Providing Your Dog With Emergency First Aid

In this article, we'll show you how to provide your dog with basic emergency first aid. Pay close attention, and you may be able to save a life.
Providing Your Dog With Emergency First Aid
Francisco María García

Written and verified by the lawyer Francisco María García.

Last update: 27 December, 2022

First aid involves using a series of techniques to help an animal in the case of an emergency, such as an accident or injury. If you have a pet, you’ll know that there’s nothing worse than seeing them suffer, especially when there’s nothing you can do to help. But all that could change if you learn skills such as CPR, and other emergency first aid techniques.

These simple tips and tricks are no substitute for a qualified vet, but they might save your pet’s life, and help avoid any lasting damage to their health. So, in today’s article, we’d like to invite you to discover 7 emergency first aid techniques for your dog.

7 emergency first aid techniques

Once again, it’s worth remembering that these first aid techniques are designed to provide immediate assistance until proper medical treatment can be given. A vet is the only person capable of providing adequate treatment for your dog.

A dog getting a check-up.

1. Assess the situation and the health of the animal

Before you do anything else, it’s important to assess the situation, and examine the state of the animal. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is the dog conscious? Does it respond to stimuli? Can it feel your touch?
  • Is the dog breathing normally? Does its breathing seem accelerated? Is it in respiratory distress?
  • Does the animal have a pulse?
  • Is there any evidence of an external injury? Have the gums gone white?
  • Is the animal in control of its bowel and bladder functions? Is there urine or feces nearby?
  • Have the gums or tongue turned blue (cyanotic)?
  • Are there signs the animal has been poisoned? Could it have ingested a toxic substance, venom, alcoholic drink, etc?

Once you’ve got the answers to these questions, you can then work out how to proceed, according to the symptoms you’ve observed.

2. CPR – Cardiopulmonary resuscitation

If the animal has no pulse or respiratory rate, it’s essential to start CPR immediately.

The dog should be laid down, with the right side lying flat against the floor. The left side should be facing upwards, ready to receive CPR.

Artificial respiration

  • Open the dog’s mouth, and check that the throat and airways are unobstructed.
  • If there’s an obstruction, remove it carefully, and immediately check whether normal cardiorespiratory rate has resumed.
  • If there’s no obstruction and/or the animal still isn’t breathing, use the following steps, choosing the method appropriate for the size of your dog.

Small dogs

  • Keep the dog’s mouth firmly closed.
  • Cover the animal’s muzzle with your mouth and exhale. The dog’s chest should inflate as the air enters its lungs.
  • This technique can also be used for cats.

Medium and large dogs

  • Close the dog’s mouth, and hold it firmly shut.
  • Cover their nose with your mouth and exhale.

Chest compressions

  • Position the palms of your hands firmly on top of your dog’s rib cage, just behind the elbow joint of the front leg

1. Small dogs: give two short breaths for every 10 compressions.

2. Large and medium-sized dogs: give three to five short breaths for every 15 compressions.

Compressions should be given at a rate of approximately 100-120 every minute.

3. Emergency first aid – drowning

To give emergency first aid to a dog that has drowned in the swimming pool, in the sea or even in their water bowl, you’ll need to follow these steps:

  • Small dogs: lift the animal by the back legs with the head pointed downward. Shake them gently, using the force of gravity to expel the water from the lungs.
  • Large dogs: if you can, place them on a sloping surface with the head lower down, and use small downward shakes to help drain water from the lungs.

If the animal doesn’t begin breathing again after taking steps to expel the water, start CPR.

4. Poisoning

If your dog’s been poisoned, the first thing you need to work out is the source of the poisoning. The majority of products have instructions on the packaging, explaining the steps that need to be taken if ingested by a human or animal. It’s important to take that packaging with you when you go to the vet.

A sick dog.

In most cases, you’ll need to try to stimulate vomiting immediately. The best thing to do is to use a syringe to squirt diluted hydrogen peroxide into the back of the dog’s mouth.

5. Emergency first aid – motor accidents, fractures and dislocations

If your dog has suffered a fracture or a dislocation (whether the result of a motor accident or otherwise), you must take them to the vet immediately. We wouldn’t recommend giving them anything to eat or drink, or moving them any more than necessary.

6. Wounds

Internal injuries can only be treated by a vet. However, it is possible to provide basic treatment for external wounds:

  • Superficial wounds: first, clean the wound with saline solution. Then apply chlorhexidine solution or iodine.
  • Deep wounds: put pressure on the wound to stop the bleeding. Apply a compression bandage, choosing one large enough to cover the wound. We wouldn’t recommend trying to make a tourniquet.

7. Emergency first aid – burns

If a dog sustains a burn of any kind, these are the steps you need to follow:

  • Wash the affected area with fresh, cold water.
  • Apply a cream, ointment or gel specially designed for treating burns (or vaseline).
  • Cover the area with a bandage.
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The contents of My Animals are written for informational purposes. They can't replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment from a professional. In the case of any doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.