First Aid for your Dog

dogfirstaidKnowing first aid can

save your dog’s life

Several easy techniques can also indicate General Health


Too few dog owners know  what to do in case of an emergency with their pet.  All pet owners should have a working knowledge of first  aid and CPR should  an emergency arise and minutes count.

Equally important is recognizing what’s normal for your dog — how he usually walks, sleeps, eats, urinates and defecates, says Elizabeth Rozanski, DVM, a specialist in emergency and critical care at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. Simple procedures like checking the health of his gums, taking his pulse and knowing his normal heart rate can provide valuable information to a veterinarian in an emergency. Smart owners will also be prepared by keeping the contact information of your veterinary clinic and emergency veterinary clinic handy.

Among helpful first-aid techniques:

Checking the gums

Healthy gums are pink and moist. Pale, white or blue gums can signal a problem such as shock or anemia, which is a low-red cell count. The best way to check the gums is a couple millimeters  above the canine. (A millimeter is slightly more than a third of an inch.) Lift up your dog’s muzzle and press lightly with your finger on the gum area above the canine tooth.  It should return to a pink color within a couple seconds.

Taking the pulse

The number of heart beats per minute varies by size, with larger dogs having a slower rate. It’s good to know your dog’s normal rate.  If it’s usually 80 and now is 150, that can mean he’s in trouble.  A rapidly beating heart can indicate shock or pain.

To take your dog’s pulse, lay him on his right side.  Then follow these steps:

— Gently lift his upper hind leg away from the lower hind leg.

— Place two fingers as high up as possible on the inside of the leg where the leg meets the body.

Dog pulse

— Feel for a recess in the middle of the leg about half way between the front and back. This is where the blood vessels are located and where you’ll find the pulse.

–Count  the number of pulses in 10 seconds and multiply that number by six to give you the beats per minute.

If you are unsure about how to take the pulse, ask your veterinarian or vet technician to show you on your dog the next time you are in for a visit.

Checking breathing in an unconscious dog

Place your hand on the dog’s side to feel if the chest is moving  up and down. You can also hold a mirror near his mouth. If it fogs up, he’s breathing.  If he’s not, you may need to perform CPR in this  order  of priorities:

— Airway: Check the throat and mouth for foreign objects.

— Breathing: If your dog isn’t breathing, place your mouth over his muzzle if he weighs more than 30 pounds. Seal his entire snout with your mouth if he weighs less than 30 pounds and gently exhale until you see the chest rise. Give four or five breaths rapidly and then check to see if your dog is breathing without assistance.

–Circulation: If you can’t detect a heartbeat or pulse, you’ll need to perform chest compressions. Ask your veterinarian how to perform them.

 Stopping bleeding in a wound

If your dog is bleeding due to a cut or a bite, the first advice from Dr. Rozanski is: “Don’t  panic. Dogs have more blood than you think.  Put pressure on the wound, but do not take it off to see if the bleeding has stopped. If you don’t have a first-aid kit handy, a towel and duct tape work well. Always keep towels in your car.”

To avoid being bitten when treating an injured, conscious dog, you can create a homemade muzzle by ripping strips from a towel or T-shirt. Approach the dog from the side– not directly head on –and talk in a calm voice. (If the dog was hit by a car, make sure he’s in a safe area and, if necessary, stop traffic.) Take a cloth strip and tie it around the dog’s nose and then behind the ears. Even a sweet tempered dog with a broken pelvis or other injury might bite.

If you’re able to treat the wound, it is better to not use peroxide to clean it.  Dr. Rozanski says “Peroxide is bad for wounds. It delays healing.”  A better alternative would be to use sterile saline solution or tap water.

Helping a dog who is choking

If your dog is choking on food or a toy and is conscious, approach him cautiously to avoid being bitten. Open his mouth and carefully sweep the inside with your finger to dislodge the object. Pull the tongue forward.  If you can’t dislodge the object, you’ll need to perform these abdominal thrusts:

— If you can lift your dog, hoist him by his front legs with his spine against your chest and wrap your arms around him under his ribs. Make a fist with one hand, place your other hand over your fist and give five rapid abdominal thrusts, lifting your fist in an inward and upward motion. Just be gentle, as you would be working on a baby.

— If your dog is too big to lift, place him on his side.  Put the palms of your hands below his rib cage and give five rapid abdominal thrusts in an inward and upward motion.

— Check his mouth to see if the object has been dislodged.

View all contributions by

0 comments… add one