Basic First Aid
For dog owners, full first aid training is as useful a skill for your canine members of the family as it may be for the human members – lets hope you do not need to use it, but here is some helpful advice to help prepare you, just in case.
What is the reason for dog first aid?
When should dog first aid be used?
Immediately following an accident or sudden illness. First aid should be restricted to what is necessary to save an animal’s life, to reduce pain and therefore to stop suffering until the animal receives attention by the vet. That will usually be much more effective at the vet’s surgery than asking the vet to come to you.
Who can carry out first aid?
First aid can be administered by anyone to an animal. It is not necessary to make a diagnosis of injury to provide effective first aid; indeed diagnosis is legally for a qualified veterinary surgeon to make.
Preparation in the home in case of emergency
Remember, don’t panic and don’t try to be a hero. An emergency situation will require you to be speedy, calm and safe. Think slowly but act fast.
Keep a Dog First Aid kit at home and with you when you are travelling – ask your vet for advice on what to keep in here.
Keep the following next to your phone
1. Name, address and telephone number of your vet – so you have these ready. Make sure you check the emergency number you have with your vets regularly
2. A working pen - to take down instructions if necessary
Do not rush straight to your vets without telephoning first. It may be that the emergencies are seen at a different site, or it may be vital for the vet to give advice, or there may be no vet at the surgery.
Don't give the dog patient anything to eat or drink unless the vet tells you to do so.
If your dog has swallowed anything that has made him unwell, such as a chemical kitchen cleaner, take the packaging with the name on it to the vet with you.
The following should be read before any incident happens so you are prepared. This is for guidance but please remember to call your vets in an emergency!
The following routine is the sequence to follow if you have a collapsed or injured dog:
A = Airway
It is important to ensure your dog can breathe properly and that there are no obstructions to the airway.
Common obstructions include swallowed bones, stones, or toys. Vomit or swelling can also obstruct the airway.
Action to take if an obstruction: Always be careful when doing anything in your dog’s mouth. A dog in pain or partly conscious can easily bite hard and cause injury. Carefully open the dog’s mouth and look to see if there is anything visible that might be causing an obstruction. If there is, try to pull it out using a blunt implement – the handle of a spoon works well. If you can do so easily pull the dog’s head back so the neck is straight and pull out the tongue. This should clear the airway.
B = Breathing
Check your dog is breathing by watching his chest to detect any movements and place your hand or a small piece of light material at the nostrils to detect airflow.
Action to take if there is no breathing: The safest way to help a dog breathe is by compressing the chest. In small dogs this can be done with one hand but one hand each side of the chest will be required for larger dogs.
C = Circulation
If the dog’s brain is starved of oxygen because of poor circulation collapse and death will follow very rapidly. Poor blood flow may be because the heart has stopped or because of blood loss either internally or externally. If there is arterial bleeding there may be bright red blood spurts. If there is venous or capillary bleeding (this is more common) there may be a continual, darker red, blood flow. If bleeding is severe the gums will be pale. To detect whether a dog’s heart is beating, hold one hand across the chest just behind the elbows. You should be able to feel a heart beat.
Actions to take if the heart has stopped: If the heart has been stopped for some time the chances of restarting it may be small and the dog may have suffered severe brain damage already. If the dog’s pupils are very large and do not respond to a light being shone into the eyes the outlook is very poor. To attempt to restart the heart place one hand each side of the chest just behind and above the elbows. Squeeze hard at about 80 to 100 times a minute.
Actions to take when bleeding: Direct pressure on a bleeding point is the most effective way of stopping bleeding. A small piece of clean gauze or cloth should be put on the bleeding point first and then use a finger or thumb to press on it. The bleeding should stop at once. If there are several bleeding points you may need to press at several spots.
Remember not to put yourself in danger and always seek help. Take care around any other potential hazards in the vicinity – move the dog if safer and you are able to do this with ease. A shocked and injured dog may bite, even if this is not normally in their nature, so please be prepared and use a muzzle or tie to secure his nose while you are attempting to help. Done securely but not too tight this will cause no harm to the dog and will help you provide safe more effective first aid.
Following any incident, treatment by a veterinary surgeon is essential.