Knowing what to do when your pet is hurt is something that every pet owner should know. It could save your pet's life. First aid is emergency care given immediately to an injured pet. The purpose is to preserve life, prevent injury from worsening, and relieve pain before professional medical help is available.
Learning first aid
It is unlikely for a vet to get to us quickly enough in an emergency. Most pet owners would still need to perform some emergency care while transporting their pets to the nearest vet clinic. Having completed a dog first aid course can prove to be invaluable. This article will provide some tips to get you started, but we strongly encourage pet owners to learn some basic canine first aid from approved organisations.
We did some searching and found the following organisations providing Canine First Responder courses in Singapore. Please be aware that we are not affiliated with any of these organisations, and we do not endorse their services in any way. Please contact them directly for more information on their products and services.
Recognising an emergency
A key point for first aid is learning to recognise an emergency. Here are some emergencies where you should take your pet to the vet, even if they seem fine after receiving first aid.
- Vomiting or diarrhoea for more than 24 hours
- Eaten something toxic
- Difficulty moving or coordinating their movements
- Collapsed, can’t get up, or are unresponsive
- Difficulty breathing
- Broken bones
Always remember that first aid is not the same as professional medical treatment. The purpose of first aid is to preserve while waiting for professional help to be available.
Being prepared for an emergency
Keep a first aid kit at home. If you intend to DIY your own doggy first aid kit and are wondering what to be included in the kit, refer to our earlier article – The Basics of Doggy First Aid Kits. It is also advisable to carry a “mini” first aid kit when you are out and about with your furkids.
Here are some basic items that you’d want to include in your little doggy first aid kit.
Apart from the first aid kit, have the vet clinic’s number on your phone. If your regular vet does not provide 24x7 emergency care, you may want to store the contact details of another vet clinic that offers such service. Try to look for the nearest vet clinic to reduce transportation time during an emergency. Finally, make sure your fur kid’s documents and medical information are within easy reach. In cases of emergency, the vet may require some medical details.
What to do before administering first aid
1. Keep calm
It is very important to stay calm. The injured dog will pick up on your distress and make the situation more difficult to manage.
2. Safety check the surrounding
Check the surroundings. Remove sharp objects, electrical cables, or any items that can cause further injury to yourself and the injured dog. If there are other pets or children around, get them away from the site of the accident.
3. Your safety is paramount
Be aware that a dog in pain may become aggressive. You know your dog best. If necessary, restrain the dog before providing aid. A dog muzzle like this Artero Silicon Muzzle For Dogs can prove to be useful in times like this. You can use your dog’s leash to form a makeshift muzzle. Once the dog is properly restrained, you can proceed to administer the necessary aid.
4. Call the vet clinic
Depending on the dog’s condition, you may want to call the nearest vet if your regular vet is located quite a distance away. Call the clinic to confirm their opening hours. Some vet clinics are only open during office hours. Let the clinic know that you have an emergency and give them the details of your dog’s condition. Keep the explanation concise, to the point.
Canine emergency first aid tips
The first thing to do is to identify the toxic product and determine how much has been ingested. Toxic products here can include human food toxic to dogs, household chemicals, pesticides, rodent poisons, and even our human medicines. Look for the emergency instructions on the product label. The instruction label may say to flush the skin or eyes with plenty of water if the product touched your pet’s skin or fur.
Should you see the following signs – vomiting, diarrhoea, drooling, and panting – it indicates that your dog may have ingested the toxic product.
Call your vet immediately. The vet will ask for information on the product ingested and may instruct you to induce vomit in your pet. Do NOT induce vomit without consulting your vet. Some poisons can cause burns to the throat. Inducing vomit doubles the chance of burns occurring, as the throat is exposed to the poison twice.
The best thing to avoid poisoning is to keep toxins and other hazardous substances away from your furkids’ reach.
Heatstroke is a condition when the dog’s body temperature is elevated above the normal level. In our hot and humid environment, make sure that your dog’s surrounding temperature is not too hot for them. Signs of heatstroke include excessive panting, drooling, bright red gums, lethargy, uncoordinated movements, and collapse.
Here’s what you should do until you can get your dog to the vet.
- Immediately, remove the dog from the hot environment.
- Give your dog as much cool water as they want without forcing them to drink
- Soak a towel with cool water and place it on their back
Wheezing and coughing are usually the first signs of choking. You may notice your pet pacing back and forth, gagging, retching, and pawing at their mouth as they are struggling to breathe. Open your pet's mouth using both hands and look inside your pet's mouth. Check if you can reach the object obstructing the throat. If you can see the object your dog is choking on, reach in and pull it out. Be very careful as your pet may panic and might unintentionally hurt you.
If you cannot see the object, you are unlikely to get it out. Do not try to reach it as you may push it down even deeper. Try striking the dog hard between the shoulder blades with the flat part of your hand. This may force the blockage out. Check her mouth after a few strikes. If you can see the object, reach in and pull it out.
If this is not working or if you have a large breed dog, you will need to perform an action called the canine Heimlich manoeuvre. This is when hands-on first aid training comes in useful. Paw parents who have attended formal canine first aid training will learn to perform this choking first aid manoeuvre. There are many videos online that will show you how to perform a pet Heimlich manoeuvre. Do spend some time going over them and be aware that there are some differences in how you perform the manoeuvre on small and large breed dogs.
For minor wounds and bleeding, apply this Safari Styptic Powder for Dogs and Cats with a clean cotton swab to quickly stop the bleeding. Apply direct pressure with gauze directly over the wound until the blood clots. Elevate the injured limb, keeping it higher than the animal’s heart. Call the vet and bring your pet to the vet immediately. Excessive blood loss is life-threatening. It is crucial to stop further blood loss while you bring your pet to the vet clinic.
Shock is a life-threatening condition that occurs when a pet doesn’t receive sufficient blood and oxygen to the tissues and organs. His body tries to compensate by increasing heart and respiratory rates. When a dog goes into shock, you will notice rapid heart rate, panting and pale gums due to a lack of blood and oxygen.
If there is no bleeding, just superficial scraps, apply 1 to 2 squirts of this Shake Organic Skin Cleanser For Cats & Dogs directly unto the injured area. This solution will help to disinfect skin abrasions & wounds.
Rescue breathing and CPR
Perform CPR only if your pet is not moving, is unconscious, and is without a heartbeat. Do not perform CPR on a breathing dog, even though the dog may be unconscious.
Learning CPR is a vital part of first aid. Do check out the two organisations – Dog First Aid and Ngee Ann Cet Academy – on their Canine First Responder courses if you are interested in picking up the dog CPR skills.
We all hope to never encounter a medical emergency but accidents can happen. Our pets are inquisitive creatures. It is always better to be prepared for such a situation. This article provides some tips to get you started, but we strongly encourage pet owners to learn basic first aid and CPR skills. These skills can be a lifesaver during an emergency.
Katherine is a Pet Nutrition Specialist and GDP’s Pet Wellness Advisor. She is committed to helping pet owners make informed dietary and lifestyle choices in nurturing healthy pets. Katherine is also a practicing Nutritional Therapist (human nutrition) and has been helping hundreds of clients to heal naturally with nutrients.