Accidents can happen in spite of your best efforts to prevent them. If your dog is injured or has an unexpected medical emergency, it is important to act quickly. Here is a list of first aid measures that could help save your best friend’s life:
Take your dog to a veterinary facility as soon as possible. Prompt veterinary care is the single most important lifesaving step for your dog.
Prepare a first aid kit for your dog, including a supplementary kit to be kept in your car’s glove compartment. Contents should include: gauze rolls and pads, adhesive tape, blunt-end scissors, an old towel or blanket, tweezers, cotton balls, a rectal thermometer; 3% hydrogen peroxide solution; and a phone number for the regional (or national) poison control centre.
If your dog has been injured, remember that a frightened or hurt dog can bite even the people he knows. If needed, a muzzle can be made using a gauze roll wrapped once around the base of the dog’s mouth and once behind the back of the head. Small dogs (who do not have fractured bones) can be wrapped snugly in an old towel.
If you suspect that your dog has ingested a poison, contact poison control and take your dog to a veterinary hospital as soon as possible. Induce vomiting with hydrogen peroxide (1-3 tablespoons by mouth every 15 minutes or until dog vomits; discontinue after several attempts if unsuccessful) or syrup of ipecac. Do not induce vomiting if the dog has ingested a caustic substance such as drain cleaner. Some poisons, such as warfarin (rat poison) or antifreeze, may not result in immediate symptoms. Although your dog may appear fine, contact your veterinarian or a poison control centre immediately if you suspect that he has ingested any toxin.
External bleeding can be slowed with manual compression or a compression bandage (around limbs). Tourniquets are generally not advisable unless the dog is large and has a visible arterial (squirting) haemorrhage because they can inadvertently cut all circulation from the limb.
Do not move your dog unnecessarily. When the time comes to move him, if he cannot walk on his own, lift him by a board or blanket.
Keep the dog warm, particularly if he is unconscious, wet, or in shock from haemorrhage or other trauma.
For dogs that are clearly not breathing, and/or for those with no pulse, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) may be helpful. Artificial breathing in small dogs may be accomplished with chest compressions; in larger animals, air can be blown through the nose while the dog’s mouth is manually closed. Heart compressions may be effective while the dog is lying on his side. Remember that vigorous CPR can be dangerous if the dog is breathing or has a beating heart.
If your dog is suffering from heat prostration (hypothermia), take him immediately to a veterinary hospital. In transit, mist his body with cool water or wrap loosely in a wet towel.
Treat any eye injuries by moistening the exposed globe (with artificial tears), covering it gently and applying gentle compression, if needed, to stop bleeding. Eye injuries require immediate veterinary attention.
If your dog has been diagnosed with diabetes mellitus and has a hypoglycaemic crisis (but is not unconscious), continually place karo syrup, sugar water or honey on his tongue until he is seen by a veterinarian who can measure his blood glucose.
Dogs that collapse or appear abruptly weak or painful (with no evidence of trauma) should be seen by a veterinarian. Sudden weakness may indicate heart, liver, kidney or other serious disorders.
Any seizure, however brief, should be followed up with a veterinary visit. Seizures lasting longer than 1-3 minutes, or repeated brief seizures, are a medical emergency requiring immediate attention.