Emergency First Aid for Injured Dog

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When it comes to medical treatment, seconds and minutes can sometimes make a big difference towards recovery. Take a few minutes to read up on canine first aid. In case of emergencies, always contact your vet first.

What is first aid?

First aid for a dog, as the term says, is the very first treatment given to a dog during a medical emergency. The main purpose of an emergency first aid for a dog is to reduce their pain and save their life until further help arrives, or until you reach a vet. With first aid, you also save your injured dog’s life from incurring any immediate threat and minimise the risk of any major crisis, like permanent disability.

How to handle an emergency situation?

In case your dog incurs a medical emergency, remember the following:

  1. Try not to panic. Keep calm, and administer emergency first aid to your dog. Then, carefully check if there are any more potential threats to them.
  2. Unless your dog is suffering from a heat stroke, keep them warm. Also, try to restrict their movement, especially if they are suffering from a fracture or if there are symptoms of trauma.
  3. Next, contact your veterinarian and notify them of the situation, with all the necessary details. They will also guide you regarding additional first aid your dog needs, if at all.
  4. With the help of someone, safely move your dog onto a stretcher (make a temporary one if needed) or in a dog carrier (without having to force it). You can also put your dog on a blanket before placing them on the stretcher to provide extra safety.
  5. Head to your nearest veterinary hospital.

Know your dog's vital signs

  • Normal temperature: 101°–102.5°F 
  • Normal heart rate: 70–160 beats/min 
  • Normal breathing rate: 10–30 breaths/min 

When assessing for vital signs:

  • Don't assume your dog won't bite.
  • Use rectal, not oral, thermometers.
  • Check the heart rate by placing your hand over his chest, just behind his elbow.
  • Measure his breathing rate by observing your dog's sides or by holding your wet finger in front of the nose.
  • Measure both rates for 15 seconds and multiply by 4 to get the rate per minute.
  • Here’s how to tackle the emergencies with first aid

What is Shock?

Shock is the reaction of your dog’s body to a sudden medical condition, which causes a sudden drop in blood pressure, resulting in a lack of oxygen supply to their vital organs. In simpler terms, it is when your dog’s blood circulation level suddenly drops. It can be caused by trauma, loss of blood, allergic reactions (which can happen due to certain foods or insect bites), neurogenic shock, choking, vomiting and diarrhoea, or heart failure. Regardless of the cause, it is important to note that a shock can be fatal. So, as soon as you notice signs of shock in your dog, take them to a veterinarian immediately.

What are the signs of shock in dogs?

Here are some of the early signs of shock that you should look out for in a dog:

  • Their gums suddenly turn bright red in colour.
  • The dog begins breathing rapidly, with an elevated pulse and heart rate.
  • The dog shows signs of anxiety and begins acting uneasily.
  • They may even suffer from shallow breathing.

And some of the signs from a later stage of shock in a dog can be:

  • Their gums, lips, and eyelids may turn pale or blue in colour.
  • Their pulse is extremely weak and/or difficult to locate.
  • Your dog appears weak and exhausted.
  • Their skin and mouth may turn abnormally cool.
  • Their rectal temperature becomes abnormal (suddenly lowers or rises).
  • Their eyes become unfocused and their pupils dilate.

What to do if the dog shows any signs of shock?

In case your dog shows any or multiple signs of shock, immediately contact your vet and let them know of the situation. And until you reach the vet or until the medical help arrives, take the following steps:

  • Wrap your dog in a blanket to conserve their body heat.
  • Restrain their movement to prevent them from incurring physical damage.
  • If there are any open wounds, administer first aid to your dog. If there is a lot of blood loss, try to stop it by applying pressure to the wound.
  • Ensure their airway is clear and they are breathing properly.
  • Try to stay calm, and keep your dog calm as well until you reach the vet.


Causes of Seizures

If your dog often experiences seizures, it is due to the sudden uncontrolled electrical disturbances in their brain. During seizures, you’ll find symptoms like your dog running around in circles, uncontrollably shaking, twitching, drooling, biting, urinating or excreting uncontrollably, or falling unconscious. They may also become unaware of their surroundings and seem dazed, confused, or unsteady. Episodes of seizures in dogs can last from a few seconds to several minutes. Causes of seizures in dogs include:

  • Head injuries
  • Strokes
  • Brain cancer
  • Anaemia
  • Blood sugar imbalance
  • Electrolyte issues
  • Encephalitis
  • Kidney diseases
  • Poison consumption

What to do if your dog has seizure?

If your dog is experiencing seizures, it is okay to feel concerned. But remember to stay calm. Only if you stay calm, can you provide the proper aid to your dog and save them from incurring any physical injury during the episode. Follow these steps, if and when your dog experiences seizures:

  • During the episode, if your dog is near something that could hurt them, like any piece of furniture or stairs, try to slowly and calmly move them away.
  • During seizures, dogs can lose control over themselves and may bite you. So, try to stay away from their head.
  • Check the time, as knowing when your dog’s seizure began and how long it lasted could prove to be vital information for your vet.
  • If a seizure lasts for a long time, it can raise their body temperature. In such a case, cool them down by turning on a fan and putting cold water on their paws.
  • Contact your vet and begin the necessary treatment as soon as possible.


Possible cause of Bleeding:

Car accident, animal fight, fall, clotting, severe wound.

What to do when your dog is Bleeding:

Arterial bleeding is a life-threatening situation. Arterial blood is bright red, bleeds in spurts, is difficult to stop, and requires immediate veterinary attention.

For any type of external bleeding, place a clean cloth or sterile gauze over the injured area. Apply direct pressure for at least 5–7 minutes. Take your dog to a vet immediately.


Possible cause of Vomiting

Poisoning, abdominal injury, motion sickness, disease, overeating, fear, brain injury, parasites.

What to do when your dog is Vomiting:

Examine vomit for blood or other clues and take a sample to your vet for an evaluation. Bring a sample of the suspected poison (preferably in its original packaging) to the vet. Do not offer any food or water until a vet.


Possible causes of Heartstroke:

Excessive heat and/or lack of shade, heavy exertion, lack of water (Note: Heat tolerance may differ for different dogs).

What to do when your dog is Heartstroke:

Take your dog to a cool, shaded area. Immediately bathe with tepid (not cold) water. Do not leave your pet unattended and monitor his rectal temperature. Dry him when his temperature drops to 103°F. Excessive cooling down may be harmful. Take him to a vet immediately if his temperature is 104° F or above.


Possible causes of Limping:

Broken limb or toe, arthritis, injury to footpad, dislocation, sprain, muscle soreness or a bur between his toes.

What to do when your dog is Limping:

If you suspect a fracture, gently stabilize the limb before you transport the dog to the vet. Cover any wounds with a clean cloth.

Bee or wasp sting

For bee stings, apply a paste of baking soda and water. For wasp stings, apply vinegar or lemon juice. Also apply a cold pack and follow up with calamine or antihistamine cream. Severe swelling or breathing requires immediate medical attention.


Possible causes of Choking:

Foreign objects lodged in his throat, windpipe or teeth; or an allergic reaction.

What to do when your dog is Choking:

Gently and carefully pull the dog's tongue forward and inspect his mouth and throat. Make sure he doesn't try to bite you. Stop if he is not cooperative. If you see a foreign object, hold the mouth open and attempt to remove it by hand, or with tweezers or small pliers. Take care not to push the object farther down the throat. Stop if the dog is not cooperative and immediately take him to a vet. If he’s not breathing, start CPR.


Possible causes of Unconsciousness: 

Drowning, electrocution, trauma, drug ingestion.

What to do when your dog is Unconscious:

In case of drowning, remove fluid from the dog's lungs by lifting his hindquarters high over his head and squeezing his chest firmly until fluid stops coming out. In case of an electrical shock, DO NOT touch pet until it is no longer in contact with the electrical source. If an object is blocking the dog's windpipe, it will need to be gently removed. See "Choking" above. Take the dog to a vet as soon as possible.

If he is not breathing and has no heartbeat, start CPR.


If possible, have someone transport you and your dog to a vet while you perform the CPR procedure described below. Lay the dog on his side and remove any objects from his windpipe: open his mouth, pull his tongue forward, extend his neck, and sweep his mouth with your finger. Be careful: make sure your dog won't try to bite you. If the windpipe and mouth are clear, extend the neck, hold his tongue out of his mouth, and close the dog's jaws over his tongue. Holding his jaws closed, breathe into both nostrils for 5 to 6 breaths. If there is no response, continue artificial breathing.

Artifical Breathing

  • Over 60 lbs. = 12 breaths/min
  • Over 60 lbs. = 12 breaths/min
  • 1–10 lbs. = 30+ breaths/min
  • If there is no heartbeat, begin heart compressions. Depress chest 1.5 to 3 inches with one hand on either side of the chest, just behind the elbows. Continue artificial breathing.

Heart Compressions

  • Over 60 lbs. = 60 times/min
  • 11–60 lbs. = 80–100 times/min
  • 5–10 lbs. = 120–140 times/min
  • If your pet weighs 5 lbs. or less, place hands around rib cage and apply heart massage.

Handling and transporting tips

Don't try to comfort an injured dog by hugging it, and never put your face near its head. If necessary, muzzle the dog with gauze, soft towel strips, or stockings. Don't attempt to lift or drag a large, injured dog. Instead, improvise a stretcher with a board, throw rug, blanket, child's toboggan, etc. Before transport, try to stabilize injuries. Rolled magazines or newspapers can serve as splints. Pad the limb and splint generously with rolled cotton and gauze, or improvise with pillows, strips of blanket, towels, etc.

Helpful items to have on hand

  • Gauze pads, gauze rolls, rolled cotton, and veterinary self-adhesive elastic wrap
  • Calamine lotion and petroleum jelly
  • Thermometer
  • Blunt-end scissors (to cut bandages or cat fur away from a wound)
  • Tweezers and pliers
  • Antibiotic cream and antiseptic solution
  • Extra blankets, towels, and pillows
  • Eyedropper
  • Tube socks (for slipping over an injured paw)
  • Transport aids, like crates and carryalls. A child's plastic toboggan or flat piece of board can be used to carry a larger dog.
  • Cotton swab sticks
  • A few important things to remember:
  • First aid is often just that, the aid you do first, before taking the injured dog to a veterinarian for more extensive treatment. We also recommend that you print out this information and keep it handy. Just in case.

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Frequently Asked Questions on First Aid For Dog

Firstly, stay calm, and try to keep your dog calm, too. If they have an open wound, clean it with fresh, warm water, and cover it with a clean damp cloth. If they are losing a lot of blood, apply pressure to the wound. Unless they have a heat stroke, cover them with a blanket, and restrict their movement. Safely put them in a dog carrier or a stretcher, and take them to a vet immediately.

  • If your dog’s eyes have been exposed to toxins, quickly flush them with water. If their skin has been exposed, wash them thoroughly with mild soap and water.
  • If your dog has ingested the poison and it hasn’t already vomited, induce vomiting by giving them 1 tablespoon of 3% hydrogen peroxide solution per 20 pounds, every 10 minutes until they vomit.
  • Do not induce vomiting if the toxin ingested was a cleaning product, a strong acid, a petroleum product, or an alkali, or if your dog is semi-conscious, unconscious, convulsing, or has swallowed the poison more than two hours back.
  • Contact a vet and transfer them to a hospital immediately. If possible, carry the substance (or its container) that poisoned them to the vet.

The following items are essential in a first aid kit for dogs:

  • Hydrogen peroxide: To clean minor wounds and to induce vomiting if the dog ingests a poisonous substance
  • Antibiotic ointments: To apply on cuts or scratches to prevent infection.
  • Bandage, scissors, tapes, and rubber gloves: To bandage your dog’s wounds or fractures.
  • A blanket or a towel: To provide warmth and calm them down if they begin panicking.
  • Your dog’s medical and vaccination records.

If your dog is seriously injured, they will show one or more of the following signs:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Heavy breathing/panting
  • Whimpering or whining
  • Refusing to be pet or touched
  • Growling, snapping or showing abnormal aggression
  • Excessive licking
  • Restlessness
  • Trembling
  • Blinking, squinting, or tearing up
  • Keeping back arched