What to do in case of an emergency?

The following section deals with first aid in emergency and non-emergency situations -you should always try to distinguish between the two. Try to keep calm so you can assess whether you need the vet right away, or whether your first aid treatment is adequate for the time being and you can see the vet in the morning -or even not at all. If you can, practice as many of the first aid procedures as possible so you are familiar with them should you ever need to use them for real.

Emergency procedure
As far as possible, start first aid treatment while on your way to the vet. For example, if you are trying to control bleeding, start at once but meanwhile get the dog into the car and get someone to drive you to the vet. Continue the treatment while you are travelling there. If there is no possible way you can get to the vet quickly and safely, get someone to phone for him whilst you carry on with the first aid treatment.


  1. If bleeding doesn't stop within 5 minutes, you must try to staunch the flow using the following procedure:
  2. With a clean cloth, or even your hand, apply direct pressure to the wound. If blood seeps through, apply more ban-dage or a cotton wool pad on top of old -don't try to remove old bandage.
  3. If such pressure won't stop the bleed-ing, find the nearest pressure point and compress the artery against its underlying bone. Use the flat part of your fingers - not your thumb or finger tips.
  4. As a last resort you can try a tourni-quet, although this carries the greater risk of stopping circulation to the affected part and causing gangrene. Use it only to save life when nothing else is working and release intermit-tently.
Many things may cause a dog to have difficulty in breathing - perhaps obstruction of the air passage to the lungs by a foreign body or the dog's own tongue if he is unconscious, strangu-lation by his collar, electrocution, drowning, heart attack or chest injuries. If the dog is breathing with difficulty, clear airway and, if necessary, start artificial respiration immedi-ately. If you cannot see breathing movement place your ear on the dog's chest and listen for a heartbeat or take his pulse. If the heart has stopped within the last minute or so but you think the dog is not yet dead, apply heart massage and artificial respiration together. Never attempt the kiss of life if you have reason to believe that poison is involved.

Artificial respiration

  1. Open dog's mouth, grasp tongue and pull it well forward clear of back of throat. Wipe away any mucus or blood. Remove any obstruction.
  2. Remove any collar or restricting item.
  3. If the animal has fluid in its throat or is a victim of drowning hold it upside down by its rear legs for 15-30 seconds.
  4. If dog is still not breathing, start artificial respiration. Close mouth, place your mouth over his nose and exhale to force air through his nose to the lungs. Watch the dog's chest for the lungs to inflate. Remove your mouth, and repeat the cycle about six times a minute. You may need to carry on for 30-60 minutes, until the dog is breathing by itself or is pronounced dead.
Heart massage/compression
If you cannot hear the dog's heartbeat, strike his chest sharply with your fist once or twice in the region just below his left shoulder. If heart is still not going, apply heart massage. Place the dog on its right side on a firm surface. Put the fingers of one hand on each side of the chest over heart area and compress it firmly but not too hard. Then release the pressure. Repeat 70 times a minute.

Animals are afraid of fire so burns from a naked flame are not too common, although a dog dozing by the fire can get singed or burnt. He can burn his feet though, by walking on a hot surface, and scalds are also quite common. Puppies, especially, might chew on an electric lead which will cause a special type of burn and this will often be accompanied by electric shock.

Heat burns

  1. Do not apply butter, grease or any ointment.
  2. Soak cloth in cold water and hold to burned place.
  3. Send for the vet if the burn seems serious. A superficial burn is painful, reddens the skin and singes the hair, but the latter will not pull out easily. A serious burn is actually less painful because the nerves have been des-troyed. The skin may be white, black or brown, and the hair will either be gone completely or will pull out easily.
  4. Keep the burn covered with a wet dressing covered with thick dry towels. Make the dog stay lying down, restrained in warm blankets.
  5. Give fluid as for dehydration, unless the dog is vomiting.
  6. Treat for shock.
Chemical burns
  1. Wash burned area with lots of plain water, especially if round face.
  2. If acid, rinse with solution of 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda to 1 litre of water. If alkali, use plain water only.
  3. Apply soothing ointment; eg olive oil.
  4. You should, of course muzzle and restrain the dog before treatment.
  1. In this situation apply common sense first aid whilst getting to the vet as quickly as possible.
  2. Check pulse, pupils, breathing and temperature. Apply artificial respiration and/or heart massage as outlined on previous pages.
  3. Always handle your dog as if he may have a broken bone or other serious internal injury.
  4. Treat for shock.
There are basically two kinds of convulsion - -the single convulsion which lasts for a minute or two and doesn't recur for at least 24 hours or repeated or continuous convulsions which are serious emergencies and need veterinary attention immediately. 
In the latter situation, you should gently restrain the dog so he can't injure himself by placing a towel over him. Don't put your hand on the dog or in or near his mouth as you may get bitten and will require treatment yourself. Once you've restrained the dog, get to the vet immediately. Single convulsions also require veterinary attention but are usually not so serious. Again restrain the animal and get to the vet as soon as possible.

If there is bleeding in the area of the eyes, apply direct pressure with dry gauze pads and go to vet. Laceration of the eyeball itself or penetration by a foreign object is very serious. Place a damp cloth over the place and get to the vet at once. Don't try to wash the eye or remove a foreign body or you'll undoubtedly do more harm than good. A simple bruise can usually be dealt with by a cold compress. 

'Shock' is a term used loosely and often very incorrectly. In both human and animal terms, it is much more serious than the slight feeling of malaise that might occur after a minor accident or fright which is often called 'shock'. The signs of true shock in dogs are: weakness, collapse, coma, unconsciousness, pale colour of mouth, lips and eyelids, coolness of skin and legs, rapid but weak pulse (may be over 140 per minute), rapid respiration (over 40 a minute), staring eyes and dilated pupils. If any or all of these signs occur after an accident or pro-longed illness, treat for shock as below and call the vet immediately.

  • Keep airways open, giving artificial respiration or heart massage as necessary, bandage or splint any fracture or extensive wound.
  • Wrap the dog in a thick cloth or towel to conserve body heat. If the dog is unconscious, keep his head as low as, or lower than, the rest of the body. Gently massage legs and muscles to maintain circulation unless you suspect that they may be fractured or broken. If he is conscious and restless, keep him horizontal and well wrapped up.
  • Get to the vet's surgery promptly. Time is vital, especially for the intravenous introduction of fluid in severe cases.
lf you absolutely can't get immediate veteri-nary help - either at all or for a few hours- give fluids orally. If the dog is conscious administer an amount (depending on dog's size) of tepid water mixed with glucose every 30 minutes for 4 or 5 doses. Don't give anything by mouth if the dog is unconscious, convulsing or vomiting. Take pulse and breathing rate every 30 minutes and record them. Note any blood in urine etc, and report these details to the vet.

HEATSTROKE (heat exhaustion)
This often occurs if the dog is kept shut up in a house or car without shade, ventilation or water. It can also happen as a result of the dog getting overexcited or being under stress; ie at dog shows. Signs are panting, slobbering, vomiting and diarrhoea, raised temperature and ultimately collapse and coma.

Remove dog from hot spot into cool or shady area.

Soak dog with cold water from a hose or immerse him in a ice bath and gently massage his legs and body until you reach the vet or the animal's temperature returns to normal.

Gently dry dog with towel. If he is conscious, give him small amounts of water. Give artificial respiration if necessary.

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