Even with the best precautions and supervision, accidents can happen and here at Happy Hounds our principal kennel staff are pet first aid qualified and trained to deal with any unforeseen emergency.
Hopefully, your dog will never seriously hurt themselves at home, but it’s inevitable that at some stage in their life, they will get into a few scrapes now and then – so it’s useful to have some knowledge of basic first aid and know what to do when faced with an emergency.
Different situations require a different approach and it is essential to assess the situation by quickly identifying the following information:
- Is your dog in further danger?
- Will you be in any danger if you help the dog?
- Can your dog be restrained?
- Can you move your dog from further risk or harm safely?
Assessing the initial situation is critical – evaluation can be categorised as follows:
Very Severe – Must act immediately or the animal may die
E.g.: the heart has stopped, breathing is obstructed due to air blockage, bleeding from main artery or acute allergic reaction to a sting or substance
Severe – Must act within one hour or the animal may die
E.g.: deep cuts with considerable blood loss, established shock, head injuries or breathing difficulties
Serious – Must act within 4-5 hours otherwise more serious problems will develop which could be life threatening
E.g.: bone fractures that punctuate the skin, spinal injuries and early stages of shock
Major – Must act within 24hrs to prevent further damage
E.g.: fractures with no obvious skin injury (simple fracture), prolonged vomiting or diarrhea, foreign bodies in the skin
Initial First Aid Management is Critical – Six Key Stages to Remember
- Assess the situation and keep calm – note any obvious injuries
- Contact your veterinary practice – for advice and pre-alert arrival
- Ensure your own safety – restrain the dog so no one is bitten
- Stop and cover any obvious bleeding – use a sterile dressing to avoid cross contamination
- Make sure the dog is able to breathe – if blocked, try to clear
- Treat for shock – keep dog calm ensuring the surrounding area is quiet and maintain the dog’s body temperature by using a blanket or coat to keep it warm.
First Aid Box
You should always keep a few basic items on hand for emergencies such as: cotton bandages; cotton wool or lint to clean wounds; mild pet-friendly antiseptic to wash wounds; and a pair of tweezers for removing stings or objects from the mouth.
Bones, Sticks and Balls
Bones, sticks and balls can get lodged in or across the roof of a dog’s mouth. If this happens, you may notice your dog pawing at his mouth or struggling to close his jaws. You may be able to remove the object by hand or with tweezers, but if not you’ll need to get your vet to do so using sedation. As always, prevention is better than a cure, so never let your dog play with small balls and avoid throwing sticks.
If your dog suffers a burn from hot water, oil, chemicals or ice, he’ll need immediate attention. Minor burns can be treated at home – simply clean the affected area with a mild antiseptic and apply a soothing cream or gel such as aloe vera. Severe burns will need veterinary attention, so take your dog to the vet straight away.
Cuts and Wounds
Dogs may suffer from cuts or wounds particularly to their feet if they run on something sharp like broken glass. If this occurs, clean the affected area with antiseptic and apply a bandage if necessary. Consult your vet if you cannot stop the bleeding or the wound is severe.
If your dog is unlucky enough to be bitten by another dog, it’s always worth getting him checked over by the vet. Make a routine appointment if the bite or bites are minor, and ensure your pet is seen as an emergency if they’re severe. This approach should be taken with all animal bites. You should immediately call your vet if your suspect your dog has been bitten by a wild or stray animal to rule out serious diseases such as rabies.
Your dog’s ears should be a shiny, pale pink color inside and free from wax or discharge. They should not smell unpleasant. If you suspect an ear problem always consult a vet.
If your dog has any problems with his eyes such as a scratch or conjunctivitis you should consult your vet, and if you can, prevent him from rubbing his eye.
A fit can be recognized by sudden, uncontrolled spasmodic movements, often with chomping of the jaw and salivating. A fitting dog will usually fall onto its side and be unaware of its surroundings.
If your dog does have a fit, try not to restrain him. Instead, remove any furniture or hard objects around him that could cause an injury. Then, turn off all stimuli such as lights, radio, television, washing machine etc. and darken the room so he can recover quietly. You should ALWAYS consult your vet if your dog has a fit.
Fractured or Pulled-off claws
These can be very painful and tend to become quickly infected. Bleeding is also often profuse. If possible, try to apply a bandage to the foot before taking your dog to the vet as antibiotics are often required and the claw may need to be clipped back under sedation or anaesthetic.
The best advice as far as heatstroke is concerned is that prevention is better than a cure. Ensure your dog doesn’t stay out in the sun for too long on hot days and avoids the midday heat.
If he does get mild heatstroke, cool him down as best you can with wet towels or a fan, and ensure he drinks plenty of cool water and gets lots of rest. Serious heatstroke will require the attention of a vet.
If your dog is in obvious pain and can’t put any weight on his leg, you should take him to your vet immediately as he may have a fracture or worse. In less severe cases, look for damaged nails and check the pad for thorns, embedded grit or cuts.
Some dogs are very inquisitive, and there’s always the possibility your dog will get hold of something he shouldn’t. Much like heatstroke, prevention is better than a cure and you need to dog-proof your home to ensure he can’t access things that could be harmful to his health, such as slug pellets, bleach or chocolate. If you suspect your dog has digested something harmful, always take the packaging to your vet as this will help identify the problem and source an antidote. If the worst does happen, see your vet as an emergency.
If your dog has been involved in an accident with a vehicle, you should call your vet right away. Your dog may be in shock and could react unpredictably so approach him with caution. If possible, lift your dog onto a blanket then take him to the vet as quickly as you can. If he cannot be moved, you may have to ask your vet to come directly to the scene.
Stings and Insect Bites
If your dog has been stung and has severe swelling around his mouth, nose or throat that’s causing breathing difficulties, you should get him to a vet immediately.
If the sting or bite isn’t causing any serious problems, you can alleviate your dog’s discomfort by applying a cold compress to the affected area.