Emergency Steps You Can Take – Then Call the Vet

MUZZLING FOR SAFETY: Any dog that is injured or frightened may bite. For an emergency muzzle, use cord, a necktie, piece of gauze or leash. Make a large loop, place over the dog’s muzzle and tie it. Quickly tighten the loop and bring the ends back along each side of his head. The muzzle should be snug but not so tight as to cause discomfort or interfere with circulation. Remove it as soon as possible since dogs perspire through their tongues.

CHOKING: Wrap the dog in a heavy blanket to keep him still. Remove the foreign object with pliers or fingers. Do not full on a thread or string – there may be a needle attached: get veterinary help.

HEATSTROKE: Never leave your dog unattended in direct sunlight or in a closed vehicle in warm weather. Heat can build up to an intolerable level in minutes causing brain damage or even death. Signs of heatstroke are panting, drooling, rapid pulse, fever and shock. Immediately immerse the dog in cool water (or use a hose) to lower his body temperature to normal (38.5 degrees C/101.5 degrees F). Do not go below this. Encourage a conscious animal to drink water, small amounts at a time, to replace body fluids.

EXTERNAL WOUNDS: Small wounds should be cleaned with soap and water. Then apply antiseptic and bandage. When possible, bring the fresh wound edges together and hold them in this position with adhesive tape. If an artery has been severed, bright red blood will spurt from the wound in time with the heart beat. This calls for a tourniquet, which should be placed on the limb between the wound and the heart. Loosen it every 15 minutes, then reapply. Blood escaping from a vein will be much darker in color and ooze – a pressure bandage will usually be sufficient. Clean the wound only when bleeding has subsided, and very gently. Bandage and seek veterinary help right away.

BURNS: Thermal – For heat burns first apply cold water or an ice pack for 20-30 minutes; follow with an antibiotic ointment. Caustic – For burns from corrosive chemicals, apply vinegar followed by an antibiotic preparation. Acid – Apply a paste of bicarbonate of soda (baking soda). Electrical – This usually produces extensive tissue damage and fluid in the lungs. If the dog is unconscious and not breathing, give artificial respiration. Get veterinary help as soon as possible.

CARDIAC ARREST: Lay the dog on his right side. Flex the left elbow and press firmly at this site (where the bent elbow meets the body) with the palm of your hand. Repeat at a rate of 60-80 per minute. Cardiac massage should be combined with artificial respiration (blowing into the nostrils with the mouth closed). Try to continue the compressions while giving artificial respiration. If you are alone, give a ratio of 15 compressions to one respiration. If you have help, give a ratio of five compressions to one respiration. To take your dog’s pulse, press the middle and index fingers against the inside of the animal’s hind leg, just below where it joins the body. The femoral artery crossed the thigh bone there.

RESPIRATORY ARREST: If your dog has stopped breathing, place him on his right side with head and neck extended. Gently draw the tongue forward and clear any objects from the mouth and throat. Place a hand on the ribs immediately behind the shoulder blades and use a sudden but gentle downward movement. Then, immediately release the pressure. This should be repeated at five second intervals. An alternative method is to hold the dog’s mouth closed and place your mouth over his nose. Exhale and force air into the chest and watch for the chest to expand; remove your mouth and allow it to deflate. Repeat 6-8 times per minute. Be careful – a distressed dog may bite.

TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS: Bleeding from any orifice can be evidence of serious internal injury. Transport the dog to your veterinarian at once. Paralysis or severe weakness of the limbs indicates a spinal injury – the vertebrae column should not be moved if at all possible. Carefully transfer the dog onto a stretched blanket (keeping it taut) or a board for the trip to the veterinarian.

SHOCK: Can follow almost any type of injury. Signs include shallow breathing; pale gray-colored mucous membranes; glassy eyes, dilated pupils and collapse. Keep the dog warm and quiet. Immediate professional help should be sought.

EYE IRRITATIONS: If you suspect there’s something in your dog’s eye, inspect it by gently parting the lids under a bright light. Rinse the surface of the eye and lids with plain water using an eye dropper or by squeezing a wad of cotton so it drips. Do not rub. If you can see the object, gently remove it with cotton.

FISH HOOKS: First cut off the barbed end with pliers, then gently push the remainder through. Apply antiseptic.

SKUNK: Wash the dog’s eyes with a mild boric acid solution – skunk spray is very irritating to the eyes. Bathe the dog using shampoo followed by a rinse of tomato juice or Coca Cola. Two or three treatments may be needed.

SNAKEBITE: Immobilize the animal immediately – exercise spreads venom through the system. If the bite is on a limb, apply a tourniquet between the bite and the body. Make linear cuts over the wound and apply a suction cup. Seek immediate veterinary aid. If traveling in snake country, it’s best to carry an anti-venom kit.

INSECT STINGS AND BITES: If you can see the stinger, pull it our with tweezers. Smear the area with a paste of baking soda and water.

PORCUPINE QUILLS: Check the mouth for quills. Usually these must be removed under anesthesia. Quills on other parts of the body may be grasped with pliers close to the skin, then twisted out. Be certain to remove the entire quill. Apply antiseptic.

DISTENDED ABDOMEN: If this is caused by gastric torsion it can kill within an hour. Torsion, a twisting of the stomach, particularly affects deep-chested breeds. The stomach enlarges as gas accumulates; other signs are rapid breathing, pain and collapse – followed shortly by death. Rush the dog to a veterinarian for surgical attention. To lessen chances of torsion, do not exercise your dog nor allow him to drink large quantities of water right after eating.

GIVING MEDICINES: Liquids – With your dog’s head angled upward, pull out the bottom lip at the side of the muzzle to form a pouch and pour the medicine in slowly – too fast and the dog may choke. Using a syringe or meat baster is often easier than a spoon. Practice with water. Pills – First place one hand over the dog’s upper jaw and, with your thumb and fingers on either side, open the mouth by pressing gently. With the other hand pull down the lower jaw, then place the pill well back on the tongue. Close the jaws, lift his head slightly and wait for the dog to swallow – stroking the throat may speed this. If this method fails, place the pill in a small piece of meat or cheese, giving the dog a few “unloaded” pieces first.


This information is intended as a reference only, not as a medical, training, or grooming manual. The information given here is designed to help you. It is not intended as a substitute for any care or treatment that may have been prescribed by your veterinarian or other animal professional. If you suspect that your pet has a medical, training or grooming problem, we urge you to seek competent, professional help.

This is information that I have gathered over the years. I have given credit to the authors that are known and noted where the authors were unknown.