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Dog First Aid

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How to Give First Aid to a Dog

The first rule of basic first aid for dogs is CONTACT YOUR VET!

Just by having some basic CPR knowledge and a fully stocked first aid kit, you may well save your pets life in an emergency. A well stocked kit should contain:

  1. A self adhesive bandage
  2. Sterile non adherent pads
  3. Sterile stretch gauze bandage
  4. Gauze sponges
  5. Surgical tape
  6. Disposable gloves
  7. Eye wash
  8. Sachets of sterile water or sterile water in a spray can
  9. Peroxide/Iodine or Betadine scrub
  10. White petroleum jelly or similar
  11. Hydrocortisone cream, 1%
  12. Generic Benadryl capsules 25mg, for allergies
  13. Buffered aspirin
  14. Scissors
  15. Tweezers
  16. Rectal Thermometer
  17. Blanket
  18. Muzzle
  19. A list of veterinary surgeries and the telephone numbers
  20. The dog’s health paperwork (i.e. record of vaccinations etc.)

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The most common cause of injury to a dog is being involved in a car accident. If your dog has been hit by a moving vehicle, approach the animal with care as it may be aggressive through being in pain and shock. If the dog has to be moved to prevent further accidents, place a blanket/sheet carefully underneath it and with assistance from a third party, lift the dog to safety as gently as possible. Check the dog’s heartbeat and look for signs of bleeding. The normal resting rates of the pulse and heart are,

  • Small dogs: 90-120 BPM (beats per minute)
  • Medium dogs: 70-110 BPM
  • Large dogs: 60-90 BPM

The usual place to check the dog’s pulse is at the femoral artery in the groin area. Place your fingers on the inside of the hind leg. Slide the hand upward and outward until it touches the abdomen. Move fingers around on the inside of the hind leg to feel for the pulse. Count the number of beats for 15 seconds then multiply by four to give the beats per minute.

To take the dog’s temperature, you will need a rectal thermometer. Gently insert the thermometer into the rectum for a minute or two. Remove and take reading. In dogs, a normal temperature is 100-102.5 degrees.

Basic Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)

CPR is normally only carried out by a trained professional. Only in extreme, critical situations should this be attempted by a novice, when the dog’s heartbeat and breathing have stopped.

  1. BE ABSOLUTELY SURE THAT THE DOG IS NOT JUST UNCONCIOUS by shaking it and calling its name. If the dog were to wake up whilst CPR was being performed it could bite and cause serious injuries.
  2. Extend the head and the neck and pull the tongue forward. Check for any obstructions in the throat and clear out any mucus or vomit.
  3. Look for signs of breathing as sometimes by clearing the airways breathing starts by itself. Watch the chest for rise and fall movements. If there are no signs after 10 seconds begin CPR.
  4. Cover the animal’s nose with your mouth and forcefully blow into the dog’s lungs. Hold the dog’s mouth closed whilst doing this. Repeat 12-20 times per minute with large dogs, 20- 25 times per minute with small ones. Every few seconds, press on the stomach area to expel any air that has entered the stomach and not the lungs. After 3-5 breaths, check for pulse. If no pulse is detected begin chest compressions. Use both hands to compress the chest wall from 1 ½ to 4 inches in depth, depending on the size of the dog. Do this 80-120 times per minute – give breaths during the compressions or use the basic guide of 12 compressions and 2 breaths. Continue until the dog reaches the veterinary surgery.

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If you see signs of bleeding from an open wound, make a compress out of a folded cloth and apply pressure until clotting occurs. Phone the nearest vet so they can be ready for your arrival. Symptoms of potential internal bleeding are, bleeding from the nose, mouth, rectum, coughing blood, blood in urine, pale gums, a rapid or weak pulse and collapse. Seek urgent veterinary attention whilst keeping the dog warm and quiet. Do not give anything by mouth.


The symptoms are a weak pulse, shallow breathing, bulging eyes, a dazed look, nervousness and extreme restlessness. Shock often accompanies severe injury or fright, as in a dog fight, fireworks or other loud bangs. In mild cases, keep the dog warm and quiet. Restrain the dog from pacing around by shutting them in a room. Offer support to calm the dog by massage or stroking. Sometimes the dog will just want to be by itself in its bed. Keep observing the dog for any signs of deterioration in its condition. If the dog falls unconscious then keep the head level with the body and seek veterinary advice.

Handling and restraining an injured dog

When in pain, even your normally loving pet may become aggressive and bite. If you are bitten, seek medical advice. Unless the dog is unconscious, has difficulty breathing or has an injury to the face, place a muzzle gently on the dog for your own safety. Approach the dog from the side, calmly speaking in a soft, reassuring voice. If help is available then have someone attach a lead to restrain the dog. When positioned behind the dogs head, attach the muzzle. (NEVER do this whilst facing the dog) A substitute muzzle can be made by using a long bandage, your tie, a belt or a rope. Make a loop in the centre and slip it over the dog’s nose. Bring the ends round under the chin and tie snugly behind the ears. Remember, it is important to muzzle an injured dog for your own safety.


If you can visibly see that the dog has suffered a fracture, or suspect that the dog may have broken bones, (as in car accidents) do the following.

  1. Muzzle the animal and phone the vet
  2. Using a wooden board, a door, a blanket or anything else that will support the animal’s body securely, gently position the dog and immobilise by tying down using strips of bandage, cloth or tape.
  3. Observe the dog whilst transporting to the vet to keep the animal calm and to make sure blood flow is not constricted.
  4. Applying a tourniquet is DANGEROUS and should only be used in life threatening bleeding of a limb.

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Muzzle the animal for safety. Immerse the body in cold water as long as possible or pour plenty of cold water over the burn area. Seek veterinary advice immediately.

Heat stroke

This is most commonly caused by people leaving dogs in cars without adequate ventilation. The dog may be unconscious or in a distressed state. Signs to look out for are, panting heavily, vomiting, frothing at the mouth and unable to stand. It is most important to lower the dog’s temperature. Soak towels/cloths in cold water and place over the dog. Phone the vets and make your way there as quickly as possible.


Signs to watch for are muscle spasms, vomiting, bleeding, and frothing at the mouth, convulsions and collapse. If you know what the dog has eaten, take some of the substance with you to the vet.

Knowing these basic rules and having a well stocked first aid kit may help to save your dog’s life. When faced with an emergency, remember to phone the veterinary surgery as soon as possible. Give some basic details as to the nature of the emergency so the vet is prepared for your arrival.


This information is solely for the purpose of informing and educating the reader. WE DO NOT CLAIM TO BE MEDICAL EXPERTS. If you think your dog is unwell, contact your veterinary surgery as soon as possible with as much information as possible.

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