Basic First Aid Tips for Dogs

Kate Barrington
by Kate Barrington
Accidents happen… do you know how to handle first aid basics if your dog is hurt? Don’t get caught unprepared when your pooch has a minor medical mishap.

Dogs are curious creatures by nature and they have a habit of getting themselves into trouble. Unfortunately, dogs often can’t tell the difference between a bit of innocent fun and something that could seriously hurt them. Because you can’t cover your dog in bubble wrap, you’ll need to be to perform basic first aid if your dog needs it.

Stocking a First Aid Kit

You never know what kind of trouble your dog might get into so it is a good idea to keep a fully stocked first aid kit handy. Here’s a list of what should be stocked:

  • Pet first aid book
  • Absorbent gauze pads and bandages
  • Adhesive medical tape
  • Antiseptic wipes or spray
  • Cotton balls and swabs
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Ice packs/heat packs
  • Non-latex disposable gloves
  • Rectal thermometer
  • Scissors and tweezers
  • Emergency blanket
  • Sterile saline solution
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Styptic powder
  • Splints and tongue depressors
  • Flashlight
  • Plastic syringe/eye dropper
  • Nail clippers

Related: The Dog Scout’s Guide To Dog First Aid Kits

Poisoning and Toxic Exposure

Dogs will put anything and anything into their mouths, even poisonous or toxic substances. If you suspect that your dog has ingested a poisonous or toxic substance, you may need to take immediate action to prevent serious damage. If you can tell what your dog just ate, read the label to find out what to do in the event of exposure. If your dog’s skin or eyes have been exposed to a toxic substance, wash his skin well with soap and water (be sure not to get any in his nose or eyes). If the substance is in your dog’s eyes, flush them with water and call an emergency veterinarian immediately.

In the event that your dog ingests a harmful substance, your first move is to call the Animal Poison Control Center hotline at (888) 426-4435. If you know what your dog ingested, have the container on hand and be ready to provide key information about your dog including his age, breed, and weight as well as any symptoms he may be exhibiting. If your dog vomits – or if the hotline recommends that you induce vomiting – collect any material and bring it with you when you are able to visit the veterinarian.

Related: Phone Numbers Every Pet Parent Should Have On Hand

Burns and Open Wounds

If your dog burns himself your first step is to determine whether it is a chemical burn or a physical burn. In the event of a chemical burn, flush the area immediately with large quantities of water. For a physical burn, apply a cold compress to the area and keep it in place until you can seek veterinary care. For open wounds, your first action depends on the severity and the amount of bleeding. Use a gauze pad or a clean cloth to apply firm pressure to the area until the blood starts to clot – this could take several minutes. Hold pressure for at least three minutes before checking. If your dog exhibits signs of internal bleeding (bleeding form the nose, mouth, or rectum), wrap him in a blanket and seek emergency veterinary care immediately.

You never know what kind of trouble your dog will get into but there may come a day when you are glad that you learned the basics about dog first aid. No matter what the problem is, make sure that your dog is stabilized and safe and call a veterinarian immediately. If the problem is minor and your dog can be safely moved, transport him to an emergency vet as soon as possible.

Kate Barrington
Kate Barrington

Kate Barrington is the loving owner of two cats (Bagel and Munchkin) and a noisy herd of guinea pigs. Having grown up with golden retrievers, Kate has a great deal of experience with dogs but labels herself a lover of all pets. Having received a Bachelor's degree in English, Kate has combined her love for pets and her passion for writing to create her own freelance writing business, specializing in the pet niche.

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