How to Give Basic First Aid to a Dog

A pet first aid kit


Today, I am going to show you how to handle the horrible situation when your dog or somebody else's dog suffers an injury. Who do you call? Where do you go? What items do you need? Here are some pet first aid tips. This dog first aid guide has been created to help you in many situations where first aid may be required for your pets, someone else’s pet, or any animal in the wild. 


How to Give Basic First Aid to a Dog


Disclaimer: I am not a vet. Please accept this as guidance on what to do on an adventure based on our experience and from speaking to others. 


Why is first aid for pets important?


Here is a run down of what happened to me and my dog Francis when he managed to snap off his Dewclaw. What is a Dewclaw you may ask? Take a look at the picture below. 


dew claw



Blood was pouring, he was upset but keeping a stiff upper lip and my tired arms and back were trying to carry him half a mile home. I had no k9 emergency medical training. I was gutted for him and angry at myself for not having any idea on what to do. No Uber was going to take me to a vet with blood all on my t-shirt and carrying a 13kg dog for over a mile was a little harder than I expected!


Dog first aid with injured paw 


The Beginners Guide



Step 1


First, identify if it Is an emergency based on the list below? If any of these get the green light ✔ then swiftly move to step 2.


  • ⁃  Is your pet unconscious? 
  • ⁃  Are they struggling to breathe? 
  • ⁃  Are they having a seizure? 
  • ⁃  Is there any severe bleeding or gaping wounds? 
  • ⁃  Have they eaten something toxic? 
  • - Are they choking on something? 


If you feel this is not an emergency, then you may be able to use some pet first aid supplies to help your pet and then make your way back home or to safety without too much worry.


Step 2


Next, in an emergency scenario you need to do the following:


  • ⁃  Secure your pet if possible so they do not run away and hide
  • ⁃  You should remain calm despite the worrying situation
  • ⁃  Utilise any items to stop bleeding, create warmth, or to improve comfort 
  • ⁃  Check your phone has battery and signal or use somebody nearby
  • ⁃  If you have no technology or help nearby then go to step 4



First aid for unconscious dogs


  1. Be switched on and ready to take action and don't panic 
  2. Are they showing any signs of being responsive or are they completely unresponsive? 
  3. Check just behind the elbow on the chest for any sign of a pulse
  4. If there is no, pulse then your primary concern is to get the heart beating again 
  5. Turn the dog on its back, hands linked together and place palms facing outwards on either side of the chest. Compressions should be a 1 press 2 press 1 wait, 1 press 2 press 1 wait. Do this five times then breathe into the nostrils for 3 seconds and repeat again five times. Do this for 10 to 20 times per minute. (5 compressions to every breath of air). 
  6. If you get a response then you need to go to a vet and ensure you check the gums, if they are nice and pink then shock may have been avoided. 


My dog can't seem to catch their breath and might be choking

 First aid for a choking dog

  1. If a dog is choking they will panic just like you or I would. Restraint is key, so you need to be strong with them to hold them in place and prevent them from running around. 
  2. The first sign of choking is if the dog is coughing. 
  3. You will need to use tweezers or potentially your fingers just try and remove any foreign objects from their airway. 
  4. As a last resort you will need to perform the Heimlich manoeuvre. 
  5. Once you have removed the object, they will still need to urgently visit the vets because the time they lacked oxygen could cause ongoing issues. 


 What to do if your dog can't breathe

 This video shows how to help a choking dog. 

  1. Stay calm 
  2. Open their mouth carefully and check inside for anything obvious 
  3. For a small dog, hold them upside down and GENTLY shake them or use wheelbarrow position 
  4. Use a Heimlich manoeuvre by finding the natural gap after the ribs, use the thumb part of your fist under the abdomen with the other hand over the top and push upwards towards their chest up to five times.




First aid for seizures

  1. Signs of a seizure can include collapsing, stiffening up, muscle twitching and a loss of consciousness. 
  2. A variety of issues could cause a seizure to happen and this would be difficult to determine at the time if it has never happened before. 
  3. A typical seizure can be handled by being in a safe location, keeping them cool and comforting them. 
  4. If it continues and persists happening over and over again, then it could be a cluster seizure which will require urgent attention from a vet. 

Should you feed a dog after a seizure?

Very small amounts of food are ok but you must take care to not cause them to vomit. 

    First aid for bleeding

    1. Your primary aim is to control and slow down the blood loss. 
    2. You can do this by applying pressure to the area using a towel or a gauze. 
    3.  Bleeding can happen from different parts of the body especially on a pet who is overly adventurous. For the paws, use a towel and apply it to the paw and hold in place. For a leg injury, try to elevate the leg and apply a towel to the wound. For the body, wrap them up and apply pressure with a towel but if a foreign object has pierced the body, do not try and remove it yourself. For the ears, apply a cloth to the area to try and step it bleeding. 
    4. For more superficial cuts and bleeding that are not deemed severe, you can use a spray on plaster. Try to use it on them when they are not aware of it. Dogs will avoid the sound of an aerosol can being sprayed near them so catch them off guard if you can. 

    First aid for a poisoned dog 

    1. Signs of poisoning include: Difficulty breathing, vomiting, salivating non stop, bloating, loss of coordination and lethargy. 
    2. For a sanity check on this, call the animal poison line or vet. The number for the animal poison line is 01202 509 000 Calls cost £30 per case. Poison Line
    3. If your dog is not a Brachycephalic breeds (vomiting hazard), then you could try 3% hydrogen peroxide in an absolute emergency but this really is a last resort and what are the chances of you having this when you are out adventuring?

    Now contact an emergency vet near you using the details in step 3.



    Step 3

     Next, contact an emergency service (Do not call 999 or 911). 

    • ⁃ is a digital vet clinic available 24 hours a day in many countries including the US, UK, and European countries. You can have a vet on camera asap if required and it would give you great peace of mind depending on how bad the situation is. 


    To find a vet near you, think clearly and do what should be obvious but isn't always when stress and anxiety kicks in. 

    1. ⁃  Open Google on your phone and click on ‘Maps’ or search for Google Maps on your phone
    2. ⁃  In the map search box type ‘vets near me’
    3. ⁃  Click on the directions button for any that are near you as seen in the screenshots below




     Google maps


     Google map


    Step 4 

    • ⁃  If you have no use of technology, you will need to make your way to a vet or you need to find other people to ask if you can use their phones. 
    • ⁃  During this unpleasant journey, you should try to keep your pet warm and as comfortable as possible


    I hope by following the steps outlined you have managed to either fix the situation with some basic first aid supplies, contact a vet by mobile or video call or managed to safely make your way to a local vet to ensure you are all safe and well on your travels.



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