First Aid: Dealing with Emergencies

First Aid: Dealing with Emergencies

 In This Chapter

  • Being prepared for any emergency
  • Knowing who to call for help
  • Getting your lost dog back
You could have your dog from puppyhood to old age and never encounter an emergency situation — or you could face numerous emergencies throughout your dog’s life. You don’t knowif or when emergency will strike, but being prepared for any disaster puts you ahead of the game. In this chapter, I help you recognize emergency situations, tell you the basics of canine first aid, and help you find your dog if you ever lose her. Read this chapter while your dog is safe and sound, and tuck the information away for when you need it. It could save your dog’s life.

Gathering Emergency Contact Information

There are several numbers you should always have handy in case of emergencies. Make several photocopies of this page and fill inTable 14-1 with all the appropriate numbers. Then keep one copy on your refrigerator, another in each of your cars, another in your canine first-aid kit . . . you get the idea. Just make sure the numbers  are easily accessible no matter where you are.


I’ve left several blank rows at the bottom of the table, where you can add the names and numbers of family members or friends who can help you out in case of emergency. (It’s amazing how, in an emergency, you can forget phone numbers that you otherwise have memorized.)

Table 14-1
Emergency Contact Information
Who to Call
Phone Number
Emergency animal hospital
ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center
888-426-4435 *
Animal control
Animal shelter
* A fee of $55 (as of this printing) will be charged to your credit card to cover the cost of aconsultation. The center is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Preparing for natural disasters

No matter where you live, natural disasters can strike. Being prepared is essential.Here are some tips to keep in mind:

– Don’t rely on anyone other than yourself to evacuate your pet. City officials and workers will not take on this responsibility.

– Don’t leave your dog tied up outside. If your dog is tied, she can’t escape water,flying debris, wind, and other things that threaten her life.

– Don’t leave your dog indoors. If there’s a tidal surge and your house is underwater, your dog can drown.

– If you’re evacuating in advance of a hurricane and you plan on leaving your dog at a kennel, don’t do so anywhere within the hurricane strike zone. As part of your preparation, get contact information for kennels in other states.

– Prepare a secure, unbreakable covered pet carrier, marked with your name, address, and phone number. Include two leashes and a harness/collar with your name, address, and phone number on a tag. Bring plastic bowls for food and water; in waterproof plastic containers, put enough food for two weeks. Bring a copy of your pet’s health records, her medication, a current photo, plastic bags for waste, and a couple toys to keep her occupied.

Assembling Your Canine First-Aid Kit

Following are all the items you need in a basic, in-home first-aid kit. Though you may not need all the items listed here at any one time  in your mixed breed’s life, it’s a good idea to at least own them and know where you keep them.
  • First-aid book
  • Adhesive tape or self-sticking Vet Wrap (as of this printing, you can actually buy Vet Wrap online at
  • Cotton balls
  • Square gauze pads, 3 x 3 inches
  • Instant hot/cold packs
  • Cotton-tipped applicators (like Q-tips)
  • Antibacterial ointment (like Neosporin or Bacitracin)
  • Bitter Apple cream and/or spray
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Clotisol (clotting cream)
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Activated charcoal (in case of poisoning)
  • Tweezers and small, sharp scissors
  • Thermometer (Note: A dog’s normal temperature is 101°F. You can buy ear thermometers for pets at most major pet supply stores.)
  • Aloe-vera gel (to sooth scrapes and cuts)
  • Canine antidiarrhea medication (such as Metronidazole, an antibiotic available from your veterinarian) (Note: Human over-the-counter antidiarrhea medications often don’t work at all with dogs.)
  • Rubber gloves
  • Muzzle (Note: Many injured dogs bite first and ask questions later.)
  • Something you can use for a stretcher, such as a board, blanket, or floor mat
If you’re hiking, camping, boating, or engaging in some other outdoor activities with your dog, place the following items in a zip-top plastic bag and toss it in your backpack:
  • Fresh water, at least 1 pint
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Sterile gauze pads
  • Antibacterial ointment
  • Vet Wrap
  • Bite/sting stop
  • Tweezers
If you’re interested, you can take courses in first aid and canine CPR. One exceptional source for these is Pet Tech (, which offers information, pet-saver training, DVDs, and pet first aid instructors’ courses. Books such as First Aid for Dogs: What to Do When Emergencies Happen, by Bruce Fogle, and The First Aid Companion for Dogs & Cats, by Amy D. Shojai, are also good sources.

First-Aid Basics

Dogs tend to be inquisitive, which can often get them into trouble. No matter where you live, your dog could have an accident, get sick, or get hurt. Few dogs go through life without some physical trauma. In the following sections, I cover the majority of situations, how to recognize them, and what to do if they happen to your dog.


Allergies manifest themselves in many ways. The most likely allergic reactions are those to food ingredients, though I’ve known some dogs who are also allergic to specific types of grass, plants, or indoor fabrics, such as carpeting, upholstery, or window treatments.
When your mixed breed is experiencing an allergic reaction, she may begin sneezing, wheezing, choking, or gagging. She may also develop an itchy rash on her skin. Some dogs will lick and chew themselves. Ear infections can be common symptoms of allergies as well.
If you suspect that your dog has an allergy, you can either take her to a specialist and find out exactly the cause of the allergic reaction, or you can change her diet and see if you notice an improvement before consulting with a vet. If the allergies are due to your mixed breed’s environment, you may have to remove some items from her living space.


The only way of knowing for sure what your dog is allergic to is by taking her to an allergy specialist and having her tested.


Bloat is a swelling of the stomach from gas, fluid, or both. It tends to occur in dogs with large chest cavities, like Great Danes or Weimaraners, who also like to inhale their food quickly. Dogs prone to this ailment may bloat if they eat immediately after extreme exercise.
The symptoms of bloat include pacing continuously or lying down in odd places, panting, whining, salivating, and agitation. The dog may vomit without anything coming up. She’ll drool excessively, make retching noises, and have swelling in the abdominal area.


Bloat is potentially fatal, and there’s nothing you can do for your dog to help her other than to recognize the symptoms and get her to the vet immediately. Surgery must be performed to save her life. Bloat has a 30-percent fatality rate, mostly due to dog owners who either don’t recognize the symptoms or are too slow to react.

Broken bones or dislocations

You can never be sure whether your dog has broken or dislocated a bone without the help of your vet. The only symptoms you’ll be able to recognize are your dog being unable to use a limb or the limb appearing to be at an odd angle. If the dog has a rib, shoulder, hip, or back fracture, she may not move at all.
If bleeding is involved, try to control it (see “Puncture wounds,” later in this chapter, for tips on controlling bleeding), but don’t try to fix the fracture. Protect the area with cotton padding. If it’s a limb, apply a splint of some sort (two long pieces of wood) and secure them with bandaging such as Vet Wrap. Carefully place your dog on a makeshift stretcher — a rug, blanket, or wide board will work — so that she won’t further injure herself by moving. Take her to her vet immediately.


Some injured animals are prone to aggression, due to stress and pain, so I recommend muzzling your dog before applying the splint. Not only will this prevent injury to you but it will prevent further injury to the dog.


You’ll know your dog is burned if you see singed fur, blistering, redness of skin, and/or swelling. Take your dog to the vet immediately. If you have someone who can drive while you flush your dog’s injury with cool water that would be ideal. If not, just go to your vet immediately.


You’ll recognize the symptoms of choking by noticing that your dog is having difficulty breathing or swallowing. She might paw at her mouth, and her lips and tongue could turn blue from lack of blood flow.
Look inside your dog’s mouth and throat. Clear it by using pliers or tweezers — if you stick your finger down her throat, you can easily lodge the object farther down her throat.
If the object is too deep and you can’t get it, perform the Heimlich maneuver by putting your hands on either side of your dog’s rib cage and applying firm, quick pressure. Another way you can perform this is to place your dog on her side and press against her rib cage with the palm of your hand. Repeat until the object is dislodged.


Get someone to take you and your dog to a vet as you are doing the Heimlich. You may not be able to totally dislodge the entire object, and the sooner you can get veterinary attention, the better chance your dog has of surviving.


Wash the area with cool water and pat dry. Apply hydrogen peroxide to the area. If it has stopped bleeding (and after the area is dry), apply an antibacterial ointment and then spread a little Bitter Apple ointment around the edges (not in the cut) to prevent your dog from licking off the ointment.
If the wound is deep or doesn’t stop bleeding, apply a pressure bandage and take your dog to the vet immediately.


If your dog has diarrhea, the best thing to do is to withhold food from your dog for 12 to 24 hours. Give her plenty of ice cubes and water — she’ll need to stay hydrated.

Some dogs get diarrhea after eating something that doesn’t agree with them, so after that initial 12 to 24 hours, keep your dog on a bland diet of boiled rice and chicken, or beef (as long as she’s not allergic to these ingredients) for a couple days and gradually transfer her back to her normal food.
If the diarrhea doesn’t cease within a day, take your dog to the vet and bring a stool sample with you for testing. If the consistency of the diarrhea is mucousy, if it’s light in color, tar black or if it contains blood, take your dog to the veterinarian immediately.

Heat stroke

If your dog has a short nose, heavy fur, or large structure, don’t exercise her at all in hot weather conditions — her body can’t handle it. For other dogs, keep all exercise on hot days to a minimum. Stick to allowing your mixed breed to run in early mornings and late evenings during summer months to prevent any temperature-related illness.
The symptoms of heat stroke include difficulty breathing, vomiting, high temperature, and collapse. If the dog isn’t treated immediately, heat stroke can be fatal.
The best treatment is to immerse your dog in a tub of cool water. You can also gently soak her with a garden hose or wrap her in a cool, wet towel. You’ll need to lower her temperature gradually, so don’t put her in a tub of ice — this could go in the other direction and cause hypothermia or shock. If she’ll drink, give her some electrolyte-supplemented water, such as Smart Water.
Take her temperature often and stop the cooling process when her temperature reaches 103°F.


Hypothermia happens when the dog becomes too cold. It’s most common in small dogs or those with a short coat and no body fat. If this describes your mixed breed, be sure to never leave her outdoors for a prolonged period of time during winter weather conditions; especially below 35°F.

The symptoms of hypothermia are similar to heat stroke (see the preceding section), only the dog will be shaking to try to stay warm, and she’s not likely to vomit. Her limbs will be stiff with cold.
Wrap her in warm blankets and rub her vigorously to maintain a healthy blood flow to all parts of her body. Place her on a heating pad, but be sure to put a towel or blanket between your dog and the pad to prevent burning.
As with all emergency situations, take your dog to the vet as soon as you can.

Insect bites

If your dog ventures outdoors at all, you can’t avoid it — she will be bitten by bugs. Numerous blood-sucking parasites may attack your dog — including fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes. Some bugs may sting her, especially if she’s chasing them. Other bugs like to fly into eyes, ears, or noses, irritating your mixed breed.
If you see swelling or redness, or if you notice your dog scratching or appearing to be in pain within an hour of the bite, be sure to investigate it further. If there’s a stinger, try to remove it using tweezers. Then apply a cold pack for a while to reduce the inflammation. A topical cortisone or anti-inflammatory ointment can be used on the bite area. Some dogs require oral antihistamines due to allergic reactions.
If symptoms persist, call your vet.


Dogs will eat nearly anything, so poisoning is always a possibility. It may be mild (such as eating fallen nuts) or it can be severe (from eating garden poisons or antifreeze).
The symptoms of poisoning include vomiting, convulsions (in severe cases), diarrhea, salivation, weakness, depression, or  collapse. Also in severe cases, if it isn’t caught in time, poisoning can be fatal.
Give your dog activated charcoal mixed with a small amount of canned food in the case of poisoning.
If you saw what your dog ate, write it down and try to note the amount she ingested. Call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435 (a fee of $55 may be charged to your credit card) and give the operator the information. Or, if you prefer, call your vet.
Don’t induce vomiting unless your veterinarian directs you to do so. If the poisoning is topical (on her skin or coat) from substances such as oil, paint, or chemicals, wash her with a mild soap and rinse well.

Puncture wounds

Punctures commonly occur when animals fight. They also happen when dogs go after wild creatures with sharp teeth. If your dog has gotten into a fight, you may not be able to see all the puncture wounds unless they’re actively bleeding.
Apply firm direct pressure over any bleeding areas until the bleeding stops. Hold that pressure for ten minutes and don’t bandage it, because the wound needs air circulation for proper healing. Then take your dog to the vet for a thorough investigation and treatment.
Many vets will put drains in place to ensure the wounds don’t become infected and can heal properly from the inside out. The drains normally remain in place for three days, at which point they’re removed and the wounds kept clean and dry for another week. Your dog will likely be on antibiotics for a period of time.

Run-ins with wild animals

If your dog has a run-in with a wild animal, clean the wound with large amounts of water and dab it with hydrogen peroxide. Any large, open wound should be wrapped to keep it clean. If it’s a puncture or bleeding profusely, apply pressure until the bleeding stops.
Take your dog to the vet. Saliva has a high concentration of bacteria, so your dog will need to be given antibiotics to prevent infection.
If your dog has a run-in with a porcupine or foxtails, take her to the vet to have them removed. Don’t try to remove them yourself.


Some dogs inherit seizures, others develop seizures due to poisoning or illness. The symptoms include salivation, disorientations, violent muscle twitching, an inability to control their excretions, and, sometimes, loss of consciousness.
The first thing you should do if you see these symptoms is to move your pet away from any objects that may be harmful — furniture, floor fixtures, children’s toys, and so on.
Don’t put yourself at risk during your dogs’ seizure. Dogs are apt to lash out without control while having a seizure, so don’t try to restrain her. Time the seizure so that you can tell your veterinarian how long it lasted. Most last approximately two to three minutes.
If your dog experiences multiple or prolonged seizures, take her to the vet immediately; she may have been poisoned and will need immediate treatment. On your trip to the vet, try to keep your dog quiet. Speak in a soothing tone and try to prevent her from seeing anything that might excite her (like another dog).

Shallow wounds

Do you go to see a doctor every time you cut your finger? Probably not. Unless your wound is deep, you probably just apply hydrogen peroxide and antibacterial cream, and slap a bandage on it, and go on with your life. If you’ve got these items for yourself, you have all you need to treat your dog’s minor wounds.


Always clean a cut or abrasion thoroughly to remove any dirt and debris. Allow it to dry, then apply hydrogen peroxide (to further clean the wound). When it’s dry, apply the antibacterial ointment. Some dogs will lick off the ointment — to prevent this, either apply a bandage or, if the area can’t be bandaged, apply Bitter Apple around the wound. She’ll be less likely to lick off the antibacterial cream again.


Shock can occur after a serious injury, fright, or a reaction to extreme temperatures. Shock is a means of the body protecting itself from trauma, but it can also threaten a dog’s life. The symptoms are irregular breathing, white gums, and dilated pupils.
You’ll need to keep your dog gently restrained, warm, and quiet. Also elevate her lower body.
Take your dog to the veterinarian immediately. Only your veterinarian is equipped to treat your dog for shock.

Snake bites

Snake bites are rare but extremely dangerous for your mixed-breed dog. There are many venomous species that, with one bite or spit of venom, can damage your dog’s nerves or body tissue on contact. Many types of snake bites can be fatal to dogs.
Once bitten, the skin will swell quickly. You’ll notice a skin puncture. The dog will display pain in the bitten area. All you can do is to clean the area and rush your dog to the veterinarian to be treated.


Dogs vomit a lot — from mother dogs regurgitating meals for puppies to older dogs who enjoy eating grass, vomiting is part of a dog’s life.


You don’t need to be concerned about vomiting unless your dog is doing it many times throughout the day, or more often than she normally does. Also be aware of the consistency of the vomit: If it’s mucousy, there may be a serious problem. If it’s merely a meal that was eaten too quickly, it’s probably not anything you need to see a vet for. Sometimes, if the dog is ill, she’ll vomit up her meals. If she continues vomiting with nothing coming up, you can be certain there’s something to be concerned about — she could be choking.

If your dog is vomiting her meal, isolate her from other pets to prevent possible contagion. Stop feeding her for 12 to 24 hours, but make sure she gets plenty of water and ice cubes.
Take your dog to the vet to have her checked for disease or any other possibilities.

If You Lose Your Dog

Although it’s easy to go crazy when you lose your dog, you need to remain level-headed and calm to give your dog the best chance of making it back to you safe and sound.

Before your dog is lost: Getting proper identification

Modern microchipping is the best way of ensuring that, if found, your dog will be returned to you. A microchip is a small transmitter bearing your name, address, and phone number that is easily scanned by a handheld device owned by most veterinarians, humane societies, and animal shelters. The microchip is injected under your dog’s skin along her shoulders. There is very little discomfort to the dog during the insertion, and it’s a permanent form of identification, giving you peace of mind.
Another great way of permanently IDing your dog is a tattoo. A tattoo does cause some discomfort to your dog during the inking process, but it lets people know how to contact you if the dog is found, and it’s highly visible — no scanner is required as with microchips. Tattoos are often placed on an inner thigh of the dog’s hind leg. The number inked can be your driver’s license number or a specific number registered with a national registry. Either way you will be contacted. As with a microchip, the tattoo cannot be removed or fall off. Whether your dog has her collar on or not, the tattoo is with her.
Even though ID tags can either fall off or be removed, I always make sure my animals have theirs on their collars along with their rabies tags and licenses. An ID tag should list your name, the city where you live, and your phone number. You can also get a dog collar with your information stitched into the material.

What to do when your dog is lost

If your dog is lost, start by contacting your neighbors. Chances are, they’ve seen your dog and either are holding on to her for you or saw the direction she went.
If nobody near you saw your dog escape, contact your friends and family and ask for help searching for your dog. Fill them in on your dog’s canine friends she hangs out with, a pond she enjoys swimming in, a park she where loves to run. Search all these places. Most dogs prefer to remain in familiar territory — they just like to go on social walkabouts from time to time.
If a search of your dog’s favorite places turns up nothing, notify the local animal-control office and shelters. Often, when people find a stray dog, that’s the first place they call. Even if nobody has called yet, leave your name, phone number, and a description of your dog in case someone calls in the next few days.
If your mixed breed hasn’t been found within 24 hours, make signs with a recent photo of your dog. Be sure to list your contact information, written large and clearly. If you can, offer a small reward. Don’t specify the amount on the sign — just say, “Reward Offered.”
by Miriam Fields-Babineau