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responsible dog ownership

First aid refers to the immediate care you should provide when a dog is injured or ill until further medical treatment by a veterinarian can be performed. For minor conditions, first aid care may be enough. For other problems, first aid care should be considered as care until your dog is evaluated and treated by their vet.

FIRST AID BASICS

The main goal when dealing with first aid is to identify the problem, prevent an injury from worsening and keep you and your pet safe during the process. Have a first aid kit on hand for your dog and be familiar with its contents. There are many commercially available pre-made first aid kits for dogs, but you can also make your own. Ideally, consider having two: one at home and one in your car.

Include a first aid reference guide in your kit that includes basic aid and instructions. This should include phone numbers to your veterinarian and nearby veterinary emergency clinics. To learn more about the items you should include in your first aid kit, visit AKC.org.

PERSONAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL SAFETY

Safety is paramount for both you and your dog. Any dog in pain might bite, especially if they’re scared. When approaching the scene, assess the safety of the surroundings and the dog. Remove the pet from any dangers such as heavy automobile traffic or water at the scene.

Always try to place a muzzle on a dog, even your own. When placing it make sure to do so gently or not tightly as to cause discomfort to the dog. If you do not have a muzzle, a makeshift muzzle can be made by using a leash, shoelace or belt tied around the mouth. Any dog with a suspected back or pelvic damage should be handled with utmost care to prevent further damage. Placing a stiff wood board or even cardboard under the dog to support lifting or carrying will help stabilize the body.

If possible, wear gloves, especially when dealing with a strange dog. Avoid touching outer contaminated surfaces with ungloved hands. Handwashing is essential in the prevention of disease and illness. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds after handling any animal, even if you were wearing gloves. If a sink is not available, use alcohol-based hand sanitizers.

Common Injuries

Bruises: Apply a cold compress or ice pack to the injured area for intervals of 10 minutes.

Minor Cuts and scrapes: Clean the injury with an antiseptic wipe or soap and water. If the skin is broken, apply antibiotic ointment with cotton tipped applicators and cover with a bandage. If the skin is not broken, no bandage is needed. Change the dressing daily or if the bandage becomes torn or wet. Once the injury forms a scab, it no longer needs to be covered, unless the animal is biting or scratching at it. Watch for signs of infection such as redness, swelling, which will require veterinary care.

Insect bites and bee stings: There are a few things you can do for a bee sting or insect bite. Start off by icing the affected area, make a paste of baking soda and water and apply to dry, then wipe off using a small brush or toothbrush. Lastly, consider one dose of Benadryl at one milligram/pound. Note: Benadryl comes in 25 mg tablets. Do not give more than 3 tablets at once, even to giant dogs. Smaller dogs weighing less than 20 pounds can be given Benadryl Pediatric drops, also sold over the counter.

Ticks: When you locate a tick, remove it immediately using tick remover or tweezers. It’s always better to use a tick remover whenever possible as regular tweezers may split the tick and potentially spread disease. Avoid using your bare hands and opt for rubber gloves if possible. After removing the tick, wash hands thoroughly with soap and water.

Sprains: In case of a limb injury, try to prevent further injury or discomfort. In limping or non-weight bearing dogs, prevent the dog from moving for at least 15 -30 minutes. Consider strict cage rest and re-evaluate your dog after that time has passed. If pain persists or a limb is still non-weight bearing, seek veterinary care.

Dog Bites: Any bite wound that punctures a dog’s skin should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible. Infection and possible internal damage is not uncommon and the sooner these wounds are addressed the better the outcome. Not all wounds are visible at first glance, especially on a furry dog.

Bleeding: Apply firm, yet gentle pressure for up to 5 minutes so that the blood clots. Seek veterinary care as soon as possible if there is profuse bleeding. Consider applying a tourniquet using a belt or a strip of rag. Pressure must be decreased every 15 minutes.

What you should NEVER do: Never give human medication to a dog without first being advised by a veterinarian. Human pain or anti-inflammatory medication such as Ibuprofen or Naproxen is toxic to pets and giving them could cause greater problems and even lead to death.

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)

CPR involves chest compressions with or without artificial respiration. It is ONLY used when you cannot feel or hear the dog’s heartbeat and the dog is NOT breathing. This can occur for a few reasons: trauma, choking or illness. Before performing CPR for dogs, keep in mind that CPR is potentially hazardous and can cause physical complications or fatal damage if performed on a healthy dog.

CPR should only be performed when necessary. Ideally, you will be able to have someone call your veterinarian for guidance to perform dog CPR on the way to the clinic. Make sure the dog’s airway is clear of any objects before proceeding. Follow these different guidelines depending on the size of the breed you are assisting.