First aid procedures

© Duhayer/Royal Canin

A dog's life may be threatened by an accident or the sudden onset of a stroke or disease, and it is important for anyone likely to be confronted with such a situation to be able to protect the dog from further accidents and alert the emergency services if necessary. The dog’s owner should also be capable of performing simple procedures to keep the animal alive until the vet can continue the treatment.

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© Diffomédia/Royal Canin

Protect, Alert, Prevent

Protect from further accidents

© Duhayer/Royal Canin

Access to the “danger” zone should be prohibited by setting up a safety perimeter. Injured or suffering dogs may become aggressive and bite.



- Whenever there is any danger concerning the animal.
- As soon as possible after a succinct and rapid analysis of the situation and the risks.


- If the dog or situation presents a danger for the public, call the emergency services (999).
- If the dog does not present any immediate danger for man:
- in the daytime call the closest veterinarian.
- at night, on Sundays and bank holidays call the closest on duty veterinarian to the site of the accident.

What should you say?

Knowing how to give a clear and succinct report is very important:
- Nature of the problem (fall, road traffic accident, etc.) and possible risks (fire, explosion, collapsed building, chemicals, a person has been bitten, etc.).
- Give a very precise location of the event.
- Number of dogs involved.
- Size, age and breed of the dog (wherever possible).
- Assessment of the severity of the dog’s condition.
- First measures taken and procedures performed.
- Contact details of the dog's owner (where available).
- Wait for any instructions before hanging up.

How to prevent further trauma

Dog injured on the road

1) The dog lets you approach and touch him

- Set up a safety perimeter with the help of other people.
- Move the dog carefully if necessary to prevent further accidents.
- Perform any first aid procedures where necessary.
- Call the emergency services (where injury or risk to people or property is involved) or the nearest vet and follow their instructions.

2) The dog does not allow you near him.

- Put barriers around the dog to create a safe perimeter and divert the traffic if necessary.
- Call the emergency services and specify that the dog could be dangerous (may bite, etc.). Follow their instructions.

Dog that suddenly falls ill

- Leave him in a calm, dimly lit place.
- Perform any first aid procedures where necessary.
- Call the veterinarian or the emergency vet and follow their instructions.

Moving a dog in an emergency


- Know when and how to move a dog.

- Move the animal away from the cause of its distress and from any risk of further accidents if it is unconscious or unable to move by itself.

Emergency situations

- The dog is lying on the road with heavy traffic.
- The dog is in a smoke-filled or burning room.
- The dog is threatened by a mudslide, landslide, flood or collapsed building.
- The dog has heat stroke or is in an overheated car or one that is about to burn.


If the dog is conscious, tie a strip of material around his muzzle before trying to move him. It is important to handle the dog with care to avoid aggravating any lesions.

Carrying a dog alone

- Pass one hand under the abdomen and the other under his neck.
- Or pass one hand behind the knees and the other under the neck or behind the forelimbs.

Carrying a dog between two people


- Place the dog on a rug or on a hard surface (plank), one takes the front and the other the back.
- Alternatively, one person carries the dog by the shoulders and the other carries the hind end.


- Carry a dog, whether you are familiar with it or not, without muzzling it first.
- Move a dog by pulling its legs.

Status and monitoring


Know how to observe the status of vital functions and recognise the signs of a life-threatening emergency. The body is made up of cells for which oxygen is essential; three functions participate in the distribution of oxygen throughout the body: the nerves, respiratory system and circulation.

A life-threatening emergency is defined as the failure of one or several of these functions which can rapidly lead to death. It is therefore important to be able to immediately recognise the signs of these failures to provide effective treatment before it’s too late.


Status of the vital functions

1 – Assess the state of consciousness


Call the dog, snap your fingers, clap your hands. If the dog reacts (turns his head, pricks his ears, etc.), he is conscious.

In which case continue the examination whilst monitoring the dog. If not - the dog is unconscious – respiratory and cardiac functions should be checked.

2 – Make sure that the airways are clear

Remove the collar and slowly and gently tilt the dog’s head back to clear the entry to the trachea and help the air to flow freely.

3 – Assess breathing

Leaning over the dog, place you ear or cheek above his nose. The expired air flow may be normal, increased, weak or absent. Respiratory movements of the chest can also be assessed (movements of the ribs).

If ventilation is absent, blow into the nose (holding the mouth shut) twice or massage the chest twice before checking circulatory function.


4 – Assess circulatory function

This is done by taking the femoral pulse (pulse in the hind leg). Note the presence or absence of this pulse, and whether it is clear and strong or thready. The heart rate should also be taken by placing your hand on the left side of the chest just behind the elbow (apex beat). The heart rate can give an indication of the dog's condition, for example it may be raised if there is stress or bleeding or decreased if the dog is in shock.

Finally, check the colour of the mucous membranes:

- Pink: normal,

- Red: indicates inflammation or hyperthermia,

- White: indicates bleeding or shock,

- Blue: indicates a lack of oxygen in the blood,

- Yellow: indicates a problem with the liver.

These observations can be made on the mucosa that covers the eyelids by gently lifting them, or on the gums or genital mucosa.

Progress and monitoring

Once you have checked that there are no life-threatening signs, you should start monitoring the dog. The following should be monitored:

- State of consciousness,

- Respiratory rate,

- Femoral pulse rate (regular and strong),

The colour of the mucous membranes and the capillary refill time. (When an area of the gums is pressed with a finger, blood is forced out of the small blood vessels - capillaries. When the pressure is released, the blood should almost immediately refill the capillaries, so they become pink again).


- Waste time trying to find a pulse on the paw or neck in the dog.

If the animal is unconscious



Know what to do if the dog is unconscious but breathing.

An unconscious animal is predisposed to respiratory distress, which may lead to respiratory and circulatory arrest if no action is taken.

The causes

These can be traumatic, medical or toxic.

The risks

- Respiratory arrest.
- Obstruction of the airways by the tongue or by liquid secretions (saliva, stomach contents, blood) in the trachea.

What to do

Check the dog’s conscious state:

- Click your fingers,
- Pet,
- Whistle,
- Call the dog by its name (if you know it).

Make sure that the airways are clear: remove the collar, lead or harness, open the dog’s mouth and pull out its tongue, leave the head extended.

If the dog is in respiratory arrest, pull several times on the tongue to trigger the respiratory reflex. Whilst awaiting the vet, change the dog over onto a different side regularly if the lesions allow it (whilst avoiding bringing any wounds into contact with the ground).


- Muzzle an unconscious dog.

Respiratory distress and arrest


Know how to recognise respiratory distress and take the appropriate actions.

When a dog is in respiratory arrest, he will need to be ventilated artificially once the airways have been cleared.

The causes

- Obstruction of the airways (object, bone, etc.).

- Abnormal air composition (smoke intoxication, irritant gas or lack of oxygen in the air).

- Strangulation.

- Pulmonary diseases (acute oedema of the lung, pneumonia, pneumothorax).

- Rupture of the diaphragm.

- Pleural effusion.

- Internal thoracic bleeding.

- Gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV).

Respiratory distress


Markedly accelerated breathing, panting, scraping noise, whistling, wheezing or laboured breathing. The dog may be conscious or unconscious. The mucous membranes are often bluish (cyanotic).

What to do

Move the dog away from the cause of the distress (out of a burning building for example). Place it in a cool, well ventilated and quiet place. Do not take it in your arms or compress its thorax. If the dog is unconscious, monitor it whilst awaiting the arrival of the vet.


If the dog is unconscious, monitor him closely until the arrival of the vet.


Respiratory arrest


Cessation of thoracic and abdominal movements.

What to do

Move the dog away from the cause of the distress ( turn off the electricity, move him out of a burning building for example, taking care not to put yourself at risk of electrocution, burning etc).

1 – If the animal is unconscious and ventilation is present but threatened, with regular movements of the thorax and abdomen: monitor the dog constantly.

2 – If the animal is unconscious, without ventilation and respiratory movements, and cyanotic mucous membranes: check that the airways are clear (remove the collar, open the mouth and pull the tongue out, leave the head extended and tilting downwards, look for any obstructions (object, bone) at the back of the mouth).


Then perform two “mouth to nose” breaths.

If the thorax rises, the airways are clear and the femoral pulse should be checked:

- present: continue artificial respiration,

- absent: combine with cardiac massage.

If the thorax does not lift, then the airways are obstructed at the level of the trachea. In which case, a movement similar to the Heimlich manoeuvre in man can be performed, which involves making one violent compression at the base of the sternum to eject the foreign body with a forced expiration.

3 – If the animal is unconscious and the thorax does not rise after the first two breaths, or if the animal is conscious but has choked on something: if possible hold the dog by the back legs with the head down.


4 – If the animal is unconscious, in respiratory arrest, and no pulse can be felt: refer to the paragraph entitled “cardio respiratory arrest”

Positive signs

- Resumption of spontaneous breathing with ample thoracic movements, regular, and at a normal frequency.
- The mucous membranes turn pink again.

Learn more

Mouth to nose resuscitation

Mouth to nose: hold the muzzle shut with the hands, blow into the nostrils of the dog progressively then release the nostrils and jaws. Expiration is passive.

Frequency of breaths:

- 12 to 16 breaths per minute for a big dog,

- 15 to 20 breaths per minute for a small dog.

If you cannot bear to place your mouth over the dog’s nose, it is possible, although much less effective to perform a chest massage to restart respiration. In the latter case, the dog is placed lying on its side on a hard surface and pressure is exerted with both hands on the ribs to expel the air from the lungs. The depression created by this movement will provoke an immediate intake of breath.

Cardiorespiratory arrest


Know how to recognise cardiorespiratory arrest and know what to do.

Artificial respiration alone is not sufficient in the event of cardiac arrest. The earlier the intervention the better the prognosis.

Technique for chest compression

Dog unconscious and in respiratory arrest

- Perform two breaths and feel for a femoral pulse or a heart beat. If there is no palpable femoral pulse, perform chest compression.

Large dog with a round thorax or obese dog


- Place one hand on either side of the thorax, just behind the elbows.
- Press the heel of your hand into the chest behind the elbow.
Place the other hand over the first.

Small dog or dog with a flat thorax

- Place one hand on either side of the thorax, just behind the elbows.
- With your hands flat, press with the heel of each hand.

Frequency of compression

- Perform 60 to 100 compressions per minute, with one breath for every five cardiac compressions.
- The passage from one to the other should be made as quickly as possible for maximum effectiveness, or can be performed by two people (one performing cardiac compression and the other mouth to nose respiration).

Perform the massage for one minute then check the femoral pulse.

- If it is present and distinct, stop the chest compression and check respiratory function.

- If it is absent, continue chest compression and check again in two minutes.


Carry out chest compression in a dog whose heart is already beating.



Know what to do in the event of visible haemorrhage (blood loss).

External, externalised or internal haemorrhaging requires quick and effective action.

The dangers of haemorrhage


Bleeding may be caused by a wound or a disease. Its gravity is determined by its location and the volume of the blood lost. It may lead to serious circulatory distress if no action is taken.

External haemorrhage


This is haemorrhage in which the blood flows from the animal to the exterior via a visible wound.


Bleeding from a cut or skin lesion.

True haemorrhage: a handkerchief will become soaked within seconds (watch out for bleeding that is hidden by the coat).

What to do

- Stop or at least slow the bleeding as quickly as possible, to prevent circulatory distress.
- Get help.
- Monitor the dog, notably the colour of its mucous membranes and the femoral pulse.
- Do not give it anything to drink.
- Stop the animal from moving around.
- Soothe the animal.
- Implement oxygen therapy as soon as it becomes available.


• Compress the site of bleeding with the fingers or hand. Then use a handkerchief, cloth or swabs held in place with a wide bandage (headscarf, crepe bandage or tea towel for example).

Compression should be maintained until a vet can examine the wound.

• Compression at a distance, if direct compression is:

- impossible (open fracture, wound with foreign body).
- ineffective.

Points of compression


- hind leg: on the femoral artery (at the point where the pulse is taken).
- front leg: the compression should be made above the elbow, on the inside of the leg.
- head: the compression is made on one of the two jugular veins.

The use of a tourniquet

When compression at a distance is difficult or ineffective or if it cannot be maintained by one person alone who needs to leave the dog to call for help. The tourniquet is placed at a distance from the wound, between the wound and the point of compression. It is made with a wide tie; string or elastic bands should be avoided. Once in place, it should be loosened slightly every 10 minutes, the time of placement (hours and minutes) should be carefully noted.

It should be remembered that a tourniquet can present a risk in itself for a bleeding animal, and it is always preferable to try and stop the haemorrhage with direct compression.

Positive signs

Cessation or slowing of the haemorrhage.


Note any signs of deterioration in circulatory function:

- pallor of the mucous membranes
- increase in the heart rate
- weak femoral pulse

Externalised haemorrhages


The blood flows from a natural orifice: nose, mouth, ears, anus, urinary or vaginal orifice.

NB: If the blood is coming from the mouth, open the mouth to check that the dog has not simply bitten its tongue or cheeks.

What to do

This type of haemorrhage requires immediate medical attention from a vet. The amount of blood lost and the variation in the colour of the mucous membranes are used to determine the severity of the haemorrhage.

Internal haemorrhage


The blood does not leave the animal; it accumulates in an internal cavity: abdomen, thorax, cranium.


Intra-abdominal haemorrhage

Rapid swelling of the abdomen with extreme pallor of the mucous membranes, respiratory distress and a significant increase in the heart rate; the belly becomes tense and hard to the touch. If the haemorrhage is slight, the only visible signs will be a slight pallor to the mucous membranes and an increase in the heart and respiratory rates.

Intrathoracic haemorrhage

There is no visible swelling, but the mucosae are pale and there is significant respiratory distress and an increase in the heart rate.

Intracranial haemorrhage

The mucosae are pale, there are neurological symptoms (locomotor disturbances, blindness, deafness, seizures, etc.), and possibly even unconsciousness.

What to do

This type of haemorrhage requires immediate medical attention from a vet. The speed of onset of the clinical signs and their progression provides information about the severity of the haemorrhage. Any suspicious signs should therefore be recorded and communicated to the vet.


Leave a very tight tourniquet on for more than 10 minutes at a time.
- Compress both jugular veins at the same time.
- Apply pressure to a fracture site.

Seizures and strokes


Seizures and strokes may be short-lived or longer lasting and may be accompanied by subtle or more obvious signs. There is not necessarily any relationship between the duration and strength of these signs and the severity of the disease.


Convulsions are the manifestation of cerebral pathology and combine the following in varying degrees:

- reduced awareness,
- disrupted muscle tone and lack of coordination,
- sensory disturbances,
- salivation, urination, involuntary defecation.

Acute pulmonary oedema is the invasion of the pulmonary tissues by fluid.

Heat stroke is cerebral oedema due to the failure of thermoregulatory mechanisms. It is more common in brachycephalic breeds (dogs with a short nose) and when the dog is subjected to a hot and humid climate with poor ventilation, such as being left in a car on a warm day.


Indicative signs

Paralysis, possibly temporary, of one or several limbs or of the face.
- Significant agitation, uncoordinated movements.
- Abnormal femoral pulse:
- weak, hard to detect,
- perceptible but fast (inferior to 160) or very slow (superior to 40).
- Nausea, prolonged or repeated vomiting.

In the absence of these signs, the stroke is probably minor but if you are in any doubt, consider it as being serious.

What to do

- Assess the state of vital functions. Correct if distressed.
- Recognise and assess the signs of the stroke.
- The animal should be lain down on its side.
- Monitor vital functions to detect any possible signs of difficulty.

If there is at least one sign of a serious stroke, seek immediate veterinary help.

Seizures (fits)

Indicative signs

- Reduction in consciousness, from slight up to complete loss of consciousness.
- Incoordination of movements with uncontrollable muscle tremors.
- Involuntary defaecation, urination and vomiting possible.

What to do


It is advisable to leave the dog in a dark, quiet place until the seizure is over. In all cases, the vet should be consulted as soon as possible to determine the origin of the seizures (metabolic disorders, poisoning, malformation, brain tumour or epilepsy); the treatment will of course depend on the cause.

Acute pulmonary oedema

Indicative signs

- The dog presents with significant respiratory difficulty and possibly marked and painful abdominal movements to help it to breathe.
- Bouts of coughing and pink or frothy discharge from the mouth or nose.
- The mucous membranes become cyanotic (blue).

What to do

The dog should be left to rest in a quiet place and given oxygen as soon as possible. It is essential to consult a vet, to provide the dog with the emergency treatment that it needs.

Heat stroke

Indicative signs


- The body temperature rises sharply (up to more than 41°C).
- The respiratory rate is markedly increased.
- The mucous membranes are blue or even purple.
- Respiratory wheezing is heard.
- The dog trembles and may have seizures (fits).
- Awareness is reduced and the dog may go into a coma.

What to do

After placing the dog in a cooler area (get it out of the car, put it in the shade), it must be cooled progressively. Start by wetting the neck area, where the thermoregulatory centres can be found and the blood vessels that supply the brain, then the rest of the body.

Once the dog is moistened, it can be completely immersed in cool water, until the rectal temperature has returned to normal (38-39.2°C).

A vet should then complete the treatment with intravenous rehydration if necessary, as well as providing treatment for cerebral oedema (treatment for shock).


- Immerse a dog with heat stroke in icy water.
- Over-handle a dog that is having seizures.

Wounds and burns


Know how to treat cuts or burns. Cuts and burns, which are commonly encountered, may be immediately life-threatening (haemorrhage, circulatory and / or respiratory distress) or have delayed consequences (infection, tetanus, etc.).



Skin lesions due to a cut, graze or bite, with or without damage to the underlying tissues.


1 – Simple wounds

Small superficial cut or graze with little bleeding, not located close to an orifice.

What to do


- Clip the hair around the wound and clean it with water and antiseptic.

- Protect the lesion with a simple dressing.


Consult a vet if there is any redness, heat or swelling.

2 – Serious wounds

Any non-superficial cut or serious graze such as cuts with haemorrhage, bites, extensive wounds, penetration of a foreign body, eye lesions or those located close to an orifice.

What to do


The amount of blood lost and the variation in the colour of the mucous membranes are used to determine the severity of the haemorrhage.


- Assess the amount of bleeding.
- Take the dog to a vet.
- Monitor the vital signs.

3 - Tetanus

A serious, life-threatening disease caused by the contamination of the wound with bacteria (Clostridium tetani). Tetanus results in generalised muscle rigidity and spasms with characteristic stiffness of the ears and jaw, hypersalivation, seizures and cardiorespiratory compromise. Consult a vet immediately. The incubation period (time before the onset of the symptoms) can vary from 5 to 21 days.

Although dogs are relatively resistant, there is a risk of tetanus with any deep, contaminated wounds.



© Hermeline/Diffomédia

Lesions of the skin, airways or gastrointestinal tract caused by heat, chemicals, electricity, radiation or friction.


1 – Simple burn

Redness affecting only a small area of the skin.

What to do

- Cool the burned area as soon as possible under a gentle stream of cold water for at least 5 minutes and continue until any pain appears to have stopped.
- Protect the wound with a simple dressing.

2 – Serious burn

Extensive redness, deeper destruction, specific localisation (head, natural orifices, joints).

What to do

- Cool the burned area as soon as possible under a gentle stream of cold water for at least 5 minutes and continue until any pain appears to have eased.
- Clip the hair around the wound.
- Take the dog to a vet.
- Monitor the vital functions whilst awaiting help.

Possible complications

- Infection.
- Circulatory distress.
- Possible respiratory distress.
- State of shock.

3 – Specific cases

Chemical burns: rinse the area abundantly with cool, running water as quickly as possible, continuing for 20 minutes.

Electrical burns: these are always serious. Monitor the dog and take it to the vet as quickly as possible.

Internal burns due to inhalation: monitor respiratory function and take the dog to a vet as quickly as possible.

Internal burns due to ingestion: do not make the dog vomit, do not give it anything to drink, monitor the animal and take it to the vet as quickly as possible.


Remove a foreign body (e.g. a nail, piece of wood, glass) from a deep wound. (The vet must do this).

Traumatic injuries to bones and joints


- Recognise these traumas, which are common in the legs and less so in the head and vertebral column.
- Avoid the dangers associated with inappropriate action, because this may do more harm than good.


The bone may be broken (fractured). A joint may be sprained, which is the tearing or stretching of the ligament that holds the joint in place, or luxated (dislocated), where the head of the bone has come out of its articular position.

© Diffomédia/Royal Canin

Indicative signs

Traumatic damage to the bones or joints results in acute pain, swelling, lameness with or without difficulty in weight-bearing, difficulty or impossibility to move.


These problems may result from trauma, a fall or an awkward movement.

What to do

The most common accidental traumas that require emergency treatment are facial traumas (fracture of the lower jaw), leg injuries (fractures, luxations - hip or knee, tendon or ligament ruptures), and injuries to the vertebral column.

In the event of lameness

- Place a tie around the dog’s muzzle.
- Check the condition of its paws.
- Palpate the dog all over to check for signs of local pain (proceed gently and cautiously).

In the event of pain

- Look for a wound, fracture or joint problem.
- Mobilise the painful site to check for the sound of bone on bone: if this occurs over a joint, it may indicate a fracture, sprain or luxation; if it is present over a long bone, it is more likely to be a fracture.

Irrespective of the type of fracture:

- Immobilise the joints above and below the fracture site before moving the animal.

Take the dog to the vet as quickly as possible.
When placing a splint, if the dog shows too much discomfort it is best not to persist.In this case, handle the dog with great care and put him into the car for immediate transport to the vet. He will find the most comfortable position by himself.

In the event of an open fracture

The fractured bone is open to the outside via a wound.

- Place a tie around the dog’s muzzle.
- Clip the fur around the wound.
- Cover the wound with a dressing or clean cloth to keep it clean.
- Immobilise the limb as explained previously.

Take the dog to the vet immediately.

In the event of an injury to the vertebral column

This may occur following a road traffic accident or a fall for example. The symptoms will vary depending on the extent of the trauma:

- Simple absence of superficial sensitivity: this is checked by successively pinching the skin starting from the dog’s hind end and moving towards the head. A skin tremor indicates the presence of this sensitivity. The absence of a reaction at a specific location is indicative of a spinal cord lesion.

- Absence of deep pain: this is diagnosed by pinching the skin between the toes very hard, or the pads of the paws of each foot in turn. Complete flexion of the leg indicates the presence of this sensation (watch out that the dog does not bite in response to the pain).

- Complete paralysis of one or several limbs.

What to do

- Move the dog with great care; if possible strap the dog to a rigid board for transport.
- Watch the animal to make sure that it moves as little as possible.
- Monitor the vital signs.

The sensitivity of dogs to this type of handling will vary from one dog to another. Some dogs will not show any skin movement, even in the absence of spinal lesions.

Gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV)


Know how to recognise the presence of an abnormal dilatation, or even torsion, of the dog’s stomach, which is a very serious and relatively common problem, especially in large breed, deep-chested dogs after meal times. Discuss preventative measures with your vet.

What to do


The dog becomes anxious, tries to vomit but fails, looks at its abdomen and salivates a lot. The abdomen swells and becomes painful to the touch. There is also a marked tympany: the abdomen sounds like a drum when it is tapped. Progressively, the dog goes into shock and shows signs of dyspnoea (respiratory difficulties), which will lead to death if appropriate treatment is not given immediately.

© Diffomédia/Royal Canin

First aid


The dog must be taken to the nearest vet immediately at the first sign of GDV, for emergency treatment for shock, to free the gas that is trapped in the stomach and to perform surgery to correct torsion (twisted stomach). Monitor the dog’s vital functions, whilst taking it to the vet.



Know how to react if a dog is poisoned (by a poisonous substance, food, plant, snake or insect bite). The majority of poisonings are accidental, often due to the incorrect storage of toxic products in the home. However, it is not unheard of for a dog to have been poisoned intentionally. Snake and insect bites are always possible when out for walks in the countryside. Irrespective of the toxin or venom in question, rapid intervention is essential for the survival of the dog.

Snake or insect bites


© Ecoview/Fotolia

Poisoning may occur following a venomous snake bite, insect bite (bees, wasps, hornets, etc.), spider bite, or by licking or playing with toads or certain caterpillars.


These depend on the venomous species in question, the quantity of venom injected and the zone affected. The following symptoms may be observed:

- Swelling of the bitten region.
- Neurological symptoms (agitation, which is rapidly followed by hypotension, depression, prostration with tremors, dilated pupils and eventually collapse, coma and death),
- Gastrointestinal symptoms (hypersalivation, vomiting and diarrhoea are common following the injection of venom),
- Skin and eye irritation following contact with the venom.
- Respiratory difficulties.

What to do

- Stay calm so as not to stress the dog.
- Carry the dog to limit the diffusion of the venom and avoid accelerating the heart rate.
- Apply cold compresses to slow the progression of the oedema.
- Rinse the eyes and mouth to get rid of the venom.



The list is extremely long; among the most commonly encountered are:

- household chemicals: bleach, ethylene glycol (antifreeze), disinfectants, soaps, nitrates, nitrites, chocolate, onion, grapes, raisins etc.

- agricultural chemicals: mole control, herbicides, slug pellets (metaldehyde), insecticides, rodenticides.

Learn more

What are the foreign bodies most often swallowed by dogs?

In the dog's stomach, one can find a great
variety of objects, both those detectable by
X-rays and those which are not. These include stones, pieces of sofa and armchairs, small toys, coins, elastic bands, hair nets and balls of hair or fibre.

Even though some animals well tolerate the presence of these objects, they can be the cause of chronic vomiting as they can lead to diffuse inflammation, ulcers, delayed gastric emptying and pyloric hypertrophy. They can also cause obstruction of sphincters and
intestine if they continue to move down the gastrointestinal tract.

This can lead to collapse and necessitate emergency removal via gastroscopy or a gastrotomy or enterotomy.

To avoid this happening, the owner should ensure the dog does not ingest small objects and use toys which are an appropriate size for the dog and strong enough to resist its jaws.

© Quintavalla

Professor Fausto Quintavalla
Rome Veterinary University (Italy)

Eye accidents


Know how to react when a dog suffers an injury to the eyes.


Ocular trauma may result in the following lesions: the presence of a foreign body with or without corneal penetration (grass seed, hair, splinter), chemical burns (corrosive products) or thermal burns, partial or complete protrusion of the eye from its socket, wounds to the eye (branches, scratches).

Indicative signs


Any contact with the eye provokes intense pain.


Any contact with the eye provokes intense pain, which produces the following symptoms:

- constant blinking or even complete closure of the eyelids,
- various types of discharges (translucent, haemorrhagic, mucopurulent),
- redness of the ocular mucosae,
- possible swelling of the eye,
- frequent rubbing of the eye against a hard surface or with one of the paws.

Dogs with injured eyes will seek dimly lit areas that are protected from the wind.

If there is a foreign body it may be visible directly on the cornea or under the eyelids.

What to do

© UMES - Vely/Fotolia

Take the dog out of strong light and wind.

If the dog will let you:

- gently open the eyelids to look for any lesions to the cornea and conjunctivae
- do not touch the eye with your fingers or you may worsen the lesion and provoke secondary bacterial infection
- stop the dog from rubbing its eyes (using an Elizabethan collar)
- do not try and remove any foreign bodies that are sticking into the eye.

If the dog does not let you handle it, simply stop it from rubbing its eyes (collar or protective dressing).

In all cases, consult a vet as quickly as possible. Do not forget to describe the circumstances of the accident to the vet, if you know them (burns, foreign body, etc.).

When a non-traumatic foreign body is lodged in the fold of the lower eyelid (grass seed, hair), it can be gently removed using a moist swab. If the dog moves or reacts violently, it is preferable to consult a vet.


Never remove a foreign body which is embedded in the eye.

Basic procedures

Using a tie as a muzzle.


A dog that is ill or has been in an accident should always be considered as potentially dangerous. Pain or loss of one of the senses may provoke defensive reactions in even the most gentle of dogs. All owners that do not have a muzzle ready to hand should know how to make one from a simple tie (e.g. a bandage):

- Tie a simple loop around the dog’s nose.
- Tighten the loop sufficiently to prevent the dog from opening its mouth, but not enough to interfere with its breathing.
- Cross the ends of the tie under the mouth.
- Make a knot behind the ears.

In this way, the dog can be handled safely. It is also still possible to lift the gums and check the colour of the mucous membranes, which is impossible with a standard muzzle.

Taking the pulse

To check circulatory function, the dog’s heart rate must be taken. Two sites are easily accessible for this.


The femoral artery

This is located inside the thigh, between two large muscle masses, just beneath the skin. By placing the fingers in the middle part of the thigh, the heart rate can be determined, and the quality of the pulse – strong, weak or absent – can also be felt.

Apex beat (thoracic)

When the hand is placed over the heart, i.e. behind the left elbow, the shock waves from the heart can be felt against the rib cage with each beat. This means the heart rate can be identified, but not the pulse characteristics. In obese dogs, the apex beat is harder to detect.

Checking the colour of the mucous membranes

To determine the quality of the blood circulation and the oxygenation of the blood, the colour of the mucous membranes must be checked. Three sites can be used.


The gums

The dog’s gums, and hence the oral mucosa, can be seen by lifting the lips. Normally it is pink, except in dark coated dogs with a black mask, where certain zones (or even the totality) of the mucosae are black.

The ocular mucosae

When the oral mucosa is too pigmented, or if the dog is bleeding from its mouth, the colour of the mucous membranes can be checked on the third eyelid. To do this:

- push the lower eyelid down with the thumb,
- with the other hand, gently press the eyeball through the upper eyelid.

This procedure makes the third eyelid come up: the latter is never pigmented.

The genital mucosae

Finally, if the head is inaccessible, the state of the circulation can be checked on the genital mucosae: the sheath in the male and the vulva in the female.

To be effective in the event of an emergency, it is important to be familiar with these procedures (placing a tie over the muzzle, taking the pulse and checking the mucous membranes) and to practice them regularly in healthy dogs. It is always easier to detect an anomaly when familiar with the normal state. These procedures, which are perfectly safe for the dog, are easy to perform. A veterinarian can show you how to perform them during a routine consultation.

Learn more

Is veterinary critical care as sophisticated as human medicine?

Veterinary critical care has become an essential specialty. We offer most of the advanced therapies available in human medicine including dialysis for kidney failure, mechanical ventilation for breathing failure, advanced imaging including MRI and CT scans, and blood and plasma transfusions.

Specialty hospitals have an intensive care unit where pets can receive intensive nursing care and constant monitoring. Veterinary critical care specialists have a similar level of training as their human counterparts including four years of veterinary school, one year of internship, and three years of residency. This training has made a dramatic difference in helping pets survive severe illness.

© Dacvecc

Monica Clare, VMD, DACVECC
Veterinary Specialty Hospital Emergency and Critical Care,
San Diego, CA (United States)

Bandaging the paw


Wounds on or between the toes, or on the pads, are never easy to bandage. There are a few simple rules to follow:

- place pieces of swab or cotton wool between the toes (this stops the claws from rubbing against the adjacent toes under the dressing and creating further lesions)
- start with the bandage under the foot
- bring it up onto the top of the foot
- make a quarter turn
- unroll the bandage around the leg up to the desired height
- fix the bandage in place using an adhesive dressing that covers both the dressing and the fur. This type of dressing should always be performed from the bottom up. This is because all dressings provoke mild compression. By starting the bandage at the top or in the middle of the foot, the blood will be pushed into the toes and won't be able to go back up, thus provoking painful and dangerous swelling.

This procedure requires a certain amount of dexterity; it is therefore preferable to have a helping hand.


First aid kit

When travelling and at home, or for sporting or agility dogs, it is important to have a small first aid kit ready to hand which can be extremely useful in an emergency situation. At its most basic, your first aid kit should include the following:

• Cloth tie (e.g. a bandage) that can be used as a muzzle for conscious or dangerous dogs or those in acute pain (do not muzzle an unconscious dog).

• Thermometer (in the event of heat stroke).

• A wide bandage (scarf or something similar) to make a tourniquet if needed.

• Antiseptics (soap and an antiseptic solution).

• Swabs,, both for direct compression and for simple dressings.

• A pair of curved, round-ended scissors to cut the fur around a wound or burn.

• A pair of rat-toothed forceps,

• A large needle (which should only be used by trained persons in the event of dilatation of the stomach).

• A splint (to immobilise a fracture or luxation).

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