Don't panic, but there's a good chance that, at some point during his life, the furry ball of chaos you love deeply is going to get himself hurt. Probably while doing something stupid. Luckily, performing first aid on your dog is as easy as doing it on a human. Here's how to prepare.
A single article isn't going to teach you how to fix each and every injury or emergency that might occur. So, your starting point should be a good dog first aid book. Buy a physical book, read it, then stow it in or with your first aid kit where possible so you can reference it as needed.
This website has some great How Tos on addressing specific dog injuries. Read it for knowledge, but you should still buy and carry a book if possible. You may not have access to there Internet when your dog gets hurt.
Luckily, most ways your dog can hurt himself are pretty similar to the ways you can and probably already have hurt yourself too. That means many of the approaches and tools will remain the same, just with a little specificity towards being furry, bitey and not being able to tell you what's wrong.
A lot of the time, you're going to be dealing with a known problem. Another dog bit yours. Your dog cut himself on something. But, if you just come across an unconscious dog and don't know the cause, apply the same approach you would to a human:
- Is the area safe? Assess any possible risks to yourself or further risks to the dog. If appropriate, move the dog to a safer location or make the area safe. Think busy road, fires, dangerous animals, etc.
- Listen for breathing, look to see if the chest is expanding and contracting, look for blood, feel for a pulse.
- Call for help.
- Check the airway for obstruction and clear if necessary. You can pull the dog's tongue outwards to clear an object or reach in there and pull it out.
- If the dog is choking, perform the Heimlich maneuver.
- If the dog is not breathing, perform artificial respiration.
- If the dog has no pulse, perform chest compressions.
- Stop bleeding.
Onto the first aid kit. Hopefully you've already built your own for human use, filling it with supplies that can stop bleeding, prevent infection and stabilize and protect wounds. On top of all that human stuff, here's what you need to add for your dog.
- Phone number and address for your vet or local vets in the area where you're traveling.
- Poison control center phone number.
- Bitter Apple or similar to prevent licking.
- Rectal thermometer and lube, in case your dog likes to party.
- A small, light leash or cordage that can stand in for one.
- A strip of strong fabric that can be used to wrap and hold a dog's mouth closed.
- Vetrap, sticks to itself, not fur
- Hydrogen Peroxide
- Nutri-Cal or similar
- Instant cold packs
- Shears, a razor or something similar which can quickly and effectively trim their hair.
- A blanket large enough to wrap (thereby immobilizing) or transport your dog.
Here's some common dog first aid problems and how you can address them.
While living in New York, a friend's dog managed to eat an entire package of rat poison. We poured hydrogen peroxide down his throat by the tablespoon until he vomited profusely, then took him to the vet. Works on humans too, but if they're eating rat poison, you might have bigger issues.
A snake bite can trigger an allergic reaction in dogs, causing their wind pipe to swell shut. Administer 1mg of Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) per pound of bodyweight to address this or any other allergic reactions and get them to a vet.
Don't try to clean a dog's wounds with a stinging antiseptic like hydrogen peroxide. They're already scared, hurt and confused, and may lash out if you cause further pain. Just use soap and water instead.
To prevent a dog from biting you when you're putting your hand in or around its mouth, stick your fingers into the rear of its jaw and pinch the mouth open.
To give a dog artificial respiration, first make double sure there's nothing blocking its throat then lay it on its side, lift the chin upwards to straighten the air passage, then hold its mouth closed and completely seal its nose with your mouth. Smaller dogs require less pressure and larger dogs more, blow enough to inflate the lungs, then wait for that air to come back out before blowing again. 20 breaths per minute.
To give a dog chest compressions, lay it on its side and put one hand over the other on the center of its rib cage. Compress it about a quarter of its width, 80 times a minute. If you're dealing with a little animal, you may need to use a single hand or even just your thumb. Push hard enough to provide meaningful compression without crushing the poor guy.
If your dog is overheating — rapid panting, diarrhea, lack of energy and coordination — get the dog to the coolest area immediately available (shade) and pour water over him while providing adequate airflow. Dogs can't sweat, so you're basically providing evaporative cooling. They'll need to rehydrate too, this is where the pedialyte can come in handy. If their temperature is above 106 F, get them to a vet. If it's under, just continue to cool them off and allow them to relax until they return to normal.
If a dog is hurt and you need to treat it or it just won't hold still, wrap its mouth with fabric so it doesn't bit you, then roll it up in a blanket to immobilize it. Works on cats and other critters too.
There's a lot more that can go wrong and I am by no means an authority on the subject. Buy the book, read it, carry it with you and, when in doubt, call your vet.
Have you ever saved your dog from a life threatening emergency? Is there anything else you should include in a canine first aid kit? Tell us about it.
Top Photo: TheGiantVermin
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