How to perform first aid on your dog

How to perform first aid on your dog
Dr. Maja Kruuse DVM
Dr. Maja Kruuse DVM
You can be the best dog owner in the world, but sometimes accidents happen. When your dog is hurt and need your help it is a good idea to know canine first aid so you can stabilize your furry friend and get him to an animal hospital as soon as possible.

If you know how to treat common injuries and diseases it can reduce the severity of the injury and help save your dog’s life. Always contact your veterinarian in case of an emergency and ask for advice. You should always consider these four steps in the event of an accident:

1. Neutralize the danger: stop traffic, turn off electricity, turn off the gas etc.
2. Perform CPR – lifesaving first aid.
3. Call for help.
4. Perform first aid such as bandaging wounds, calming the dog, wrapping him in blankets etc.

For lifesaving first aid you should think A B C. This is an acronym for Airways, Breathing and Circulation. First you assess if your dog has clear airways – is he choking on anything? Then you assess whether or not he is breathing. If no – perform CPR, 2 breaths and 30 compressions, 100 beats per minute. Read more about this in the article How to perform CPR on your dog.
If your dog is breathing, then you assess circulation. Is he bleeding from anywhere? Does he have pale gums? Are his extremeties cold? Apply tourniquette aroung the thigh or above the elbow if there is a strong bleeding from a leg or paw. Keep it on for a maximum of 20 minutes before adjusting and re-applying.
When the situation is not acutely life threatening you can perform regular first aid. Here are some regular encountered injuries you can treat at home:

Your dog has been in a traumatic accident and you don’t know if there is a fracture, muscle injury or internal bleeding. You have stopped the accident (for example moved your dog from the road or stopped the traffic). Now you have to make sure you can handle your dog in a safe way since he is probably very scared and in pain. If he can breathe normally you should apply a soft muzzle to avoid getting bitten. This can be done with a non adhesive bandage that you carefully wrap around the muzzle so the jaws are held together. Be very carefult hat your dog can breathe unhindered and never do this on a brachycephalic (short-nosed) breed such as french bulldog or pug.

Using a gauze pad or clean absorbent material, apply direct pressure on the injury to help control the bleeding. Hold the compress in place for at least 3-5 minutes with your hand or by bandaging it on top of the wound with a firm (but not too tight) non adhesive dressing. If blood soaks through, add another compress on top rather than pulling it off as this may disturb the blood clot formation. After the bleeding stops, clean the wound with warm water and an antibacterial product (e.g., pyrisept or chlorohexidine 0,05%). Then, carefully pat the wound dry with a sterile or clean piece of absorbent material.
If the wound is gaping you can close it with butterfly strip bandages until your veterinarian can suture the wound together. Apply gauze on top and a nonadhesive dressing that is not to tight over the wound to protect it.

If your dog is burned by a hot substance such as coffee, tea or soup you should immediately use a showerhead to flush the site with cool (not cold) water for at least 30(!) minutes. This is very important. If this is not possible, apply cool compresses to the site until you can og to a veterinary hospital. Burns are always an emergency. If your dog has been in contact with a caustic material that caused chemical burn you should immediately rinse with dish detergent (such as zalo) and plenty of cool water. Keep rinsing and cooling for 30 minutes. Always get your dog evaluated by a vet in this situation.

Ingestion of harmful substances
If your dog has eaten something that is should not not eat, call your veterinarian immediately. If possible, take the container of the substance with you so the vet knows the ingredients. You can administer liquid coal or coal tablets before you get to the veterinary clinic. They absorb toxins in the stomach and can be helpful in an acute situation, however the veterinariann should evaluate if it is necessary to induce vomiting in your dog to remove the substance.

Heat shock
On warm days you should be very careful about monitoring your dog for signs of overheating. A dog that is developing heat shock has pale gums instead of pink. Look for excessive panting and wobbly gait. When your dog is developing heat shock it will quickly become weak and unresponsive since the brain and heart is not getting enough oxygen. You should immediately get your dog out of the sun and cool him down by soaking in cool (not cold) water if possible. Alternatively you can use cool compresses in the armpits, groin an dneck area. Contact your veterinarian at once since this condition can be fatal is left untreated. Never leave your dog in a hot car in the summer.

There are many other canine emergencies that are helpful to be prepared for. Do you have any tips to share with the Canion community? Please contact us and we will share the best of your advice on our website.
Stay safer, stronger and smarter with the ressources from Canion Vet Corner.

Have a pawsome day!
Dr. Maja Kruuse DVM

Get well soon!
Get well soon!