It is useful to know in advance the proper response to an accident, injury or acute and sudden illness in your dog and what you can do to help until veterinary attention is available.
You can make up a First Aid Kit at home so that you can easily access what you need when you need it. It could contain the following items:
- Scissors, nail clippers, tweezers
- Bandages, Sterile gauze dressings, Cotton wool, Cotton pads
- Antiseptic solution, Antiseptic cream
- Arnica drops, Arnica cream, Rescue Remedy and other First Aid Homeopathic or Back remedies to reduce pain, swelling and shock
- It is also useful to have a muzzle and a Buster collar available.
- Minor Accidents and Emergencies
Cut Pads etc. - Use cotton wool soaked in warm salted water or dilute antiseptic solution to wash down the pad and remove any grit etc. with tweezers. If broken glass is suspected to be lodged in the pad get your dog to the vet for treatment. If the cut is deep and bleeding a lot apply pressure with a cotton pad bandaged firmly to the foot and get your pet to the vet for treatment.
Burns and Scalds - Hold the affected area under cold running water for at least 5 to 10 minutes or hold an ice pack wrapped in a clean cloth to the affected area and get to your pet to your vet for treatment.
Bite Wounds - Minor wounds with minimal tearing of tissues can be cleaned down with salt water or antiseptic solutions. Always bring your pet to your vet to be checked as teeth can go in very deep leaving only a small puncture wound visible on the surface. Your pet may need antibiotics to control infection.
Wasp and Bee Stings - A sting will cause pain for a while and this can be eased by applying a weak solution of water and baking soda to the affected area, or applying ice wrapped in a towel. A bee sting can leave a ‘stinger’ in the skin which can be removed by scraping it out with a fingernail or a piece of cardboard. Go to your vet if there are multiple stings, or if swelling persists or spreads and especially if your dog gets stung on the tongue or in the mouth. There is a risk of an allergic reaction, with swelling in the throat which could be dangerous and need urgent veterinary attention.
Broken dewclaws or nails – this can be very painful as the ‘quick’ or nerve in the nail may be exposed. If your pet allows, you can lightly bandage the area to prevent further movement and damage until you get to your vet. Your pet may need to be sedated and the claw clipped back to the nail bed and bandaged to protect it until it is growing again and less sensitive.
Ingrowing nails – this happens most with the dewclaws on the sides of the legs, as they do not wear down by contact with the ground, so may grow into the nearby skin and cause pain and infection. It may happen with any of the nails if your pet is immobile for a while due to an injury or due to old age, so keep an eye on the length of all nails and get them clipped regularly. Your pet may resent any efforts to cut the nail to remove it and may need veterinary attention if there is infection.
- Foreign Bodies
Foreign bodies commonly become lodged in a dog’s mouth or nose. A piece of stick or bone may become wedged between the upper teeth across the roof of the mouth. Your dog will be distressed and pawing at his mouth and you may see blood stained saliva. He will need to be sedated at your vet clinic to have this safely removed.
Long pieces of grass can lodge in your pet’s nose and extend all the way to the back of his throat, causing him to cough, sneeze and snort, as if trying to get something up. What a relief for him when your vet removes it and he is comfortable again!
Grass seeds or ‘awns’ may also penetrate the skin between your dog’s toes and work their way in quite deeply into the tissues. They may also be found in your dog’s ear canals. Both locations lead to a lot of discomfort. Your vet will need to sedate or anaesthetise your dog to safely remove them as they open up wide like an umbrella as they move inwards, so cannot easily be pulled out.
Fish hooks are another risk factor so be very careful if you have your dog with you at a river or seashore where hooks may be left lying around in bait which will attract your dog. They cannot simply be pulled back out due to the barbs which lodge in the flesh – they need to be pushed right through and out, which again will usually need sedation and a vet’s expertise, depending on where the hook has penetrated .
- Eye Injuries
If you notice that your pet has a painful eye try to prevent them from rubbing and scratching at it with their paws by using an Elizabethan or Buster Collar. There may be an infection (conjunctivitis), a foreign body (e.g. a grass seed or wood splinter), an ulcer or cut in the outer layer of the eye (e.g. caused by a cat scratch or grass cut, especially in breeds with protruding eyes). There may also be problems in the deeper tissues of the eye. If you have access to sterile saline you can wash the eye with this, making sure to not contact the eye with the container or your fingers. Do not use eye medications you may have received from your vet before, even when in date, because, without a diagnosis, they may be an inappropriate treatment and may make the condition worse. Ideally get your pet to the vet for an accurate diagnosis and specific treatment as soon as possible.
A very urgent problem is a prolapse of the eye, where the eyeball emerges out of the eye socket, which occurs mostly in flat face breeds with prominent eyes like Pekinese and Chihuahua. The lids tend to close behind the prolapsed eye so they need to be gently parted and, using a moistened pad of gauze, gently push the eye back into place as soon as possible. If you are unable to do this just hold the moistened gauze over the eye and get to your vet as soon as possible. Always phone to say you are on your way and let them know in advance how urgent it is.
Other body parts may also prolapse or move out of their normal anatomical position and need to be replaced. In male dogs the penis may be unable to return into the prepuce or outer skin. This is an emergency as the blood supply to the top of the penis can be obstructed and there may be blockage to the passage of urine as well. Protect the prolapsed penis with moist gauze and get your dog to a vet as soon as you can. Similarly there may be a womb or vaginal prolapse in female dogs and anal prolapse can occur in both sexes. All are medical emergencies so protect the exposed tissue and go to your vet who will investigate the cause and treat as a matter of urgency.
A haematoma is a swelling filled with blood or clotted blood. It is caused by an external factor such as a blow to the body leading to bruising and blood loss into the tissues or vigorous shaking of the head due to an ear irritation. Internally it can be due to a defect in the body’s natural clotting mechanism as a result of eating rat poison or other causes of clotting defects. This will need blood tests to confirm the cause.
One of the most common haematomas seen is on the inner flap of the ear. It arises due to severe shaking of the head due to an itchy ear, causing a rupture of small blood vessels in the ear flap. Blood gets trapped between the skin and the cartilage of the inner side of the ear flap and causes a large swelling. This often needs to be repaired surgically. Treat any ear irritations early to avoid this.