Dog Health and First Aid

Accidents happen. When one happens to your dog, you may need to perform some first aid, stabilize or comfort your pet and/or get professional help. Knowing how to tell the difference between a minor injury and a serious one, as well as knowing how to provide the proper care, can quite literally mean life or death.

Contents of Your Canine First Aid Kit

Dog owners can treat minor injuries if they have the appropriate remedies, tools and equipment on hand when an accident occurs. Therefore, it’s essential to carry a fully stocked first aid kit with you at all times. A good idea is to keep a first aid kit in your car, one in your house and one in a bag that you can carry on outings. A well-stocked first aid kit will come in handy for you as well as your pet.

What you will need in your first aid kit will depend on where you and your dog will be, what you will be doing and your dog’s medical condition. There are, however, a number of basic items all canine first aid kits should contain, including:

  • ace athletic bandages
  • allergy capsules
  • buffered aspirin
  • eye and ear wash/syringe
  • gauze sponges and bandages
  • hydrocortisone acetate cream
  • hydrogen peroxide
  • muzzle
  • Pepto Bismol® tablets
  • petroleum jelly
  • rectal thermometer
  • rubbing alcohol
  • scissors
  • sterile pads and tape
  • triple-antibiotic ointment
  • tweezers.

If you’re traveling, bring your first aid kit and add the following first aid items:

  • portable water and food dishes
  • paperwork of the dog’s medical history, including the dog’s health record, a list of his medications and your regular veterinarian’s telephone number.
  • When you’re in the field, such as on a hiking or camping trip, also include these first aid items:
  • a blanket
  • re-sealable plastic bags
  • splints.
  • Also include any products in your first aid kit that you think might be needed during your trip.
  • Treat in the Field
  • Only the most minor injuries should be treated in the field without follow-up vet care. Generally, you can safely treat the following injuries in the field:
  • bruised pads
  • insect stings
  • minor lacerations.

If you aren’t sure if you can treat your dog’s injury, or if you think your pet has sustained a serious injury, phone your vet immediately.

Treat in the Field and See Vet upon Return

Many injuries that occur while out with your dog can be treated with the items in a well-stocked first aid kit. If your pet gets something in his eye or a thorn in his paw, for example, you can typically help him with minor effort.

Be aware, however, that many injuries treated in the field should be reported to your veterinarian. Even a simple cut can get infected and can lead to serious illness. For the most part, though, notifying your vet is only a precaution that can typically be handled over the phone.

Stabilize and Seek Professional Veterinary Care

Typically, the only time experts recommend stabilizing your pet before you seek veterinary care is when transport would aggravate the injury. For example, if there are obvious signs of a broken bone, you’d want to try to provide some initial first aid and immobilize the area with a make-shift split before transport. Additionally, an animal in the midst of a seizure may need to be stabilized before transport.

You might also need to stabilize your pet before transporting if you are alone. For example, if your dog is bleeding excessively, take the time to make some kind of tourniquet, as you will not be able to apply pressure while driving.

In these cases, act as quickly as possible to stabilize your pet with what you have in your first aid kit so you can quickly reach the vet’s office.

Seek Professional Veterinary Care Immediately

The easiest way to determine if you need to seek veterinary care for your sick dog is to assess his level of trauma. Any injury that threatens your dog’s life should be treated immediately by a vet.

The following serious injuries require immediate medical care:

  • bleeding that will not stop
  • irregular heartbeat
  • pale gums
  • respiratory distress
  • sustained vomiting or diarrhea.
  • Common Ways Dogs Get Injured

There are as many ways for dogs to get injured, including:

Dog Fights: Fights between dogs of similar sizes typically don’t result in serious injury. Still, you should inspect your dog carefully for signs of injury and apply pressure to any lacerations.

If, however, there are any wounds on the chest or abdomen, if your dog can’t stand or if there are signs of respiratory distress, contact your vet immediately.

Heatstroke: Heat, no access to water and extreme stress can all contribute to heatstroke. Symptoms of heatstroke include:

  • diarrhea
  • elevated body temperature
  • excessive panting
  • slobbering
  • vomiting.

If your dog is suffering from heatstroke, move him to a cool, shady area. Next, soak him with cold water, rubbing his extremities until his body temperature returns to normal. If his temperature does not drop quickly, contact a vet.

Poison: If your pet has ingested somethingpoisonous, contact a veterinarian immediately.

To determine what treatment will be most effective, you will need to know what your dog ingested. For many poisons, vomiting is the first step of treatment. You can induce vomiting by administering hydrogen peroxide one tablespoon at a time.

Traffic Accidents: When your dog gets hit by a car, you should always seek vet care immediately. Make sure there is no damage to the spinal cord, and then take your dog to the vet. While in transit, apply pressure to stop any bleeding.

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