Keeping your pet safe: basic first aid for dogs

As dog owners, we want nothing more than to make sure our pups are safe and healthy. Accidents can happen however, and changing circumstances from moving to a built-up area to extreme weather can all impact on your dog’s health. To encourage the safest environment possible, here are our tips for basic dog first aid.

Be prepared for an emergency

Ideally, we want to avoid ever needing a dog first aid kit, but for added assurance, it’s best to keep a first aid kit in the house. This should contain:

  • Self-adhesive or crepe bandages (5cm width)
  • Open-weave bandages (2.5cm width) and non-adhesive absorbent dressings (5x5cm) for open wounds
  • Surgical tape and sterile gauze
  • Cotton wool
  • Curved, blunt-ended scissors
  • A thick towel
  • An Elizabethan collar (a cone to prevent dogs from licking wounds).

This will help you tend to injuries quickly, and you should always have easy access to a water source.

How to recognise if your dog is unwell

If you and your pet are in a dangerous situation, for example, a house fire, firstly ensure that you and anybody else in the house is safe. Keep calm as your pet will likely have a heightened sense of anxiety.

Emergency warning signs may include difficulty breathing, being unresponsive, collapsing, having a fit, lack of mobility or increased diarrhoea and vomiting. These signs could happen as the result of road traffic accidents, eating something toxic or heatstroke.

What to do in an emergency

Phone the vet immediately if you notice any of the above-mentioned symptoms. For less serious cases, such as diarrhoea, you may be advised to feed bland foods only, such as white fish, while your dog is recovering.

If your dog has been in a road accident

Approach slowly and calmly. Secure the dog with a lead and a muzzle if you think he/she could become aggressive. Your dog may be able to walk, but you should always take him/her to the vet, as injuries could be internal. If your dog cannot walk, pick up smaller breeds under the hindquarters and front of the chest. Keep them warm and transport them to a vet. For larger breeds, you can use a makeshift stretcher with a coat or a blanket. Try to keep your dog on a rigid surface if you have reason to believe he/she may be paralysed.

If your dog is bleeding

Ensure you keep your dog warm and calm. If the wound is in an accessible area, apply a tight bandage, or press a pad firmly onto areas you cannot bandage. Only use surgical tape and approved bandages on dogs – never sticky tape. Ensure the whole foot is bandaged if your dog’s leg is bleeding to prevent swelling.

If your dog has eaten something toxic

Take your pet to the vet straight away, and take the labelled container for the substance he or she has consumed. If the substance is a plant, try to take a clipping of the plant to the vet, as they may be able to identify this. If a dangerous substance has got into your dog’s fur, apply an Elizabethan collar to prevent further harm.

Prevention is better than the cure

Accidents can happen, but there are many things we can do as pet owners to keep our pets safe. Always remember to:

  • Keep your dog on a lead in built-up areas
  • Supervise young children with dogs
  • Provide adequate water in hot temperatures and avoid walks during peak sunshine
  • Keep dogs inside during loud celebrations such as fireworks
  • Keep chemicals out of reach
  • Provide chew toys to discourage them from chewing hazardous objects
  • Equip them with high vis clothing and leads for night walks.

Remember, always consult your vet if you are ever concerned about your dog’s health. Even if it is something small, it is worth it to ensure the ongoing safety of your pet.