First Aid: Dogs

Whether we’re on the ranch on a quick ride of a multi-day pack trip, I always have a small emergency kit for myself, Darcie, and the horses. I found mine as well as Darcie’s with Adventure Medical Kits who caters specially to animal and people in the outdoors and backcountry. Check out their entire Adventure Dog series at: I’ll be expanding more on keeping your pet safe while adventuring out there, but for now enjoy my ‘cheat sheet’ of CPR and first aid for dogs.

Hydration: Offer your dog constant cool (not ice cold) water, not in large sums. Check the gums: If sticky then they’re probably dehydrated. Pinch the skin: If snaps back quickly then they’re most likely well hydrated.

Overheated: From the paws up: Dogs cool through their feet. Put cool water on all paws, armpits and glands.

Temperature: 99 -102 (100 degrees on average) is normal. Anything over 104 you should take to the vet immediately. Take temperature by inserting NO MORE than 1/2 inch to 1 inch. The silver tip is all that’s needed to record a temp.

Breathing/Pulse: 10 - 30 breaths per minute is average for a medium sized dog. Pulse: Find the femoral artery located on back leg. Place two fingers on back knee and roll them to the inside of the leg/knee (two fingers width) on the upper fleshy thigh. Here you should find the pulse. 60-160 beats per minute normal.

Circulation: To check the capillaries refill time: Press thumb on fleshy part of gum and pink color should return in 2 seconds or less. If does not return fast, animal could be going into shock.

CPR: Open the airway: Pull head up to open up the dog’s neck and airway. Pull tongue just over his K9 teeth and cover dogs mouth completely with your hands. Breath into the nose 2 FULL BREATHS checking to make sure his belly rises when you do so. Immediately after, check for a pulse. If there IS a pulse DO NOT COMPRESS. The heart is doing it’s job so just continue breathing while checking for a pulse every 30 seconds.

Compressions: Bend the front leg back just enough to where the elbow touches the chest: This is your target zone (where the heart is located). Place the heel of your hand on the target with the other hand on top and interlace fingers with elbows locked. Compress 1/3 the width of the chest. Compress 30 beats (almost as quickly as you can count) then follow with 2 breaths in nose. Complete 4 rounds of 30 compressions and 2 breaths and then recheck for a pulse.

If you have two people: Have alternating compressions with over the heart (as done above) and the second person with are coming through dogs legs pushing stomach towards the heart after each compression.

Bleeding: 1. Direct pressure. 2. Elevation. 3. Pressing on a pressure point.

1. Direct pressure: Get a piece of gauze (or t-shirt or whatever is clean) and apply direct pressure to the wound. DO NOT PICK UP off wound. Leave on so that clot forms and bleeding stops. If bleeds through, add another layer of material on top.

2. Elevation: Elevate the effected area so that it’s higher than the heart.

3. Pressing on a pressure point: Dogs have 5 pressure points. One on each of the insides of the legs (as seen above with the femoral artery) and one at the base of the tail (on the tail put 1 finger along the side and two on the back and press to slow blood flow). Squeeze the pressure point closest to the effected area. Do not close off completely, but slow the blood flow so that blood is not lost.

After, gauze up the wound but not so tight as to prevent blood flow (allowing 1 finger to enter the gauze).

For ears: If ears are floppy and down, flip the ear up (opposite for upright eared dogs) to bandage allowing elevation. Bandage with ear flipped up over head and wrap around head and around each side of good ear.

Heimlich: Keep all 4 feet of dog on the ground and find the ribs triangle (in the center of where the ribs end). Put fist in soft space between triangle. Dog’s hindquarters are against your chest and you pump with your fists, trying to lodge the stuck item out of his throat.

Poison: Hydrogen peroxide: 1 tbs per 10-15 lbs of dog. No more than 2 doses.

Printable First Aid cheat sheet courtesy of Vet Depot. To download, right-click and save as to your computer.

Please note: I’m not a professional. This is all information I’ve obtained through reading and a some local veterinarians who have offered their help. If you think your pet may be ill or injured, contact a professional at once. Much of this information is also based off of my medium-sized English Shepherd in that pulses, temperatures, breathing rates, CPR, and more will vary depending on the size of animal.

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