to take your pet’s temperature. Normal range for dogs is 101–102.5°F. For cats, it’s 99.5–102.5°F. Always contact your vet if your pet has a fever. Make sure your pet has access to fresh water to prevent dehydration. And provide them with a cool place to lie down. To help cool down your pet, you can wet their fur around their ears, paws, armpits, and groin.
Don’t be fooled, pets can get heatstroke even if they are playing in water—that’s what happened to Dylan this summer. It was a very hot day, and he was a bit overzealous. He started walking like a drunken sailor, projectile vomiting, and also had diarrhea. Several days later, he started having blood in his stool.
Symptoms can also include excessive panting, bright red gums, tacky saliva, weakness, confusion, bloody nasal discharge, vomiting, diarrhea, and collapse.
Your pet will need to just cool down. You can help them by putting a wet washcloth over the back of their neck, paws, armpits, groin, and ears. And make sure that they have access to cool water to drink. You can also dilute some peppermint essential oil with a carrier oil (e.g., coconut oil, jojoba oil) and rub along their spine or chest. (This gives a cooling sensation and helped Dylan.)
For mild heatstroke, keep your pet rested and cool. For severe heatstroke, seek emergency assistance. Be vigilant for shock and be prepared to start CPR.
These are localized patches of skin infection, characterized by sticky ooze from skin which is red and sore. You may also notice that their fur starts falling out in oozy clumps in these areas. They can develop and spread really quickly.
Carefully trim fur away from the immediate area around the sore if possible. Wash the area and pat dry. Unless advised otherwise by your veterinarian, avoid applying any kind of ointment on the area as it can seal in the infection.
I have had success treating hot spots on Dylan (although we did go to the vet to get the all-clear) with a homemade mixture of 3 oz. witch hazel, 1 oz. colloidal silver, 1 dropper full of calendula tincture, and 1 dropper full of yarrow tincture. I gently applied some of this using a cloth several times a day. Because this infection does spread quickly and can be hard to see, go see your vet, if you don’t notice improvement within a day or so.
What to do:6
- Try and figure out why your dog is vomiting—did they eat a sock, toy, garbage? If they may have eaten something poisonous or large, go to the vet immediately. If they just over-indulged in something yucky, wait a day or so to see if they get better themselves.
- Check your dog’s gums and make sure they aren’t too pale—if they are, or if your dog seems very lethargic or unsteady, call your vet immediately.
- Remove any access to water for 6–12 hours—otherwise, they will most likely just throw it back up again.
- Remove access to food for 24 hours, unless your dog has a medical reason that prohibits this. After the 24 hours, if they have stopped vomiting, you can start introducing food again by giving them a bland diet (equal parts cooked ground turkey and pumpkin or sweet potato) for a few days.4
Hope you find this first-aid & emergency checklist useful: First-aid Kit Checklist or get our more comprehensive booklet on how to protect your dog in an emergency