First aid for dogs and other animals where necessary
What is the reason for giving pet first aid?
- saving a pet’s life
- reducing pain
- relieving suffering
- promoting recovery
When should dog first aid be used?
Immediately following an accident or sudden illness. First aid should be restricted to what is necessary to save an animal’s life, to reduce pain and therefore to stop suffering until the animal receives attention by a veterinary surgeon. It is usually much better where possible to bring the dog (or other animal) to us at Hillside Vets, rather than telephoning and asking for a vet to visit your home. We will be much better equipped at the surgery to carry out the correct treatment required.
Who can carry out first aid?
First aid can be administered to an animal by anyone. It is not necessary to make a diagnosis of injury to provide effective first aid; in fact diagnosis can only be made legally by a qualified veterinary surgeon.
Be prepared and have the following things ready in your home so you are always ready for any incident or accident should it happen:
- a dog first aid kit – we sell these at Hillside Veterinary Centre
- the phone number and address of Hillside Vets (or your own vet if out of the area) – including any alternative emergency number for night time or weekend incidents
- a pen and paper (you may wish to note down the vet’s instructions)
- a large clean blanket which may be used as a stretcher if needed
Remember, try not to panic - an emergency situation will require you to be speedy, calm and most importantly safe. Try to think slowly but act fast.
It is vital to remember that a sudden illness or injury will cause your dog (or other animal) to potentially be very scared, in pain/discomfort and shock. In this very high stress situation even docile dogs can bite and you must ensure your own safety. Having a muzzle or a piece of material (eg an old tie) to use as a ‘tape muzzle’ will allow you to aid your dog confidently. Tape muzzles cause no harm to your dog and reduce any risk of harm to you and so are advised.
Never rush straight to Hillside Veterinary Surgery without telephoning first.
It may be that the we could give you vital advice before you travel with your dog (or other animal). It may also be possible that there is no vet at the surgery at that specific time (due to lunch-time breaks or undertaking a house visit) so it is always best to check first.
Never give a sick or injured dog anything to eat or drink unless the vet tells you to do so.
All vets are required to provide an emergency 24 hour service, 365 days a year and your pet will always benefit from seeing a familiar vet. Always try to contact us at Hillside Vets in the first instance.
If you take your dog or other animal on holiday with you, make sure you know how to contact the local veterinary surgery in that area. Local tourist information centres should be able to give you this information.
First aid top tips and advice:
1. General advice - Injured dogs may be frightened and in pain and should always be approached with caution. Unless otherwise indicated, try to ensure your dog is moved around as little as possible and is kept warm and dry.
2. Vomiting - Any prolonged or repeated vomiting, or if your dog is lethargic or in obvious pain, must be checked by a vet. It is advisable not to feed your dog until you have seen the vet.
3. Diarrhoea - Diarrhoea will resolve quicker if food is maintained but it must be bland, easy to digest and given little and often. Diarrhoea is generally slow to resolve but should gradually improve and have cleared in five days. If the diarrhoea is ongoing, watery or there is blood present they should always be seen by a vet.
4. Road traffic accidents - Let your dog see you approaching and avoid sudden movement and noise; try and speak gently to reassure your dog. Ensure there is no further danger to your dog or yourself and minimise movement. Keep your dog warm and try to get to the veterinary surgery as soon as possible.
5. Cuts and grazes - Bathe the wound with salt water or a veterinary antibacterial solution (a small bottle is within our first aid kits sold at reception) and then keep the wound clean and dry. Do not allow your dog to lick at the wound and you should seek veterinary attention unless it’s a minor cut/graze.
6. Deep cuts / bleeding - Do not interfere with the wound. Apply direct pressure to the area to stop the bleeding and indirect pressure if possible to the area above the bleeding. Try and raise the affected area above the body until you can get your dog (or other animal) to the veterinary surgery.
7. Stings - Pull out the sting if possible; bathe with salt solution or a veterinary antibacterial solution. Bicarbonate of soda can be applied to bee stings and vinegar to wasp stings to reduce the affects (although there is no scientific basis to this and may or may not work). If irritant or painful or any swelling develops then an appointment with us at Hillside Vets is advisable. This is a non-emergency unless your pet is experiencing any breathing difficulties, swelling around the face, your dog (or other animal) becomes very lethargic or starts panting excessively, in which case it should be seen as an emergency. See our PDF document at the bottom of the page for more specifics on insect stings.
8. Heat stroke - Apply copious amounts of cool water gently all over your pet and if available position near a fan to aid cooling. You should open car windows and/or put on the air conditioning on the journey to Hillside Vets. Do not immerse your dog in icy water or place soaked towels over the body. In this situation, your dog (or other animal) should be seen by a vet immediately. Avoid any non-steroidal drugs.
9. Choking / drowning / collapse - You should never endanger yourself if your dog is drowning. Try where possible to ensure your dog's airway is free from obstruction. In a drowning situation, if possible your dog can be gently swung by the hind limbs to try and allow water to drain from the lungs. If your dog is choking try to ascertain whether this is a continual choking due to a foreign object in the mouth/throat, ie a ball or stick. If it is a more intermittent choking it could be a less serious problem, but should still be checked out by a vet at Hillside Vets.
10. Seizures / fitting - Most seizures last no more than 5-10 minutes and are usually over by the time the dog arrives at the veterinary surgery. If a seizure is 10 minutes in duration or multiple seizures come close together you need to see a vet immediately. Otherwise it is best to let the seizure pass and allow your dog to recover before attempting to bring them to the surgery. During a seizure ensure your dog is unable to harm itself (moving furniture if necessary), keep lighting down and noise to a minimum. You should talk to your dog, but do not attempt to put your hands near the mouth. Once the seizure is over your dog will often be disorientated for up to two hours and probably thirsty so it is important to ensure that water is readily available.
11. Suspected poisoning - If possible you should always bring the poison/packaging to the veterinary surgery (or a specimen of the plant if a plant was the poison). You should never try to make your dog sick. At Hillside Vets, in most cases we would consult the Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS) for advice on suspected poisoning.
12. Suspected spinal injuries / fractures - Try to move your dog extremely carefully, keeping the spine and head, or affected limb as straight as possible. Sudden lameness or acute pain will be seen and the limb may look abnormal. Your dog may be distressed and unwilling to move. It is important to try and keep your dog as still as possible to reduce further damage. Never try to reposition the affected limb yourself.
13. Contaminated coat - This could be the case if your dog (or other animal) appears to have oil, tar or an unknown substance on its coat or feet. A number of substances can potentially be toxic to dogs/cats/rabbits etc so you should try to prevent them licking the area. Try to clean the area with a mild soapy water solution and rinse off prior to your appointment with Hillside Vets. If large areas are contaminated your pet may require clipping and possibly further washing under sedation.
14. Whelping (giving birth) - If your dog has been straining non-productively for more than 30 minutes you should seek veterinary advice. If a green discharge in a bitch that is not straining is seen, this could be an emergency and she should be checked immediately. If you are able to transport your dog that has already produced some puppies, you should handle them with care – new mothers can be very protective!
15. Bite wounds - A vet should see all bite wounds, regardless of the size as serious infection can arise. If possible you can bathe the wound with saline solution or a veterinary antibacterial solution. You should then keep the wound as clean and dry as possible.
16. Snake bites - The only poisonous snake native to the UK is the adder, which is common on heath land and forest area during the spring and summer months. Swelling and discomfort occurs rapidly around the area of the bite and the toxin can cause shock. If you suspect an adder bite your dog must be seen by a vet immediately.
17. Electric shocks - You must never touch your dog (or other animal) until the electric supply has been turned off. You should then apply general first aid; advice is the same as with burns.
18. Eye injuries -
- If the eye is bulging or has come out of it’s socket apply a cold compress. Your dog should be seen at Hillside Veterinary Surgery (or your own vet) as a matter of urgency.
- If there is a foreign object visible in the eye try to prevent your dog from rubbing it and telephone for an emergency appointment with us at Hillside Vets.
- If there is an irritant in the eye you should bathe with warm water - do not rub the eye surface. Note the chemical’s name and seek immediate veterinary advice.
At Hillside Vets we sell dedicated pet First Aid kits which hold the following items
- A selection of sterile wound dressings
- Conforming bandages
- Gauze bandages
- Crepe bandages
- Microporous tape
- Latex gloves
- Emergency warming blanket
- Dedicated bandage scissors
- Sterile eye/wound wash
We advise that every household with pets has one of these kits for those emergency situations. It might be wise to keep one in the car too so that if you’re out on a walk and something happens, or come across an accident you have one close at hand.
Disclaimer: Hillside Vets’ website is intended to be used only as a guide and information resource, not as an alternative to a veterinary consultation and advice. Nothing contained in this website should be construed as medical advice or diagnosis. For specific healthcare advice please discuss the particular symptoms and circumstances of your pet with your vet.