Of course, nobody hopes something will happen to their dog. Unfortunately, you cannot always prevent accidents or illnesses. First aid measures for dogs should be known to all dog owners.
This post shows you the right procedure for first aid for your injured four-legged friend. It is important that you read the guidelines for first aid for dogs calmly and not when an emergency has already occurred.
Why first aid for dogs is so important in an emergency
First aid is extremely important, especially for dogs, as they act rashly and quickly run around outside the four walls. The environment for dogs is full of danger and unpredictable situations. From poisoning by poisonous food for dogs, to a fight with the neighboring dog, to serious traffic accidents – a lot can happen!
As for humans, first aid for dogs means life-saving and health-preserving emergency measures. These should be learned by everyone and can be used in emergencies. Basically, the steps of first aid for dogs differ little from those for humans.
We’ll show you how to professionally and confidently provide first aid to dogs in 5 steps.
- Calm down your dog and keep a cool head
If you find an injured dog, approach it carefully and talk to the dog calmly and slowly. Many injured dogs try reflexively and in shock to flee from the scene of the accident, which often causes them to hurt themselves even more severely. In addition, the dogs can of course defend themselves due to pain, fears and panic attacks and attack the helper. Therefore, pay attention to your own self-protection first.
The most important thing is that you stay calm and don’t panic. Even if you may find it difficult in such a situation – try to keep a cool head and act rationally. Only in this way are life-saving first aid measures possible on dogs.
- Take the dog out of danger and contact the vet
Then try to get the dog out of the danger zone as quickly as possible. If you cannot approach the dog without any problems, you can use a little trick. A blanket is thrown over the dog and caught with it. It is not possible for the dog to escape through the ceiling. Plus, you can grab it without incurring any major damage from scratching or biting.
Once you have the dog, move it to a safe place and don’t let it escape. Call the vet immediately and follow his instructions. So he can prepare for your arrival and help as soon as possible. When calling, as with humans, it is important to consider the 6 W questions.
- Who is calling?
- Where did it happen?
- What happened?
- What is the injury?
- How many are affected?
- Wait for questions!
- Check and maintain vital functions
Until the dog is ready to be transported to the vet, stabilizing the dog is a top priority. It is important to maintain the vital functions. These vital functions must be checked urgently before the dog is actually given first aid.
Stable side position
In order to be able to control the vital functions optimally, first bring your dog into the stable side position. Grab the dog’s lower foot from across the head from the left and pull it forward.
The dog is lying on the right side and could be resuscitated directly. The pressure on the neck can prevent the dog from getting up. If the dog is unconscious, lower the head a little by placing something under the chest or back of the body. The neck must be straight.
- Measure the pulse
First, check the pulse of the dog in distress. For smaller dogs, a pulse rate of 100-120 per minute is normal. In larger dogs, the heart only beats 80-100 times per minute. The heart rate is usually higher in excited dogs or in the evening in general.
It is best to measure the pulse at the artery in the inner area of the thigh with your finger. It is sufficient if you count the heartbeats within 15 seconds and multiply them by 4. This will save you valuable time. Is it not possible for you to gain access to the hind legs? Then you can also try to feel the heartbeat against your chest.
If you cannot sense a heartbeat, initiate resuscitation measures immediately.
- Check breathing
There are also differences in respiratory rate. For a small dog, 18-30 breaths per minute is normal, while larger dogs only have 14-22 breaths. Of course, excitement, exertion or the weather can increase the breathing rate.
To do this, check the draft around the nose and remove any particles so that the animal can breathe freely. Quick panting or shallow breath indicates pain and injury. You can also sense breathing by listening to breath sounds or breathing movements.
Can you feel no breathing movement at all? Then immediately start the resuscitation measures!
- Check circulation
The mucous membranes give you a good assessment of the general condition of the circulatory system. To do this, briefly press the mucous membrane of the lip with your finger. The normal capillary reflux time of blood is around 2 seconds. If it takes longer for the vessels to refill with blood, this can indicate poor circulation.
You can also get a first impression with the help of your eyes. Are there any abnormalities in the eyes? Large pupils and a red nictitating membrane often indicate poisoning. The nictitating membrane is the so-called third eyelid of the dog and an additional fold of the conjunctiva in the corner of the eye on the nose. Healthy dogs have a white nictitating membrane and few visible blood vessels.
Is the dog moving or is it lying completely still? Touch the dog gently and watch its motor skills. Slowed motor skills also suggest circulatory problems, among other things. Is the dog overheated and hypothermic?
You can also judge the general health of the dog very well on the mucous membranes. Pale mucous membranes indicate anemia or shock. If the mucous membranes are greyish or pink, this can indicate poisoning. If the dog has liver problems, the mucous membrane turns yellow. A bluish color indicates a lack of oxygen. To detect changes in the mucous membranes, hold down your finger in one place for 3 seconds. Healthy dogs have pink, smooth, moist, and shiny mucous membranes.
- Provide first aid to the dog
The most dangerous and critical point is the resuscitation of dogs. After the dog has not seen any signs of life, start resuscitation immediately.
If you cannot feel your heartbeat or breathing, you will need to use chest compressions. Mouth-to-nose ventilation is rather secondary here. Ideally, two people resuscitate the animal, one with chest compressions, while the other ventilates.
Carefully touch the lower left half of the chest and place the heels of your hands on top of each other. With smaller dogs or puppies, the thumb and forefinger are often enough, as the heels of two hands exert too much force on the more sensitive bones.
Now perform strong and even pressure movements about 1-2 times per second. After 10-15 hits you should check the animal’s heartbeat and, if necessary, repeat the process several times.
Mouth to nose resuscitation
Mouth-to-nose resuscitation should only be given if the dog is having a heartbeat and only breathing is absent. To do this, the dog must be turned on its right side and the head must be placed as far back as possible to enable good breathing. Open the animal’s snout and remove any vomit or foreign matter, if any. Then the dog’s tongue is stuck out.
Now hold the dog’s muzzle tightly and hold it tightly with your hands so that no air can escape. Then blow air through the dog’s nose several times per minute (3-5 times). Make sure that a dog’s lung volume is significantly smaller than the volume of a human. So give the dog careful ventilation. Watch for the dog’s chest rise and fall, and repeat ventilation if necessary.
Once the dog’s circulation has been stabilized and life-sustaining measures have been taken, you should now take care of major, obvious injuries. Only in this way can the dog be safely transported to the vet.
First aid for heavy bleeding
If you notice that your dog is bleeding profusely, first aid should be given immediately with the help of a pressure bandage. To do this, take a sterile swab from your pet pharmacy or the first-aid kit in the car and wrap the injured area generously with a gauze bandage. This is important so that a good foundation is created and the limb is not constricted. Treat the bleeding areas and open wounds carefully, otherwise there is a risk of infection. To increase the pressure, put a second gauze bandage or a handkerchief on the wound and wrap the remaining gauze bandage (not too tight) around. At the end you fix the bandage with a sticking plaster or something similar. If necessary, you can also use a t-shirt, jacket or scarf.
The limb should not swell. In the case of heavy bleeding with bright red blood, the extremity must be ligated with high pressure, otherwise there is a risk of bleeding. If this does not stop the bleeding, use both hands to push the blood vessel above the wound toward the heart.
First aid for broken bones
A broken bone in dogs is indicated by atypical movement. The dog moves differently than normal and the limb dangles and becomes a hindrance to the dog. If the accident was some time ago, there is also a swelling at the break point.
Before you can transport the dog, the injured leg must be stabilized with the help of a splint. For this you need cotton wool to cushion the break and a splint. It is best to carefully roll a newspaper around your leg or use a wooden stick.
Make sure that the splint ends well above the break point. Finally, wrap the broken leg carefully and not too tightly with a bandage. Also consider other injuries that may not be visible from the outside.
If the bone fracture is open, the limb should be immobilized and a muzzle should be put on if necessary. Don’t put on a splint here, leave it untreated and visit a veterinarian immediately.
First aid for poisoning
Dog poisoning is always a medical emergency. If you have observed your dog eating something poisonous, save it and bring it to the vet. In some cases, vomiting can prevent the worst from happening. If the dog does not do this by itself reflexively, the doctor will often give him the vomit injection so that the toxins do not even get into the bloodstream. However, depending on the poison, this should not take longer than 4 hours. With some substances such as slug pellets, the poison reaches the gastrointestinal tract after just 30 minutes. So if you suspect poisoning, there isn’t much you can do other than drive to the vet immediately.
- Make the dog transportable for the vet
How best to transport the dog to the vet cannot be said in general terms. In general: if the dog can walk or wants to stand up, you should let him. If the dog has poor circulation, it is better to raise the back of the body a little so that the blood flows to the head. If the dog is unconscious, you should transport him in the stable side position and always keep his head down. The trip to the vet should be made as soon as possible after the dog has been stabilized. If you’re too excited to drive yourself, someone else should get behind the wheel. Ideally, one person should look after the injured dog while driving. While driving, make sure that your dog is tied up and cannot escape.
If you consider these measures and apply them confidently, you can not only save your dog in an emergency but also the lives of many other animals.