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10 common dog first aid problems

As published in Canadian Dogs Annual
10 common dog first aid problems

Chances are, you’ll experience one or more health emergencies with your dog during his lifetime – so it’s beneficial to know some first aid procedures.

The first step in any emergency, of course, is to call your veterinarian for professional help, but there are also things you can do to help your dog until you can reach the clinic. Here are some of the most common emergencies a dog owner might experience, and some useful tips on how to assess the problem, administer first aid care, and stabilize an injured dog.

1. Allergic reactions

Clinical signs include sudden swelling in the facial area, or hives. The dog may become restless, and experience vomiting and diarrhea. Severe anaphylactic reactions are rare. Possible culprits for a reaction are insect bites, food allergies and vaccinations, with symptoms usually occurring within 30 minutes of exposure. If clinical signs are mild, you can try orally administering benadryl (diphenhydramine) at a dose of 2 to 4 mg/kg every eight hours, and giving oral homeopathic Apis (available at your health store) every few hours. Clinical signs should resolve within 24 hours.

2. Toxin ingestion

If your dog has consumed any suspicious substance, call your vet or poison control centre to determine if action is required. If it is not a corrosive substance, and was swallowed within the last hour, vomiting may be indicated. If your veterinarian agrees, try inducing vomiting by giving 3% hydrogen peroxide (0.5 to 1 ml/lb) by mouth.

3. Wounds and burns

Be aware that injured dogs are likely to be in a lot of pain, so it may be helpful to muzzle him with a leash, rope or long piece of gauze to prevent him from biting you. If he has suffered a bite or cut, put pressure on the wound to stop any bleeding. If the bleeding is minor, flush the wound with copious amounts of lukewarm water. For burns, do not break any blisters or apply butter-like substances. Bandage with clean gauze and keep the bandages wet. Even minor wounds should be seen by your veterinarian for assessment and treatment in case of infection. Homeopathic Arnica (available at drug and health food stores) can help with pain and bruising.

4. Foreign objects

If you see your dog swallow a foreign object such as a rock, piece of clothing, a ball, toy or dental floss, he may be in danger of a gastrointestinal obstruction or intestinal tear – get him to a vet ASAP. Examine the underside of the tongue for any string, or anything caught in the throat. Hydrogen peroxide can be used to induce vomiting, if deemed safe by your veterinarian.

5. Blunt force trauma

If your dog has suffered serious trauma from a car accident or fall, he may have significant internal bleeding or broken bones. Secure any possible broken bones with a wooden splint or thick bandage. Use a blanket to gently transport your dog. If significant bleeding occurs, apply pressure and use bandages or cloth to firmly wrap the wounds. The Chinese remedy Yunnan Bai Yao can be administered orally to help stop bleeding. Keep him warm and transport him to your veterinarian as soon as possible.

6. Frostbite and hypothermia

Hypothermia occurs if the dog’s core temperature drops below 32°C. Areas of the body most commonly affected by frostbite are the tips of the ears, tail and foot pads. Move the dog to a warm environment and wrap him in warm blankets. Apply warm water bottles to the armpits and groin areas, or place him on a heating pad (wrap bottles and pads in towels to protect the skin from thermal burns). You can also immerse your dog in a warm (not too hot) bath. Do not rub any areas of the skin you suspect are frostbitten, and be aware that amputation of frozen tissue may be necessary.

7. Seizures

These can be caused by a variety of conditions, including epilepsy, congenital defects and toxin ingestion. The dog will often collapse and experience uncontrollable shaking for no longer than three minutes. Remain calm, and make sure he is on the floor and away from sharp or hard objects. Glance at the clock to record the seizure’s duration. Firm acupressure just below the nose, and on the top of the head between the ears, may help hasten the end of the seizure.

8. Heatstroke

A dog suffering from heatstroke may display clinical signs such as rapid panting, bright red tongue, weakness, vomiting, shock and coma. Remove him from the hot area immediately. Attempt to lower his temperature by wetting him down with cool to lukewarm water (not too cold, or it will slow blood circulation), and putting him near a fan. His rectal temperature should be checked every few minutes until his body temperature reaches 39°C. Even if your dog appears to recover, take him to the veterinarian immediately as further internal complications and dehydration are concerns.

9. Skunk spray

Since most dog owners don’t have a specific odour remover at hand, try this homemade recipe:

  • 1 quart 3% hydrogen peroxide
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon liquid soap

Apply it to his coat, leave on for a few minutes, and repeat several times with a new solution each time. The odour of skunk on your dog is often priority number one, but don’t forget to check him over for bite wounds, and make sure his rabies status is up to date. If his eyes are irritated, he may need an eye ointment from your veterinarian, or try homeopathic Euphrasia.

10. Porcupine quills

They have barbs on the end that make them difficult to remove. Stop your dog from pawing at the quills,
as they can migrate under the skin. If there are only a few, and you want to attempt to remove them on your own, use a pair of pliers, grab the quill as close to the skin as possible, and pull straight out. Don’t try to cut the quills beforehand. If there are quills in the mouth, chest, or broken off under the skin, seek veterinary attention immediately, as they can be potentially life-threatening.

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