Health Topics

First Aid for Dogs

The following is not intended as definitive advice but just emergency situation guidance.

Every dog owner will at some time or another come across a situation where it will be beneficial to know how to perform first aid on their dog. Often this requires only common sense, but sometimes it is important to know just that little bit more for the highest chance of recovery or even survival! Below I have outlined some important information to help you make the best choice when first aid becomes necessary. Remember, it is always a good idea to seek veterinary advice as soon as possible!

Aims of first aid

  • To preserve life
  • To prevent suffering
  • To prevent the situation from deteriorating.

The four rules of first aid

  • Do not panic!
  • Maintain the airway: mainly through stretching out the neck carefully and removing anything from the mouth if possible.
  • Control bleeding: see below under ‘haemorrhage’
  • Contact the vet

Handling injured animals

Be gentle but decisive, reassure the dog. Try and put a lead on the dog, possibly using the noose technique , but be careful! The dog may bite, especially if he is frightened or in pain. You may need to muzzle the dog, perhaps with a tape muzzle, unless there is an injury to the nose, skull or muzzle.

Brief examination and first treatment

  • Check the airway: listen for breathing sounds, watch the chest moving up and down
  • Check for bleeding and control (see later)
  • Check for fractures and immobilise (see later)
  • Dress wounds cleanly

Transport to the vet’s surgery

If the dog can walk, let him! If not, carry him carefully: in small dogs, use a basket or other carrier (make sure the patient can be watched though and that there is sufficient ventilation), in bigger dogs use a stretcher or blanket. A stretcher can made of a plank of wood for instance. The latter is especially important if there is any suspicion of spinal injury or the dog is collapsed or severely injured. Be as quick as you can but do not take any unnecessary risks.

Finally

If you ever get into a situation where you think your dog needs help urgently, stay calm, be sensible and ring your vet for advice whenever possible.