Dog First Aid Guide for Pet Owners

Puppy in accident
Wyatt Robinson
Written by Wyatt Robinson

Accident can happen, and they are not a pleasant site for pet owners. Protecting the dog does not mean that you should limit its natural instincts nor keep it indoor all the time, hoping that nothing bad will happen to it this way. Unfortunate events are approached as a serious crisis, and this means that you need to be ready to face them. There are certain fundamental standards of dog first aid that can mean the difference between life and death. To be more exact, you need to be aware of the basic maneuvers through which you can help an injured dog.

In order to be able to respond promptly to bee stings, fractures or bleedings, you need to know how to deal with the common accidents in the animal kingdom. Furthermore, it is required to have a first aid kit in the house, but also a smaller one in the family car. If you are ready to face these situations, you will not be taken by surprise.

This will allow you to face a medical emergency way before the event takes place. This guide aims to help pet owners deal with stressful situations when the dog gets injured by presenting the steps that need to be accomplished before rushing to the veterinary.

Dog injured

What is emergency?

In order to be able to help your pet, you need to make the difference between an emergency and fatigue. There are various situations that can point out that something is wrong, and your dog needs your attention:

  • it looks weak, and it cannot get up;
  • it is dull and unable to perform any activity;
  • it can hardly breath, or you can actually hear it breath rapidly in a noisy way;
  • it coughs, and seems to be choking;
  • it vomits repeatedly, and you need to pay a close attention, especially if it is young or old;
  • it has bloody diarrhea and seems unwell;
  • it cries and shows signs of severe discomfort or pain;
  • it tries to defecate or urinate, but it cannot do it;
  • it can hardly keep its balance;
  • it is agitated, shaking and cannot settle.

When you spot an emergency, you need to keep calm. In order to be able to offer the first aid for dogs you need to ensure your safety and the people’s near it. Animals that are in pain tend to be aggressive because they are frightened. As a result, they can bite when you try to touch them. In order to be able to contact the vet as soon as possible, you need to keep the phone number on speed dial. It is vital to offer as many details as possible, so you can receive valuable guidelines.

Weak and injured dog

When you start applying the first aid maneuvers, and you see that the dog becomes agitated, you need to put a muzzle to avoid biting. If it is unable to breath, remove the muzzle immediately. By no means should you give it human medicines. They contain substances that are harmful for the pet’s organism. If it requires surgery, do not give it food or water.

Transportation needs to be done with care. When driving, avoid high speed, or constant brakes. If you get bitten in the process, remember that you need to see a doctor to receive the adequate treatment in order to prevent infections.

The first aid kit

All pet owners need to be able to help their dog in a crisis situation. In order to do it in an efficient manner, it is vital to own a first aid kit. It needs to be well-provisioned so you can handle various situations in a professional manner. It is advisable to consider putting together two kits, one for the house and one for the car. Make sure that they are both stocked with supplies, and to have fast access to it, place it next the one dedicated to the family. You will see that you can find many items that can be used on humans, and this makes it a practical tool, easy to operate with.




Important phone numbers: veterinary, emergency clinic, animal poison control center. The dog’s medical recordYou can receive useful help through phone and the maneuvers you need to apply before transporting the dog
GauzeTo wrap wounds or to use as a muzzle to prevent biting
Bandages (opt for nonstick ones)To keep the bleeding under control and protect an open wound
Adhesive tape to secure bandagesTo hold the bandages firmly in their place
Milk of magnesiaIn case of poisoning, to absorb the poison
Hydrogen peroxideTo induce vomiting in case of intoxication or poisoning
ThermometerTo monitor the temperature (remember that it needs to be used rectal)
Syringe without needleTo flush wounds or oral treatment
MuzzleTo protect yourself from bites (avoid putting it if your dog is vomiting)
StretcherTo immobilize it during transportation
Cotton woolTo clean the wound
Blunt ended scissorsTo cut the adhesive tape without hurting the dog
Thick towelTo keep a hemorrhage under control
Antiseptic wipesTo clean superficial wounds
Disposable glovesTo protect the wound from bacteria
Petroleum jellyTo lubricate the thermometer
Sterile saline solutionTo clean a wound
Pet carrierFor easy transportation
DiphenhydramineFor allergic reactions
Ear cleaning solutionTo clean the ears if something gets stuck in them
Elizabethan collarTo prevent scratches, or lickings on injured surfaces

These are important things to pack in an emergency kit, especially if you’re taking your dog out on an extended trip. To learn more about what you should pack, check out our article on what to pack in a survival kit for your dog.

Common accidents

Road accidents may occur, especially if you have to cross an area with intense traffic. The optimum prevention in this case is to avoid keeping the collar too loose so the dog will not get away. However, accidents can happen, and you need to be ready to face them the best way possible.

If your dog gets hit by a car, you should not run directly into the street after it. Make sure that the cars stop, in order to avoid another accident. You need to start talking gently to your dog and call it by its name as you approach. Avoid making any sudden moves, as this can scare the pet and run directly into another car.

Before proceeding to any maneuver, it is a good idea to put a muzzle, if you carry one. If the dog is able to move by itself and seems to be all right, you still need to go to the veterinary in order to see if there are no internal injuries. If the dog cannot walk, you need to pick it up carefully, by placing a hand under the hindquarters and the other one in front of the chest. If the dog cannot move at all, the spine may be affected. In this case, you need to carry it on a board or anything rigid you can find and cover it with a blanket.

Agitated dogs can hurt themselves pretty face, especially if they reach areas where they are not allowed. When they get stuck in small spaces, or run into sharp objects they can end up with less or more severe bleeding. If this happens, you need to keep your pet calm. Apply a tight bandage as soon as possible.

You can also put a non-adhesive dressing straight on the injury and cover it with a cotton bandage. The wound can be secured with adhesive tape. The bandage needs to be changed, if necessary, after no more than 24 hours. If the dog shows any signs of discomfort or dizziness, you need to take it to the veterinary as soon as possible.

Injured dog

If your dog spends a lot of time in the kitchen, burns can eventually occur. In this case, you need to run cold water on it immediately and run straight to the vet. If you are outdoors, you can apply saline soaked dressing before transporting the dog. Poisoning is another accident that requires urgent medical treatment. The first thing you need to do is to identify the source (indoor house plants or toxic substances) and call the vet after. If you are far from any emergency room, the vet may ask you to make the pet sick, and hydrogen peroxide can help you do it.

Another accident that can threaten the life of your pet is choking due to a ball or other chewing toys. The best thing to do is to go straight to the veterinary, or if possible to try to remove it by yourself. If the tongue and gums turn blue, it means that you need to act immediately.

Ask someone to help you and together immobilize the dog and force its mouth open. If the object is out of sight or impossible to reach, place the dog on its side and push it on its tummy. The right spot to apply pressure is behind the last rib. Make sure to check the mouth constantly in order to grab the ball when it appears.

With any wound, it’s important that your dog can’t get to it to make it worse. Not many dog owners have an e-collar on hand, so you can learn how to make a homemade dog cone at home to stabilize your dog’s wounds before you get to the vet.

Outdoor accidents

When you take your dog outside, it is harder to control all its moves. A common problem that can lead to major injuries is coat contamination. If you see your dog covered in tar or paint, make sure it does not lick itself. These substances are harmful for the health and can cause intoxication. The best thing to do is to go straight to the veterinary to purchase an Elizabethan collar if you do not have one at home. In case you are not in the city, you can improvise one.

When you start cleaning your pet’s fur, avoid using paint removers or turpentine as they are harmful to the skin. Instead, try vegetable oil, and keep the area moisture for 24 hours. If it does not come off, you will need to cut off the affected hair and give it a bath. If you see that the skin is affected, you will need to go to the veterinary to have it checked.

It is fun to walk your dog during summer days, but this can also lead to heat strokes. The breeds that are predisposed to this health problem are the short-nosed ones, like boxers. The signs are easy to spot, and include distress and heavy breathing. Heat stroke can also occur if the pet is overweight or has run a lot. In this case, you need to take the dog to a cool room and wet its coat with water.

Just make sure that it is not too cold, but tepid, in order to avoid blood vessels contractions and to help the dog loose heat faster. If it looks thirsty, you can give it water, but in a small amount.

Dog resting up

During the mating season, dogs tend to be more aggressive. This is when fights can occur. If your dog looks dull, shocked or distressed after exchanging bites with another pet, you need to check for any signs of injury. If you see any puncture wounds on the body or head, you need to go to the veterinary to have it checked for eventual internal problems. Limbs bruises can be treated at home. Just remember to clean them thoroughly and apply a bandage if necessary.

If you spot eye injuries that are not serious, you can comfort the dog by applying a wet dressing. You need to make sure that it does not scratch, so an Elizabethan collar is required. If you see signs of impurities, you can flush with water from a syringe (without needle) or eye drops bottle.

Playing outside makes the dog vulnerable to insect bites. Whether the problem is caused by a spider or bee, it can be really painful. Bites and stings are easy to identify through redness, swelling and itching. If your dog is allergic, it will start vomiting, its face will swell, and it can even breathe heavily. At this point, it is mandatory to go to the veterinary immediately. If the situation is not life threatening, you can heal your pet yourself.

In case of bee stings, you need to identify the needle and take it out with tweezers. Remember to avoid putting pressure into the venom sack to prevent spreading it into the dog’s body. To ease the itching sensation, you can apply cool compresses. It is important to avoid administrating any sorts of medicines, unless the veterinarian recommends them.

Basic resuscitation procedures

There are situations when the dog stops breathing, or it has no heartbeat. The first thing that you need to do is not to panic. You are there for it and with these basic resuscitation procedures, you can save its life. These are serious hazards and cannot wait any delay. As a result, there is no time to take your pet to the veterinarian. At this stage, you need to be able to stabilize it, and only after to transport it. It is recommended to start these procedures together with another person, in order to call the veterinarian, so you can keep helping your dog.

If your pet finds it very hard to breath or even stops breathing, you need to check first if it is conscious or not. After this, open its mouth gently, and get its tongue out until you see it flat. This provides you a direct vision of the throat, and you can check if there are foreign objects that caused it to chock. Remove the objects, if there are any, and start the rescue breathing. In order to do it in a correct manner, you need to close your dog’s mouth first and keep it this way with your hand and breathe through its nose.

In order to know that you are doing it right, you need to see its chest expand. This procedure needs to be done several times, at an interval of 4 — 5 seconds.

Dog cpr infographic

Another scary situation is to see that your dog has no heartbeat. In this case, you need to find a firm surface and lay it on it, on the right side. You will find the heart on the left side, in front of the leg, behinds its elbow. You need to support one of your hands beneath your dog’s chest, and the other one place it on top of the heart.

If you have a medium-sized fog, you need to press about one inch, while large dogs require a firmer press. Small pets, on the other hand, require a gentler maneuver. In case of small dogs, you need to press 100 to 150 times per minute, while medium to large dogs, require 80 to 120 presses per minute. You can alternate this procedure with rescue breathing, but never perform them at the same time. After you hear the heart beat, or reached the veterinarian, you can stop.

As it can be seen, just like humans, pets are prone to injuries. Agitated and curious dogs are more likely to get hurt, and no matter how hard you try, it is impossible to keep a close eye on them all the time. This is why you need to be aware of the basic first aid skills. Regardless the situation, you need to keep calm in order to make the right decisions. At the same time, you must act promptly. Once you get the dog stabilized, you can call the veterinarian and together decide the next steps.

It’s also important that you have some way to pay for your dog’s treatment that can alleviate your pocket. To learn more, check out this great article on the best dog health insurance you can find.

About the author
Wyatt Robinson
Wyatt Robinson

Wyatt Robinson had a great 25-years career as a veterinarian in United Kingdom. He used to be a member of British Veterinary Association and worked in 3 pet hospitals in London and Manchester. He is shining when he sees his pets healthy and full of energy and it is his duty to help other dog owners to keep their best friends full of life.