Pet Emergencies/First Aid
Dr. Kim Boudreau BSc, MSc, DVM
Terra Glen Animal Hospital email: firstname.lastname@example.org
It is a good idea to have a first aid kit supplied and ready. If you can- keep one at home, in the car and at the cottage. Your first aid kit is to help stabilize the situation but not necessarily replace veterinary care.
In your car always keep a blanket and water. When heading out for a hike leave ice freezer packs in the car to keep the water cool for your return and the ice packs can also be used for cooling or applied to reduce swelling.
Items recommended for the typical first aid kit include:
Use a plastic sealable food storage container
On the underside of the lid, paste a piece of paper with valuable phone #’s (your vet, closest vet if at the cottage, emergency facility, poison control, humane society etc)
Gauze cling roll
Sanitary napkin (good to apply to bleeding wounds)
Saline (eye flush)
Ear ointment (if applicable)
Disposable/exam gloves (wear if there is any question of there might be human blood)
Rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol
Hydrogen peroxide (check the expiry date!)
Benedryl (dose is 2-4mg/kg = approx 50mg for 20kg dog)
People band aids
Your veterinarian can help you put together a first aid kit.
Your dog is injured! Remember- try and stay calm.
Please use caution- any injured dog, even if it is the nicest dog in the world, may bite if in pain or afraid. It is often best to apply a muzzle to prevent injury to yourself as you may inadvertently cause pain when examining or moving the dog.
Makeshift emergency muzzle- leash, shoelace, gauze cling roll, belt, sock, even a poop bag. Tie underneath the muzzle and then behind the head. Do not use in a dog that is having difficulty breathing.
Control/stop bleeding. Apply pressure on wound. Apply bandage with padding – can apply a pressure bandage but for only a short time- you do not want to cause tissue injury with a bandage that is too tight. If you have to, use a sock or other pieces of clothing until you can get to your first aid kit. Once you get to your kit- flush/clean the wound with saline and bandage with your supplies.
Most dogs can walk on 3 legs but may require support. If they are toe-touching and bearing some weight that is better. If they are holding the leg up off the ground, a break/fracture/dislocation is a possibility. You can support your dog to walk out to the car using a makeshift body sling- you can use a leash, jacket, sweatshirt, belt. If a front leg is injured, support the dog with the sling under the chest, just behind the front legs. If a back leg is injured, provide support under the belly, just in front of the back legs.
Your dog can’t walk!
Remember- a muzzle may need to be applied before moving your dog.
If you are on your own, this is a problem if you cannot carry your dog. A cell phone is always a practical thing to carry with you, or always hike with a buddy.
A zipped up jacket may act as a makeshift stretcher for most medium sized dogs.
If you are not alone, hopefully your partner can return and get the blanket from your car which will allow you to more carefully transport your dog back to the car.
Use common sense when choosing when to participate in strenuous outdoor activities.
Those most likely at risk- elderly pets, overweight, brachycephalic breeds (pushed in noses-pugs, boxers, etc), pets with pre-existing medical conditions that might impede their ability to cool themselves.
Know the signs!
Watch for slowing or reluctance to continue, excessive panting with a huge tongue hanging way out of the mouth.
Carry water for you and your pet (there are many types of belt packs that hold water bottles as well as back backs for you and your dog). Collapsible plastic bowls are a must have!
Allow your dog to drink and rest often. You can wet them down to help keep them cool. Allow them to wade in water or place in a water bath to cool.
NEVER try and cool rapidly in ice water. This cools the skin and superficial muscles too quickly resulting blood flow to divert back to the core and impede cooling. The skin/muscles become chilled and shivering will start which will only create more heat!
You can cover the dog with wet towels or apply rubbing alcohol to the belly where there is little hair- this will cool through rapid evaporation.
If your dog still seems distressed or disoriented- seek veterinary assistance.
Check your dog (and yourself) over carefully when returning from outdoors.
Ticks can be very small and the nymph stages are the size of the period at the end of this sentence. Ticks are often not detected until they have had a blood meal and become engorged- so continue to check your dog over for several days following, just in case.
Do not damage or try to kill the tick. By distressing the tick it may release its mouth contents into the dog thereby increasing the risk of disease spread.
The entire tick must be removed with careful attention to include the mouth parts- if these are left behind, infection can result.
With tweezers/forceps grasp the skin surrounding the base of the tick and pull. The majority of the time, the dog will not even react despite removing some of the skin with the tick. Like when a mosquito bites, the tick injects a local anesthetic into the area prior to attaching so that the animal does not react to its presence- this works in our favor when removing the tick. Don’t throw away the tick! Have it identified by your veterinarian so that you will know if it is a species commonly associated with Lyme Disease. The tick can also be tested to learn if it is carrying Lyme Disease.
If you are not comfortable removing the tick, seek veterinary assistance.
Basic CPR- ABC
Observe the pet closely- is it truly unconscious or just sleeping deeply as often happens with our older pets.
Airway- open the mouth, pull out the tongue and use fingers to scoop any material that might be at the back of the throat. Be aware there is a bony structure on either side of the throat called the hyoid apparatus- do not try to pull it out!
Breathing- Is your pet breathing?? Watch the chest for rise and fall or place hand in front of nose to feel for breath. If not, initiate mouth-to-snout resuscitation.
Cup hands around muzzle to create a seal over lips. Place your mouth over the nose/muzzle and begin breaths- varying depth dependent upon size of patient.
Give 1 breath every 3-4 seconds.
Assess for pulse- the best place to check is the inside/inner aspect of the hind leg/thigh
For smaller dogs, you might be able to feel the heart beat which is just behind the left elbow. Check to know where to find these when your pet is well and resting- you will be more confident of your findings in an emergency. If a pulse cannot be felt- begin chest compressions. For larger dogs, compress downwards on the chest behind the elbow, with the dog on its side. For smaller dogs you might be able to use both hands on either side of the chest to perform compressions.
Typically give 1 breath for every 5 (small dogs) to 10 (larger dogs) chest compressions.
Continue until you are able to transfer the dog to a veterinary facility.
Pet Lover’s Guide to First Aid and Emergencies.
www.aspca.org has link to APCC where you can also find lists of toxic plants and flowers.
Call to receive emergency information regarding possible toxin ingestion. Will need to provide credit card # for a charge of approx $65.
Other useful web sites: