When you sustain a minor injury like a cut or scrape, you probably find your first aid kit and pull out the antibiotic ointment and bandages. Dealing with small injuries is no big deal. But what do you do when your dog is injured? Knowing the basics about dog first aid could save your pet’s life one day.
The three steps of dog first aid
If your dog sustains an injury, even if it seems relatively minor, your first instinct might be to panic. If you lose control of your own emotions, however, your dog might pick up on it and that could cause him to become panicked as well. When it comes to first aid for dogs, the most important rule is to stay calm and to follow the three simple steps below:
Step 1: Assess the Situation
The first thing you need to do is make sure that both you and your dog are safe. You also need to exercise caution because your dog might act out if he is frightened or in pain. If your dog isn’t vomiting and if it is safe to do so, place a muzzle on him as a precautionary measure. Then, slowly and gently, examine the injury to determine its severity.
Step 2: Clean and Stabilize the Injury
If the wound appears to be minor, clean it with saline solution or an alcohol swab and apply a thin layer of antibiotic ointment before covering the wound with a sterile dressing. If the wound appears to be severe, don’t risk moving your pet – call your veterinarian or an emergency vet hotline.
Step 3: Take Your Dog to the Vet
Knowing the basics of first aid for dogs can help you deal with minor injuries, but it should not be a substitute for veterinary care. Even if your dog’s injury seems to be non-threatening, you should still take your dog to the vet after administering first aid. In the case of serious injury, call an emergency vet hotline for instructions regarding how to safely transport your dog.
What should you stock in a first aid kit for dogs?
You never know when an accident might happen, so it’s a good idea to keep a first aid kit stocked and ready. In fact, you might want to make up several first aid kits and keep one in your home, one in your car, and another to take with you when you travel. Here are some of the most important items to include in your first aid kit:
- Assorted bandages in different sizes
- Non-adhesive gauze dressing
- Alcohol pads
- Antibiotic ointment
- Surgical tape
- Small pair of scissors
- An Elizabethan collar
- Clean towels
- Cold and heat packs
If you have enough space, you might also think about adding some additional items like a bottle of saline solution or hydrogen peroxide. You should also include a list of phone numbers such as your veterinarian’s office and an emergency vet number.
How to handle different types of injury
Different types of injury require different treatments, depending on the severity. Here is a quick overview of how to handle common injuries:
- Bleeding – Apply a thick gauze pad and apply pressure for several minutes until the bleeding stops. Only apply a tourniquet as a last resort for severe bleeding.
- Broken Bone – Do not apply a splint but deal with any bleeding. Keep the dog as still as possible and carefully transport him to the emergency vet.
- Burns – Flush the affected area with cold water for at least 5 minutes then take your dog to the vet. Do not apply any lotion or ointment.
- Cuts/Scrapes – Clean the wound and apply a thin layer of antibiotic ointment then cover it with a bandage.
- Poison – Identify the substance your dog ingested then read and follow the instructions on the package. If needed, call the pet poison hotline for instructions.
- Choking – Have someone hold the dog’s mouth open while you carefully use your finger to swab the throat, removing the obstruction. If you can’t remove it, transport your dog to an emergency clinic as quickly as possible.
- Bee Sting – Pull out the stinger then rinse the area well and apply ice to reduce pain and inflammation until you get to the vet.
In an emergency situation, you will be your dog’s lifeline. Understanding the basics about first aid for dogs might not seem very important when your dog is healthy, but if an accident happens your dog’s life could very well be in your hands.
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