Emergencies & First Aid

Even the best-cared-for dog may become sick or get injured at some point in his life. The AKC Pet Healthcare Plan can help you to help your dog when it’s most needed. If your dog falls victim to illness or accident, you will need to do what you can to get him out of immediate danger and keep him comfortable until you can get him to a veterinarian. You should also be prepared to care for you dog in the event of weather disasters or other emergencies.

Topics on this page: First Aid, Canine First Aid Kit, Poisons, Evacuation Tips

First Aid


Restrain or muzzle the dog to keep him from panicking and struggling against you. You can make a muzzle out of panty hose, a cotton bandage, a necktie, or any sturdy piece of fabric about two feet long. Tie a loose knot in the middle, leaving a large loop. Slip the loop over the dog’s nose and tighten gently but firmly about halfway up the nose. Bring the ends down and knot under the dog’s chin, then bring the ends behind the back and tie again.

Transport an injured dog carefully to avoid causing further injury, so transport requires care. Place the dog on a piece of plywood or other hard surface to move him. Small dogs should be placed in a box. Towles or blankets can also be used as stretchers.

Artificial respiration must be performed when the dog is unable to breathe. The dog’s mouth should be checked and cleared of any obstructions, including mucus or blood. Hold the mouth closed, inhale, completely cover the dog’s nose with your mouth, and gently breathe out. Do not blow hard. Repeat every five to six seconds.

Heart massage (CPR) can be used in combination with artificial respiration when the dog’s heart has stopped beating. Lay the dog on his side, place hands over the heart area, and press firmly about 70 times per minute. For small dogs, place one hand on each side of the chest near the elbow. Press gently to avoid breaking the dog’s ribs.

External Bleeding should be staunched by applying gentle pressure from a cloth, bandages, or your own hand if necessary. Don’t worry about cleaning out the wound until the bleeding has stopped. Take the dog to the veterinarian as quickly as possible. Antibiotics may be needed to stave off infection.

Internal bleeding, from a fall or from being hit by a car or other heavy object, can be more dangerous. The dog may show these signs: painful or swollen abdomen, pale gums, blood in vomit, urine, stools, saliva, or nose discharge. Internal hemorrhage is extremely serious and should be tended to by a veterinarian without delay.

Shock occurs when the heart and blood vessels shut down. It can result from disease or injury. The signs are depressions, rapid, weak heartbeat, dilated pupils, low temperature, and muscle weakness. Respond at once by keeping the animal warm and quiet, treating any visible injuries, and taking him to the veterinarian.

Fractures require immediate attention. Dogs will hold a fractured or dislocated limb in an unnatural position; sometimes a broken bone is visible through the skin. The dog should be transported to the veterinarian with as little movement as possible.

Heatstroke may occur when dogs are left in cars on hot, or even warm, days; when kennel areas do not have proper ventilation; or when dogs are overexercised on hot days. The signs are rapid breathing, rapid heartbeat, high body temperature (above 104 degrees Fahrenheit), and collapse.

Dogs suffering from heatstroke must be cooled down as quickly as possible. Spray him with cool water, place ice around the belly, head, and neck. Stop cooling when the dog’s temperature reaches 103 degrees Fahrenheit. Call your veterinarian after administering the first aid, or better yet, have someone else call while you’re treating your dog.

Vomiting and diarrhea are usually signs of problems with the digestive system, and could be caused by any number of things, from the ordinary (spicy food) to the dangerous (poison). Dehydration from vomiting or diarrhea can be fatal. Make sure the dog has plenty of water. If neither condition seems severe, feed the dog a bland diet of plain cooked chicken and rice for 12 hours. If the condition does not improve after 12 hours, call the veterinarian.

Seizures cause a dog to losee control of his muscles. He may fall on his side and seem to paddle the air. Surround the dog with a blanket so he won’t hurt himself, but don’t try to handle him; he may bite in a reflexive action. Call your veterinarian.

Bee and Wasp Stings can be painful and frightening for a dog. Follow these procedures if your dog is stung:

  • Carefully remove the stinger with tweezers, if possible. (Only bees leave stingers.)
  • Make a paste of baking soda and water and apply to the area.
  • Apply an ice pack to relieve swelling and pain.
  • Comfort the dog until the pain has diminished.

Usually a single sting does not present a serious problem. If the sting is on the nose, mouth or around the head, watch your dog carefully to make sure that any swelling does not interfere with breathing or swallowing. If the swelling increases dramatically just a few minutes after the sting, see a veterinarian immediately.

Multiple stings can cause more damage, and may be life-threatening. If you see your dog disturb a hive or swarm of wasps or bees, call the dog to you and run, or, if necessary, pick up your dog and carry it away. Try to put distance between your dog and the swarm as quickly as possible. Once you and the dog are safe, get medical attention as soon as possible.

If possible, give antihistamines to your dog right away (Your veterinarian can give you a supply for your dog’s first aid kit, and advise you on dosage and administration). Then take your dog to the closest veterinarian. Treatment for massive stings usually involves intravenous catheterization, the administration of fluids, giving of corticosteroids and monitoring of vital signs. The goal of treatment is to prevent shock and circulatory collapse and to minimize damage to organ systems.

Canine First Aid Kit


We recommend keeping the following items on hand in case of emergency. Ask your veterinarian to explain the proper use of these items.

  • Syringe
  • Gauze Pads
  • Adhesive Tape
  • Co-flex
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Cold Pack
  • Ipecac Syrup
  • First Aid Spray
  • Liquid Styptic
  • Antibiotic Ointment
  • Hydrocortisone 1%
  • Magnifying Glass
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Latex Gloves
  • Cotton Balls
  • Iodine Swabs
  • Stretch Gauze
  • Muzzle

You also may want to include:

  • Liquid Activated Charcoal
  • Aldroxicon
  • Diotame
  • Rehydration Tablets
  • Sting Relief Pads
  • Aluminized Thermal Blanket
  • Tourniquet

Poisons


Due to their natural curiosity and their tendency to consume anything they come across, dogs are at a high risk for accidental poisoning. Store all poisonous substances in your home, garage, and yard out of reach of your curious canine. If you suspect your dog has ingested a poison, call your veterinarian at once. The longer the poison is in the dog’s system, the more extensive the damage. These are some common poisons and their effects:

Insecticides and paraise medication. Flea and tick sprays, shampoos, and collars, and worm medications must be used according to directions. Signs of overuse of these chemicals are trembling and weakness, drooling, vomiting, and loss of bowel control.

Rodent poisons. Most rat poisons thin the blood so it is unable to clot. Making the dog vomit (ask your vet how to do this) before 30 minutes have elapsed will usually get rid of most of the poison. Poisons containing strychnine, such as those used for gophers, can cause rapid death.

Acids, alkalis, and petroleum products. Vomiting should not be induced if these products have been swallowed. You can give antacids – approximately two teaspoons per five pounds of body weight – to temporarily counteract acids. For alkali ingestion, use one part vinegar to four parts water, and administer as you would antacids.

Antifreeze. This sweet-tasting substance can leak out of parked cars, leaving an inviting puddle for wandering dogs. It is extremely toxic to dogs, even in small amounts. Call the veterinarian immediately. To prevent accidental ingestion, use an animal-safe antifreeze in your vehicles.

Common Household Poisons


  • Acetaminophen
  • Antifreeze and other car fluids
  • Bleach
  • Boric acid
  • Cleaning fluid
  • Deodorants
  • Deodorizers
  • Detergents
  • Disinfectants
  • Drain cleaners
  • Furniture polish
  • Gasoline
  • Hair colorings
  • Weed killers
  • Insecticides
  • Kerosene
  • Matches
  • Mothballs
  • Nail polish and remover
  • Paint
  • Prescription medicine
  • Rat poison
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Shoe polish
  • Sleeping pills
  • Snail or slug bait
  • Turpentine
  • Windshield-wiper fluid

Poisonous Plants


May cause vomiting and diarrhea:

  • Castor bean
  • Soap berry
  • Ground Cherry
  • Skunk Cabbage
  • Daffodil
  • Delphinium
  • Foxglove
  • Larkspur
  • Indian Tobacco
  • Indian Turnip
  • Poke weed
  • Bittersweet woody
  • Wisteria

May cause vomiting, abdominal pain and/or diarrhea:

  • Almond
  • Apricot
  • Wild Cherry
  • Balsam Pear
  • Japanese Plum
  • Bird of Paradise bush
  • Horse Chestnut (Buckeye)
  • English Holly
  • Black Locust
  • Mock Orange
  • Privet
  • Rain Tree (Monkey Pod)
  • American Yew
  • English Yew
  • Western Yew

May cause varied reactions:

  • Mescal bean
  • Mushrooms (if also toxic to humans)
  • Sunburned potatoes
  • Rhubarb
  • Spinach
  • Tomato vine
  • Buttercup
  • Dologeton
  • Poison Hemlock
  • Water Hemlock
  • Jasmine
  • Loco weed
  • Lupine
  • Matrimony Vine
  • May Apple
  • Moonseed
  • Nightshade
  • Angel’s Trumpet

May act as hallucinogens:

  • Marijuana

May cause convulsions:

  • China berry
  • Coriaria
  • Moonweed
  • Nux vomica
  • Water Hemlock

Evacuation Tips


Whether it’s wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes or floods, severe weather can mean immediate, sudden evacuation. You and your family may be forced to leave your home quickly to get to shelter or higher ground. Sometimes, you may have a few hours notice, and sometimes you may need to move more quickly.

If you live in a disaster-prone area, you may already have an evacuation plan for your family. But have you included your dog in that plan? Many shelters, including the Red Cross, do not accept pets (except service animals).

Here are some tips to prepare for an immediate evacuation.

Plan ahead

Remember that most emergency shelters do not accept pets. Call hotels in your area and in surrounding states to inquire about their pet policies. Once you’ve located a few hotels that will accept pets, write down the names, addresses, phone numbers and driving directions. Make sure to include alternate driving directions in case roads are blocked. If you can’t find a hotel, ask friends in the surrounding areas if you and your dog(s) can stay with them.

Microchip or tattoo your dog

Permanent identification is the best way to ensure a lost dog will be returned to you. Contact AKC Reunite for more information. AKC Reunite keeps a database of alternate contacts in case you are unreachable. If you plan to stay with out-of-town friends or family during an evacuation, use those names as one of your alternate contacts.

Assemble a disaster supply kit for your dog.

Take this kit with you should you need to evacuate. Include:

  • Leash and collar with ID tags
  • Current copy of vaccination records
  • Any medication your dog needs and written directions for dispensing medication
  • Photocopy of AKC registration papers and a copy of your dog’s enrollment papers for AKC Reunite
  • Recent photo
  • At least a three-day supply of food and bottled water. Don’t forget your dog’s dishes!
  • Blankets and bedding
  • Crate with a few toys
  • Plastic "pick-up" bags

Train your dog


Obedience-trained dogs will respond better to commands and will be easier to handle during a stressful situation such as an emergency evacuation.

Contact your local AKC-affiliated dog club

AKC-affiliated clubs may offer disaster preparedness classes or tips. Some clubs in disaster-prone areas even offer evacuation assistance. Locate an AKC-affiliated club in your area.