Emergency First Aid for Dogs

Author: Martin Bucksch
Publisher: Hubble & Hattie
(Pp 64, ISBN 978-1-845843-86-1)book review

Accidents can happen anywhere…even in the comfortable confines of your home? Every time, it is not possible to run to a vet…sometimes there’s no time to wait for the vet. This is not the time to panic! It is time to act…act fast. Emergency First Aid for Dogs is a read reckoner for all dog lovers who need advice to tackle the most common emergency situations. The book gives tips on how to perform first-aid, and provides advice on emergency treatment.

The size of the book is perfect…you can carry it anywhere. Written in an easy-to-understand language, the book is an indispensable guide for every pet parent.

Common emergency cases and first aid for dogs

Though it is always advised to rush your pet to a vet in any emergency case, still a little knowledge of first aid can go a long way in helping your furry family member cope with the situation before she gets proper medical treatment. First aid in time can save the life of your paw buddy.


Emergency situations

dog health



When do you know your dog requires emergency medical aid? It is the duty of a pet parent to be alert about the health of their paw members. Remember, a stitch in time saves nine. Here are some common diseases (conditions) which when you spot any one of them, call your vet immediately for further examination and instant treatment.

  • Haematuria and haemoglobin uria: Haematuria is the appearance of blood in urine while haemoglobinuria is another condition in which oxygen transport protein haemoglobin is found in abnormally high concentration.
  • Persistent or acute gastroenteritis with severe dehydration: Persistent (constant) or acute (short & severe) inflammation of gastrointestinal tracts involving both stomach and small intestine generally results in diarrhoea.
  • Acute abdominal colic: Severe abdominal pain could be serious or may due only to dietary indiscretion.
  • Acute respiratory distress (dysponea): This is a syndrome with the symptom of inability to adequately breathe.
  • Rupture of the urinary bladder: In this case, the urinary bladder is torn and urine releases into abdominal cavity.

In addition, every pet parent should be aware about other common diseases including persistent paroxymal cough; haemorrhage; cardiac failure; fi ts and abnormal behaviour; muscular injury and fracture; dystocia; poisoning; comma or collapse; heat stroke; snakebite; scorpion, wasp and bee stings; and burns and scalds.

For pet parents

Every pet parent should be careful about any emergency situation that could be fatal to your fur buddy. In order to tackle such life-threatening situation, we have some important points to be shared with every pet parent.

  • Keep emergency number(s) of your vet and ensure all family members are aware of it.
  • Take immediate help from a qualifi ed veterinary clinician and follow his advice.
  • Report precisely the incident and symptoms of your pet to the vet.

Things that vets do

Depending on different cases, following are some common activities done by vets in emergency situations.

  • Attempts would be made to regularise heart rate, blood circulation, respiration and abnormality of temperature (neither too hot nor too cold).
  • In case of foreign body, it would be removed fi rst and bleeding stopped by tourniquet and styptics.
  • The patient will be sedated when she shows excitability, epileptic seizure or colic.
  • Take the help of surgical intervention (if necessary).
  • To overcome shock, critical evaluation of the state of health is to be done through fl uid therapy, blood transfusion, etc.
  • In case of poisoning, specifi c antidote should be given if the poison is identified.
  • If the poison cannot be identified, symptomatic treatment as per the advise of clinician should be done and universal antidote may be tried.

First aid

First aid treatments for some emergency cases commonly faced by our fur friends are listed as under:

Epistaxis (nose bleeding): Taking proper rest is a very important aspect in the management of epistaxis or nose bleeding. The patient should be kept in a cool place. Ice pack, ice water or cold water should be applied on her. Other measures include alum solution spray, adrenaline plug and administration of vitamin K and calcium therapy. If the bleeding persists, haemostastic drugs should be administered under the strict supervision of a qualifi ed vet.

Heat stroke (heat prostration): Factors responsible for this common cause include physical exercise, environmental heat, humidity, dehydration, confi nement in a room, limited water supply, obesity and heat tolerance of individual. In case of heat stroke, the patient should be kept comfortably under an electrical fan. And apply ice bath or cold-water bath to reduce her body temperature. Fluid and electrolyte therapy may be used to check dehydration. Tranquillisers or Paracetamol tablets may also be given.

Wasp and bee stings: Wasp and bee stings produce urticarial wheels on the skin, which are quite painful and irritating to the pet. Through such stings, formic acid causing the irritation is being deposited on the skin. Attempt should be made to remove the sting as far as possible. The infected area may be washed with washing soda. In this situation, antihistamic preparations are useful.

Snakebite: Normally snakes are classifi ed into poisonous and non-poisonous types. Poisonous snakes possess three types of venom, namely, Cytotoxin, Neurotoxin and Haemotoxin. A fl at tourniquet should be applied on the bitten area. The bitten area may be incised to drain out venom as far as possible. The patient should be brought under the treatment of a veterinary clinician. If the snake is identified whether poisonous or non-poisonous, it is easy to treat with the exact antidote of the venom.

Common poisoning: It is advisable to inform vet immediately in case of your pet dog has consumed a poisonous substance. And attempts should be made to keep the patient viable by giving oxygen, artifi cial respiration or fresh air. Care should be taken to maintain the vital capacity of cardio respiratory systems. In case of ingested poisoning, attempts should be extended to evacuating the toxin from the bowel (intestine). Gastric ravage my be restored by introducing 10ml of fl uid per 10kg body weight into the stomach and then aspirating the fluid through a stomach tube fi tted with syringe. The process of aspiration may be repeated for several times.

Wounds: There may be different types of wounds, such as open wound (cut wound), closed wound (contusions), lacerated wound and abraded wound. An open wound is the one where there is a breach in the continuity of skin. Whereas in a closed wound there is no such breach and the part remains as a hot and painful swelling. Sometimes blood may accumulate inside the tissue and the condition is known as haematoma.

In case of wound caused by any sharp objects like nails, hook, glass, wire twig, girder etc, it should be removed fi rst before further treatment. Open wound should be cleaned with normal saline dressed with antiseptic or antibiotic lotion or ointment. It should also be bandaged with sterile gauze and cotton. Bandage should be changed and fresh dressings should be made on alternate day. Ignore tight bandage as it may interfere blood circulation, retard healing and invite complications.

Haemorrhage (bleeding): Bleeding may originate from an artery, vein or capillaries. In case of capillary bleeding, it may be easily controlled by applying pressure bandage over the injured area. A tourniquet with rubber bands may apply firm pressure and help in reducing the bleeding.

Primary haemorrhage denotes bleeding at the time of injury or operation. And other forms of bleeding include reactionary haemorrhage occurs within 24 hours of injury or operation. And secondary haemorrhage occurs within 7-10 days of injury or operation.

Burns & scalds: Burns are broadly classifi ed into three categories as per different degrees. They are 1st degree: the damage to epithelial cells; 2nd degree: the injury involves both epidermal and dermal layer; 3rd degree: the lesions extend into deeper structure involving destruction of subcutaneous tissues.

Burns may produce pathological changes in liver, kidney and cardiovascular systems. The affected area should be flushed with cold normal saline or water. Analgesic tablets should be given to reduce pain. However, in case of extensive burn, sedatives must be used. Soothing and protective preparations like Burnol may be used while dressing the burns.

Bone fracture

A breach in the continuity of a bone is known as fracture. It may be simple with no communications with external air. Comminuted fracture is when the bone breaks into several pieces and Complicated is the kind of injury to surrounding structures. Restriction of movement is an important aspect in the management of bone fracture. It is quite important to keep the fractured portion immobile while you inform your vet for an immediate action. As they say prevention is better that cure, so go ahead and take best care of your furry canine.

(Dr N Anbuchezhian is Managing Director of Chezhian Pet Care Hospital, Chennai and Secretary, Animal Health Awareness Trust, Tamil Nadu).

DO’s and DON’Ts in first aid

Preparing for a medical emergency involving your pet is always best accomplished before the event takes place. Dr. Shailesh Ingole guides you for important decisions about first aid and also when to take your pet quickly to a veterinary hospital. An awareness of various first aid measures can help the owners to save their pets’ valuable life. Let’s see how.


It is localised accumulation of pus which is caused by an infection introduced from bites or penetrating wounds. It may appear as a painful swelling or if ruptured, as a draining wound.

  • If ruptured, clean the wound with soap and water. Rinse well and pat dry.
  • If there is swelling, hot fomentation can be done for 10 to 15 minutes. Repeat 3 to 4 times daily.
  • Get it examined by a veterinarian.
  • Do not attempt to open the abscess yourself.

Wound bandaging:

Bandages are used for various reasons i.e. to protect wounds from dirt, to discourage the pet from licking the wound, as support for sprains or to prevent motion etc. For all these reasons, proper application is important. First step in proper bandaging is careful cleaning of the wound. All dirt, dried blood should be washed with soap and water. Hair should be clipped and then patted dry.

  • After cleaning the wound, the contact layer is the first layer applied and it should be sterile, stay in close contact but should not stick the wound, should be absorbent and free of fibres.
  • After cleaning the wound, apply an antibiotic ointment and then place the contact layer.
  • After the contact layer, apply the second absorbent layer to hold the contact layer. This layer is usually a cotton material. It is important to use the proper size as the materials that are too narrow may cause a tourniquet effect if wound causes swelling. If materials are too wide then they are difficult to apply. Any wrinkles may cause the bandage to become uncomfortable for your pet.
  • Finally apply the outer layer i.e. porous adhesive tape or elastic tape. Do not pull elastic tapes beyond their limits as this will result in bandage failure. The tape should be in contact with the skin or hair at the bandage margins.
  • Bandages should be checked regularly for signs of swelling, odor, discoloration of skin, saturation of bandage etc and then should be changed. Draining wounds bandage should be changed every 3 to 4 hours, otherwise every 24 hours.

Insect bites :

Any insect can cause problems if they bite your pet. A bite causes swelling, redness and itching. Certain bites can cause swelling in the face.

  • Apply cold fomentation to the sting area.
  • To neutralize the acidic venom, apply a paste of baking soda and water to the sting area.
  • Do not administer any medications without contact-ing your veterinarian.


Pets suffer blood loss as a result of trauma. If bleeding is severe or continuous, the animal may lose enough blood to cause death. Pet owners should know how to stop bleeding if their pet is injured.

  • Apply direct pressure by gently pressing gauze over the bleeding area, absorbing the blood and allowing it to clot. Do not disturb blood clots. If gauze is not available, then bare hand or finger can be used.
  • If there is severe bleeding wound on the foot or leg, gently elevate the leg so that the wound is above the level of the heart. This will slow down the bleeding and simultaneously apply direct pressure to maximise the use of elevation.
  • The pressure above and below the wound can also be applied along with direct pressure. The pressure above the wound will help to control arterial bleeding, whereas pressure below the wound will control the bleeding from veins.
  • Internal bleeding is a life threatening condition and is not visible on the outside. However, some of the external signs observed include pet becomes pale and pet is cool on legs, ears or tail. If any of these signs are evident, the pet should be immediately taken to the veterinary clinic.


When heat, flame, chemicals or electricity causes injury, do the following:

  • Extinguish all flames.
  • For thermal or electrical burns, immediately apply cold water compresses to the site of injury, changing them frequently to keep the site cool. Transport your pet to the veterinary clinic as soon as possible.

(Dr. Shailesh D. Ingole is working as an Associate Professor at Bombay Veterinary College, Mumbai and practicing at Pets Care Centre, Mumbai. He can be reached at: Clinic: 24440486, Mobile: 9821097256, Resi: 28676080.)