First Aid Basics© By Kristi Smith

Hopefully you will never need the information printed below, but accidents do happen despite our best intentions. In any emergency situation the key is to STAY CALM and be prepared. This is why it is important to familiarize yourself with first aid procedures. Develop a first aid kit for your pet and post your veterinarians phone number along with your other emergency numbers. 

Remember that emergency first aid is the immediate action you should take in an emergency before you can reach a veterinarian. It can help prevent injuries from worsening, alleviate pain or even save your dogs life.

Restraint: Even a loving and trusted pet may bite when he is hurt and frightened. The best way to ensure your safety is to apply a muzzle. Gauze bandage, a necktie, pantyhose, kerchief, belt, scarf or rope will all work. You will need about a two foot section. First tie a loose knot in the section, leaving a large loop. Slip the loop over the dog’s snout and tighten. Next bring the ends down under the chin and cross them, then bring the ends around the back of the ears. Finish by securely tying a bow behind the ears. The muzzle will not interfere with breathing if tied correctly, and can be released quickly by loosening the bow and pulling the material straight from the nose.

Transporting: An injured dog should be carried so that further damage is avoided. Dogs of any size may be placed on a towel or blanket, which is then lifted by its edges. Or they may be gently laid on a firm surface of sufficient size, such as a plywood board.

Artificial Respiration: Artificial respiration is necessary when a dog has stopped breathing. Be careful, since your face will be very close to the dogs mouth. Even dogs in respiratory arrest can reflexively close their jaws. Open the dog’s mouth and check for obstructions. Extend the dog’s tongue and look into the throat to make sure it is clear. Remove any fluid from the mouth that might interfere with the passage of air. Then close the mouth and continue to hold it gently closed. Completely cover the dog’s nose with your mouth and exhale gently. Watch the chest for expansion. Repeat every five to six seconds, or 10 to 12 breaths per minute.

Heart Massage: Heart massage is attempted when you cant detect a heartbeat.
It should be combined with artificial respiration. To begin, lay the dog on its right side, and place two hands over the heart area. (The heart area can be estimated by flexing the dog’s front leg back along the chest. The spot where the elbow touches the chest is the place to apply pressure). Press firmly on the chest about 70 times per minute. For a small dog, you may place one hand on either side of the chest. Be careful not to break the dogs ribs by pressing too hard.

Bleeding: External bleeding may be controlled by applying a pressure bandage. Wrap the injured area with bandaging material, applying even pressure as you work. Make sure to watch for tissue swelling below the wound, a sign of blocked circulation. If swelling occurs you must loosen or remove the bandage.  If no bandage material is available, place pressure directly on the wound with your hand, a clean piece of cloth or a sanitary napkin. Resist the temptation to remove the pressure and look at the wound. When serious bleeding occurs, such as an artery has been severed, you may need to apply a tourniquet. A tourniquet may be fashioned from loops of rope, gauze or cloth. It should be placed about 2 inches above the wound (between the wound and the heart) and should be released every 10 minutes or so to allocirculation to the other tissues.

Shock: Shock is the collapse of the cardiovascular system. The blood circulation in the body is not sufficient. Signs of shock include a rapid, weak heartbeat, dilated pupils, pale gums and overall weakness. Shock demands immediate emergency attention. Time is precious in treating an animal in shock. Keep the dog a quiet and warm as you transport him to an emergency facility.

Heatstroke: Heatstroke occurs when the body temperature climbs way above normal range (a dogs normal temperature ranges from 100 degrees to 102.5 degrees). Most cases of heatstroke occur when owners close their dogs in cars with the windows rolled up, or confine them to other poorly ventilated areas on hot, humid days. It only takes a few minutes for heatstroke to develop. A dog with heatstroke breathes rapidly but takes shallow breaths. The heartbeat is also very rapid. It is crucial to cool an animal suffering from heatstroke as quickly as possible and treat shock and other complications which accompany this condition.

Lower the dogs temperature by spraying him with cool water and place ice against the groin, body, head and neck. Or wrap cold wet towels around the entire body. Seek  

medical attention immediately.

Always make sure animals have enough ventilation, shade and water during hot weather. If you must leave your dog in the car, even for a few minutes, leave the windows down. Or leave the motor and air conditioning running.

Poisoning: For treatment of poisoning, it is important to know what the dog ate, how much it ate, and how long ago the ingestion occurred. Keep your local Poison Control Center’s Hotline number with all your other emergency numbers. Also bring any information you have about the substance  the container, label, etc.  along with you to the veterinarian.

The most common signs shown by dogs who are poisoned are trembling, weakness, drooling, vomiting, convulsions and loss of bowel control. The situation may be very serious. The treatment for poisoning can range from inducing vomiting to the prevention of vomiting, depending on the type of poison. Never induce vomiting if the poison is a strong acid, alkalis or petroleum product.

If your dog has ingested an acidic poison, administer an antacid such as milk of magnesia or Pepto-Bismol. Roughly two teaspoons for every five pounds of body weight will help neutralize the acid. To neutralize an alkalis substance, give the same dosage of one part vinegar – four parts water mixture. For petroleum poisoning, use mineral or vegetable oil to coat the gastrointestinal tract. The dose is one tablespoon per five pounds of body weight. 


Topical Irritants: Never try to remove paint, tar or grease from a dog’s coat with turpentine, gasoline or other harsh chemicals. Vegetable oil works quite well in removing tar and grease from the coat. This may be followed by a cleansing bath using mild dishwashing detergent. It is best to carefully cut away paint.

Potential Poisons: (not an all – inclusive list)

Animal repellents (mace)    Gasoline
Antifreeze (ethylene glycol)
Aspirin (salicylate)
Batteries (automotive)
Metal cleaners
Brake and hydraulic fluids
Moth balls
Car exhaust
Putty (lead)
Cleaning preparations
Rodent Poisons
Space heaters (carbon monoxide)
Flea treatments
Fungicides / germicides / herbicides                             

Wood preservative

Helpful Hints
~Chocolate is a common poisonous substance for dogs. Four ounces can kill a small dog. Baking chocolate is stronger and therefore less can be a fatal dose. Don’t leave chocolate items within reach of your dog.
~Lysol and other phenol agents can be absorbed through your pet’s foot pads and may cause severe reactions.
~Antifreeze tastes sweet to dogs and also can be absorbed through the pad.  Be careful and clean up spills thoroughly.
~Insecticides and other bait traps for rodents can be potentially fatal to your pet. Use caution in the placement.
~When using pyrethrin or permethrine flea shampoos, be sure to rinse your pet thoroughly. Also wear gloves for your protection.
~With contact poisons, wash area thoroughly with soap or shampoo and water. 

~Chemical burns should be flushed with water for at least five minutes then treated by a medical professional. 


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