Staying Prepared with First-Aid Basics

Staying Prepared with First-Aid Basics

In This Chapter

  • Keeping important items in a canine first-aid kit
  • Trying your hand at basic first-aid techniques
  • Knowing what to do in emergency situations

Hopefully you’ll never have to deal with a canine health emergency, but, as is the essence of an emergency, you can’t predict when or if one will happen. Emergencies are unexpected situations that call for quick action. Your best course of action is to follow the Scout motto and “be prepared” to act if your Poodle needs your help. In this chapter, I describe the must-haves for your Poodle’s first-aid kit; I show you how to perform basic first-aid techniques; and I explain what you can do in specific emergencies to rescue your beloved pet.


The most important thing to do in all circumstances is to get your Poodle to a veterinarian as soon as possible. First aid is just a way to control a situation until you can get professional help. Don’t spend more time on first aid than is absolutely necessary.

Stocking the Essentials in Your Canine First-Aid Kit

You have a first-aid kit for your family or yourself (I hope!), stocked with everything from bandages to antibacterial cream. And, because your Poodle is part of your family, you should have one for her as well. You can buy an official canine first-aid kit from a catalog or at a pet-supply store, or you can stock some basic supplies that you buy individually to create your own; in the following sections, I give you lists of traditional and holistic products to include.


In your residence, designate one shelf in a cabinet for your Poodle’s first-aid supplies, or store them in a small box that can travel throughout your home. If you travel with your Poodle, you should keep a small first-aid kit in your vehicle. A tube of antibiotic ointment, some gauze pads, and some aspirin may suffice for your portable kit.

Traditional medicines

The following list presents the traditional items you can include in your Poodle’s first-aid kit (a pre-made kit should contain most of these items). You use many of these products for human emergencies, too, so don’t let the length of the list scare you.

Vet wrap and adhesive tape: Vet wrap holds bandages or splints in place, and it won’t stick to your Poodle’s hair. If you keep the hair on your Poodle’s flaps long (see Chapter Providing Your Poodle with a Nutritious Diet for more on grooming), you may already have vet wrap with your grooming supplies. If not, you can find the wrap in pet-supply catalogs and stores. Put a roll with your first-aid supplies as well. Adhesive tape can hold bandages in place, too, but it can make a mess of your Poodle’s coat and could pull hair and hurt your dog when you remove it.

Antibiotic ointments: For use on scrapes and shallow cuts. I use a triple antibiotic cream, which is available at drug stores.

Artificial tears: Apply to your Poodle’s irritated eyes.

Benadryl: For allergic reactions (such as those that often come with insect stings). Give one milligram per pound of body weight.

Betadine: You can readily find this antiseptic in the pharmaceutical department of grocery stores or in drug stores. You use it to treat minor cuts, and doctors use it to prepare the skin prior to surgery. It contains 10 percent povidone-iodine.

Children’s aspirin: For fever or pain, adult-strength aspirin is fine for a Standard Poodle; most vets recommend buffered aspirin. You also can cut an adult tablet in half or in quarters if you don’t have any children’s aspirin for Toy or Miniature Poodles. Give one tablet for every 10 to 15 pounds of body weight.


Don’t ever give your Poodle ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, or acetaminophen. It can be fatal.

Cotton balls: Good for applying salves or for the external application of liquid medicines. In a pinch, a cotton ball can replace a gauze pad.

Gauze: A roll of gauze can secure dressings on wounds your Poodle may have. You can purchase various sizes of gauze pads; the size you get depends on the wound and the size of your Poodle.

Hemostats and/or tweezers: You use these tools to remove slivers, or large bits of debris that may be stuck in a wound. You may already have hemostats in your grooming kit for removing flap hair (see Chapter Providing Your Poodle with a Nutritious Diet for more about grooming).

Hydrocortisone ointment: For use on bug bites or rashes.

Hydrogen peroxide: A product used to clean and disinfect wounds. You also can use hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting, if your dog has ingested something poisonous and you know what the substance is. If you already have a large bottle of hydrogen peroxide, you can cross syrup of ipecac off your supply list.


Hydrogen peroxide loses strength in storage. You should replace it yearly if not opened and more often if opened.


If you suspect your dog has ingested a cleaning product, do not induce vomiting. The caustic chemicals will burn your dog’s esophagus and mouth.

Kaopectate: Helps control diarrhea. Give one teaspoon for every five pounds of body weight, at a clip of every four hours.

Petroleum jelly: Can sooth minor scrapes or burns.

Rubber gloves: Can make dealing with assorted bodily fluids much nicer.

Scissors: For cutting gauze or vet wrap.

Syringes: You should stock 3-, 6-, and 12-centimeter syringes for administering liquid medications. They can make it easier to get your dog to swallow hydrogen peroxide or Kaopectate, for instance.

Syrup of ipecac: Give by mouth to induce vomiting if your Poodle ingests a poison. You can find the syrup at your pharmacy.

Thermometer: For taking your Poodle’s temperature. Normal temperature for a dog is between 100 and 102 degrees Fahrenheit.

Veterinarian’s phone number: Keep an index card inscribed with your veterinarian’s phone number and the number of your local emergency clinic on your Poodle’s medical supplies shelf or in her first-aid kit.

Veterinary first-aid manual: Most pet-supply stores and many book stores sell canine first-aid manuals.

Holistic medicines

You may prefer holistic choices for your Poodle’s first-aid kit. Some people consider more natural products better than products that contain synthetic chemicals, and some holistic products may have fewer side effects. Many health-food stores and some larger petsupply stores may have holistic choices. The following are good holistic items you can add to the kit:

Aloe vera: A product that helps to relieve pain and itching in and around hot spots, insect bites, and other skin irritations. Along with being nontoxic, Aloe vera has a bitter taste, so it may discourage your Poodle from licking and biting at problem areas.

Arnica gel: For use on sprains and bruises to reduce pain and swelling.

Calendula gel: Apply this gel to scrapes and wounds to promote healing. It has antiseptic properties and can help reduce swelling.

Cayenne pepper: You can sprinkle this pepper on a wound to stop the bleeding.

Comfrey ointment: Good for minor scrapes and wounds. Comfrey contains allantoin, which speeds up the natural replacement of cells and promotes healing.

Rescue remedy: A mixture of five of the single Bach essences (see Chapter Taking Basic Care of Your Poodle’s Health for more details). You use the remedy to treat shock, collapse, or trauma.

Performing Basic First-Aid Techniques on Your Poodle

Having a sound knowledge of canine first-aid techniques makes it easier to be calm and collected during times of injury or crisis. During an emergency, you may feel the need to panic, but you need to stay calm in order to help your Poodle. Your instincts will tell you to hurry, but resist the temptation to act without thinking first. Improper handling can further injure your dog. I once took a class in animal first aid, and the vet teaching the class advised that the first step in treating an emergency is to take a deep breath. Sound breathing coupled with knowledge can pave the way to good health!


Taking an animal first-aid class is a good way to prepare yourself for emergency situations. Having some basic knowledge allows you to help your Poodle until you can get to your vet’s office, and it helps you to remain calm. Many Red Cross branches offer animal first-aid classes.

The following sections present some basic first-aid techniques that you should know in case your Poodle ever needs medical assistance.

Taking your Poodle’s temperature and pulse

Knowing how to take your Poodle’s temperature gives you a method for gauging how sick or injured your pet may be. A Poodle’s normal temperature should be between 100 and 102 degrees. Anything below 100 or over 102 means that your Poodle needs treatment; call your vet right away.


A rectal thermometer is the way to go for taking your Poodle’s temperature. You can ask for guidance on the technique during a regular visit to your vet’s office for a checkup. Practice taking your dog’s temperature before an emergency arises.

You also should prepare for an emergency by finding out how to take your Poodle’s pulse. Trying to find your pet’s pulse for the first time during an emergency probably won’t work. To take your Poodle’s pulse, use the femoral artery on the upper portion of her rear leg, near where the leg joins the body on the inside. Find the top bone of your dog’s leg, the femur, and then move your fingers forward until you feel the artery. (See Chapter Socializing Your Poodle for an illustration of the parts of a Poodle.)
Ask your vet during a routine visit to show you how to find the pulse if you have trouble on your own. Make a note of your Poodle’s normal pulse rate. A normal rate for a dog is between 80 and 140 beats per minute. The smaller the dog, the higher the number.

Muzzling your Poodle

If your Poodle is severely injured, you should muzzle her before giving her treatment. Even the most loving dog may snap when she’s frightened or hurt. You can buy a muzzle from a pet-supply catalog or a pet-supply shop. Keep it with your first-aid kit so you can find it in a pinch (see the earlier section on this topic). If you don’t have one on hand for an emergency, you can try to make a muzzle with a scarf, panty hose, or a length of rope.


Don’t put a muzzle on your Poodle if she’s having trouble breathing. Use a blanket, a magazine, or newspaper to wrap around your dog’s head, with the material extending beyond her muzzle. You can hold the material in place with gauze, adhesive tape, or vet wrap. A blanket or newspaper will protect you from your Poodle’s snapping jaws, but it won’t hinder your Poodle’s breathing.

To muzzle your Poodle with a scarf, a nylon stocking, or man’s tie, follow these steps:

1. Stand behind your Poodle or straddle her to avoid her attempts at bites while you apply the muzzle.

2. Bring the material up from under her jaw and tie a halfknot on top of her muzzle.

3. Bring the ends of the material down and tie another half knot on the underside of your dog’s muzzle.

4. Tie the ends behind your Poodle’s head. Use an easyrelease knot such as a half hitch, or tie the ends in a bow.

Moving your Poodle safely


If your Poodle has severe injuries, you need to take her to your vet’s office for emergency care. For the trip, you should consider transporting her on a blanket or a board — especially if you suspect she has spinal cord damage. You want to move her around as little as possible, and a board helps this cause.

Try to shift your dog onto the board or blanket all at once. If you have a Toy or Miniature Poodle, gently scoop the dog up, using both hands to keep her as still as possible. With a Standard Poodle, slip your hands under her body at the shoulders and hips and ease her onto a board or blanket. If you have help, all the better.
Be sure to put your Poodle in a secure position in the car, where she won’t slide off a seat if the car suddenly stops.

Giving artificial respiration

During a medical emergency, your Poodle may stop breathing. Advanced heatstroke, poisoning, electrocution, a car accident, or a dogfight: All these emergencies can cause injuries that lead to your Poodle no longer being able to breathe on her own (see the following section for treatment advice for some of these emergencies). You need to start artificial respiration until your dog can breathe on her own or until you reach medical help. Follow these steps to start artificial respiration:

1. Extend your Poodle’s neck by gently grasping her jaw and pulling forward.

2. Clear any mucus or debris from her mouth.

3. Pull her tongue forward.

4. Breathe into her nose, closing your mouth tightly over her nose holes, for three seconds.

5. Rest for two seconds.

6. Continue Steps 4 and 5 until your Poodle can breathe on her own or until you reach your vet’s office.


If you don’t want to put your mouth around your Poodle’s nose for respiration, you can use the top of a water bottle. Find a bottle appropriate for the size of your Poodle, and cut off the top below the narrow mouth. (To be prepared, you can keep a bottle at the ready with your first-aid equipment.) The bottle won’t form as effective a seal as your mouth, but it will work.

Another method of artificial respiration is the compression method, although if you suspect that your Poodle has internal injuries, this method may cause more damage. To perform the compression method on a Poodle without internal injury, follow these steps:

1. Place both of your hands on your Poodle’s side, near her last ribs.

2. Press down and release quickly.

3. Try to complete 12 compressions per minute, or about one every five seconds.

If you have another person with you, he or she can drive you to the veterinarian’s office while you continue with the compressions.


The compression method isn’t CPR. The compressions are to the lungs, not the heart, and are in place of breathing into the dog’s nose.

Treating shock

A dog, like a human, can go into shock after experiencing any traumatic injury. Shock can result from being in a car accident, from being electrocuted, from getting poisoned, or from a near-drowning experience. Shock manifests itself as a circulation problem; its symptoms may include the following:

– Shallow, rapid breathing

– A rapid pulse rate (see the earlier section “Taking your Poodle’s temperature and pulse”)

– Pale mucus membranes

– Cool skin and legs

– Staring eyes

A dog in shock also can be unconscious. Follow these steps to treat your Poodle if she goes into shock:

1. Make sure your Poodle is breathing by feeling her chest and putting your hand by her nose.

Clear her airway and start artificial respiration if necessary (see the previous section for details).

2. Wrap her in blankets, towels, or even newspapers — any material that will conserve heat.


Never use heating pads or lamps to keep your dog warm. If they get too hot, your Poodle won’t be able to move away, and she may suffer burns.

3. Try to keep your Poodle quiet.

Don’t let her struggle or move around, even if she appears to be feeling better. Keep her quiet and warm.

4. Get your Poodle to the vet immediately.

Remember that first aid is just a means of stabilizing your dog until she can get proper medical attention.


In the event of a serious injury, treat your Poodle for shock before you see any symptoms. Don’t wait! Try to stop any serious bleeding and keep her warm and quiet until you can get medical attention.

Coming to Your Poodle’s Rescue in Specific Emergencies

Although any emergency involving an injury to your Poodle can be life-threatening, emergencies come with degrees of danger. Head wounds, for example, bleed profusely and seem dire, but they may not be as life-threatening as internal damage caused by poisoning. A broken bone is serious, but if properly treated, it may not be as bad as a puncture wound that collapses your Poodle’s lung.
Chances are, you’ll never have to splint a leg, cover a chest wound, or protect an injured eye. Your Poodle probably won’t chew on an electric cord or get into poison. But, just in case, you should know how to rescue your Poodle if she does have a major accident. The following sections show you how to deal with your Poodle during serious emergencies until you can get her to your veterinarian’s office.


If your Poodle sustains a serious injury, call your vet immediately, give him a brief description of your Poodle’s situation, and tell him that you’re on the way. You may not think you have time to make the call, but that information can help save time at the vet’s office. The call gives the vet’s staff time to prepare for your dog’s arrival and lets them know what kind of problem they’ll soon be facing.

Lacerations and bleeding

Surface cuts and scrapes on your Poodle’s skin may bleed, but they’re not necessarily life-threatening. You should wash a minor cut thoroughly, which may be all the attention it needs. You can add some antibiotic ointment to prevent infection (see the section “Traditional medicines” earlier in this chapter). This method works for all minor cuts except those on the head; head wounds bleed heavily, even if they aren’t serious.
If your Poodle has a wound with heavy bleeding that doesn’t show signs of stopping, apply pressure with a bandage, and get to your vet’s immediately. If you don’t have a bandage handy, use a sanitary napkin or a towel. If all you have is your hand, use it. Bottom line: You need to curtail the bleeding as much as possible, as sanitarily as possible, until you can get professional help.


Use a tourniquet only as a last resort — in other words, if you’re certain that your dog will die without it. A tourniquet stops the blood flow completely, and because of this, the tissue below the tourniquet starts to die. If you must use a tourniquet, tighten it only enough to stop the bleeding, and get to your vet as fast as possible.

Different types of wounds

Wounds that your Poodle could sustain vary in seriousness. I explain how to handle different wounds in the sections that follow.

Puncture wounds

Puncture wounds are small, deep wounds created when a sharp object penetrates deep into your Poodle’s skin. If your Poodle gets in a fight with another dog, she can receive puncture wounds from teeth. Your dog also may step on a nail, tack, or sharp stick.
If your Poodle gets a puncture wound, clean it with hydrogen peroxide and leave it open to the air. After you clean it, talk to your veterinarian about applying an antibiotic, and keep an eye on the wound to make sure it doesn’t become infected.
In a car accident — or if your dog impales herself on a larger object — a puncture wound could penetrate your Poodle’s chest cavity. If that happens, try to make the wound as airtight as possible to facilitate breathing. You can use kitchen plastic wrap or even a plastic bag to seal the area if you have one handy. If not, do the best you can.


If the object that created the wound is still in place, don’t remove it. Pulling out the object could cause more damage and heavier bleeding. Leave it in place and let your veterinarian remove it.

Eye injuries

Eye injuries to Poodles aren’t common, but they can happen. If you notice a cut or laceration in one of your Poodle’s eyes, or if one of her eyelids is bleeding, put a gauze pad gently over the eye. Just remember the word gently, because too much pressure can damage the eye further. If you see blood inside the eyeball, get to your vet’s office immediately.

Internal injuries


You may not be able to see some of your Poodle’s worst wounds. If your dog gets hit by a car or gets in a fight with another dog, she may suffer some internal damage. She may look just fine, but she could have severe bruising, muscle injury, or organ damage. Your dog may go into shock (I show you how to treat shock earlier in this chapter), or her injured tissue may break down and overwhelm her kidneys. If your Poodle goes through a dangerous, traumatic situation, get her to the vet’s office for a checkup, even if she acts fine.

Broken bones

Your Poodle can receive broken bones in many different ways. You could have a car accident, or your dog could slip and fall down some steps. If you have a Toy Poodle, you need to watch where you step, because you could be the cause of a broken bone.
I focus on broken ribs and legs in this section because you can’t bandage or splint other bones, such as the pelvis, back, or shoulder. In these cases, just get to the vet’s office as soon as possible.
If you suspect that your Poodle has broken or cracked ribs, gently wrap a bandage around the ribs to help hold them in place until you can get to the vet’s office. Don’t wrap the bandage too tightly, though; you don’t want to restrict your dog’s breathing.
If one of your Poodle’s legs is broken, you need to splint the leg and head for the vet’s office immediately. Follow these steps to fashion a splint:

1. Protect the leg with padding.

Use any kind of soft cloth or gauze pads if you have some handy.

2. Grab a stick or a piece of wood to use as a splint. Place the splint above and below the joints on either side of the break.

You also can roll a newspaper or magazine around the broken leg. Make sure the splint extends beyond the joints on either side of the break.

3. Tie the splint in place with strips of gauze, vet wrap, nylon, or a knee-high sock.

On the way to the vet’s office, do the best you can to keep your dog immobile. If you can find a helper to come along, great.


If the broken bone is protruding from the skin, don’t try to push it back into place. Cover the protrusion with gauze, stabilize the area as well as you can, and get immediate medical attention.


Poodles have long muzzles, which prevents heatstroke in most cases, but it can still happen. Heatstroke occurs when a dog can no longer cool her body. If you leave your Poodle in a hot car or in a yard with no shade or water, heatstroke can result. High humidity also can contribute. Symptoms of heatstroke include the following:

– Drooling

– Foaming at the mouth

– Vomiting

– Diarrhea

– A temperature over 106 degrees

– Collapsing

– Hot and dry skin

– Pale lips

If your Poodle is unconscious due to heatstroke, get to your vet’s office immediately. On the way, wrap your dog in damp towels and, if you have it, turn your air conditioning up. If your Poodle is conscious and you suspect that she’s suffering from heatstroke, follow these steps:

1. Move her into the shade.

2. Soak her with cold water.

3. Rinse her mouth with cold water, and offer her small amounts to drink.

4. Move her legs gently to increase circulation.

5. Get to your veterinarian’s office as soon as possible.


Waiting to see whether your Poodle’s temperature will come down could result in permanent brain damage if her temperature doesn’t drop.


If a dog stays outside for too long in stormy, windy, cold weather, she may suffer frostbite on exposed skin. Sensitive areas include the pads of the feet, the scrotum for males, and, depending on how you clip your Poodle (see Chapter Providing Your Poodle with a Nutritious Diet), the edges of the flaps.
If you see a pale patch of skin on your Poodle and she seems to be in pain, she may have a localized case of frostbite. Warm the affected area gradually with lukewarm water or a blanket. Don’t use a heating pad or a hair dryer. Also, don’t overheat the area, and never rub it to get it warm; you don’t want to further injure the damaged tissue. After the area has thawed, apply a bit of petroleum jelly or antibiotic cream to aid in healing.


After an area of skin or a pad has been damaged by frostbite, the area is even more susceptible in the future. You need to take great pains to make sure you protect that area from the cold when your Poodle is outside from that point on.


Providing a sweater for winter walks may protect exposed skin (depending on how you clip your Poodle). A coating of petroleum jelly on the pads helps protect against cold and irritation from salt, or you can buy special booties for your Poodle at a pet-supply store.


Dogs will put anything and everything into their mouths, and sometimes an “anything” gets stuck in a dog’s throat. If your Poodle is gagging, coughing, or pawing at her mouth, she could be choking.
You need to open her mouth and have a look in her throat, although she won’t want you to. Therefore, try to enlist help if you can, and follow these steps to rescue your Poodle:

1. Place the handle of a screwdriver between your Poodle’s back teeth to prevent her from chomping on your hand as you check her mouth and throat.

2. If you can see the object that’s blocking the airway, try to use your fingers or a pair of needle-nosed pliers to remove it.

3. If you can’t reach or see the blockage, lift your Poodle by her hind legs and shake her.

4. If that doesn’t dislodge the object, perform the Heimlich maneuver.

Make a fist and apply sudden, forceful pressure to her abdomen at the edge of her breastbone. Temper this action to the size of your Poodle; a Standard needs a bit more force than a Toy or Miniature.

If none of your efforts have any effect, get to your veterinarian’s office immediately.


After you remove the object, you have to deal with an aching Poodle. Her throat may be sore for a day or two, so switch to soft food or soak her kibble until she recovers.

Poisoning (including insect bites and stings)

You have dozens of products in and around your home that can poison your Poodle. Beautiful plants in the yard can be deadly if your Poodle decides to snack on them, and household cleaners are grave threats. If your Poodle has access to the garage, she may try to ingest antifreeze, gasoline, or kerosene. You need to dog-proof your residence just as you need to toddler-proof it if you have children. Don’t leave poisonous items where your Poodle can reach them, and make sure that your cupboard doors are securely shut so she can’t taste-test the cleaning supplies. (See Chapter Choosing the Best Poodle for You for more details on safely Poodle-proofing your home.)
Despite your best efforts, however, your Poodle may ingest something harmful. If you suspect that your dog has been poisoned, get her to your vet’s office immediately. Symptoms of poisoning may include any of the following:

– Abdominal pain

– Diarrhea

– Excessive drool

– Slow breathing

– Vomiting

– Weakness


Keep in mind that insect bites and stings, as well as reptile bites, are types of poison. If you notice a lump on your Poodle that seems tender or looks like a bite, and your Poodle seems ill, head for your vet’s office. If your Poodle’s breathing is labored, give her an antihistamine, such as Benadryl. You also can apply hydrocortisone to a bite or sting.

If you know what your dog has ingested, take a sample with you to the vet’s office. If you don’t know, but she has vomited, take a sample of the vomit.
If you know that your Poodle ate a plant or a certain food, such as chocolate, give her hydrogen peroxide to make her vomit. Give one or two teaspoons every five minutes until she vomits, and then get to the vet’s office


Never encourage vomiting if you don’t know what your Poodle ingested. Many cleaning products contain caustic ingredients that can do additional damage when vomited up. If you suspect that your Poodle has ingested a household cleaner, give her milk or vegetable oil to drink before you head to the vet’s office. These products dilute the caustic substance and coat and protect your Poodle’s digestive tract.


If you suspect that your Poodle has ingested a poisonous chemical or substance, and you can’t reach your vet, find help over the phone:

– Call the Pet Poison Helpline at 800-213-6680. The charge per case is $35.

– Call the ASPCA’s (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435. You must pay a $55 consultation fee, so have your credit card ready.


Electrocution poses the biggest threat when your Poodle is a curious puppy, eager to put everything she finds into her mouth and chew away. The danger comes when she decides to chew on an electrical cord. A downed wire also can put a Poodle of any age at risk.


If your Poodle chews through or comes in contact with a live wire, your first reaction is to grab your dog. Don’t! You risk being electrocuted along with her.

So, what should you do instead? Follow these steps:

1. Turn off the power to the electrical source, if possible.

2. Use a wooden stick or a broom/mop handle to move your Poodle away from the wire.

3. Get your Poodle to the vet immediately.

by Susan M.Ewing