First aid for dogs

Sometimes it is easy to overlook the importance of a basic knowledge of first aid for dogs. It really can be a lifesaver. This applies even more so to the owner of an old dog, as there are unfortunately a few more serious conditions that could occur such as a stroke or heart attack. It is however rare for dogs to suffer a sudden death situation.

The following is a brief first aid for dogs guide. It is made with the older dog in mind. Most of the first aid problems I have listed apply to dogs of all ages but I have listed the ones which apply more to old dogs first.

Please remember they are all only a temporary measure until you can get your dog to the veterinary hospital and that this is not a complete list. Print this page out and keep it handy.


The dog will lie on his stomach or side and will be unable to rise. He may breathe heavily.Seek the advice of a vet as soon as possible but while waiting keep the dogs temperature comfortable and make sure the airway is clear. There are a number of causes of collapse and these should be investigated by a vet.


The dog will usually experience pain in their fore legs. It will try and stretch its fore legs, bend and stretch its neck backwards and can have trouble breathing. They can often occur in the old dog in hot weather especially after exercise.

Lie the dog on their side with the neck and head extended. If they have stopped breathing : Perform mouth to nose resuscitation. Pull the dogs tongue forward slightly, close their mouth, then blow to fully with your mouth over their nose and expand the lungs 4-5 times. Do not blow too hard. Check for breathing. If not then repeat several times.

Listen / feel for a heart beat or pulse. If and ONLY if there is no heart beat, perform chest compressions by laying the dog on its right side and with the heel of the hand in the area of the ribcage just behind the elbow. 15 compressions to 1 breath.



This a serious and real risk for old dogs in hot weather as they find it harder to maintain their body temperature as they age. The symptoms are usually rapid panting, thick sticky saliva, very red gums and tongue, weakness, unsteadiness and sometimes vomiting.

Remove the dog from any hot area as quickly as possible. Cool the dog by wetting her thoroughly with water which is not too cold though as this can be counter productive. If possible try and position a slow fan near to the dogs mouth and gently direct the flow of air ensuring the mouth is open slightly. If the dog has collapsed and you have use of a fan, do not let your dogs tongue dry out by either lightly misting or sprinkling water onto it. Do not let the dogs temperature become too low though (below 103 F or 39.4 C). Contact your vet as soon as possible.


These can be easily confused with other conditions in your dog as dogs do not suffer from paralysis like humans can. A stroke in a dog is not as serious as in humans and they can recover well. However, like humans there are two types of of stroke : ischemic and hemorrhagic. Ischemic strokes are caused by a sudden stop in the blood flow to the brain and a hemorrhagic stroke is caused by the rupture of blood vessels in the brain.

Symptoms can include loss of sight, falling over, drooling, circling and tilting or turning of the head. It These symptoms can be confused with vestibular disease though which is more common in older dogs.

There is not much you can do for your dog apart from treat as a collapse, keep your dog comfortable and contact your vet.


The dog will normally collapse onto its side often with sudden spasmodic movements, champing of the jaw and salivation. Sometimes they might move their legs as if they are running or swimming.

Remove the dogs collar and make the dog as comfortable as possible. Make sure the dog cannot injure themselves and can breathe by keeping the neck and head extended if necessary. Keep in a darkened quiet area if possible until you can get help. Try and remember the dogs symptoms during the fit and behavior proceeding it so you can inform your vet.


Dogs will try to vomit, gag or tear frantically at his mouth with his paws.

Try and open the dogs mouth and remove the object by using your fingers. If this fails turn the dog on her side, place your palms just behind the last rib and give 4 quick thrusts. Recheck the throat. Repeat thrusts if necessary. Call for help immediately if you have not been able to remove it.

If this still fails and help has not arrived perform a Heimlich maneuver. The Heimlich maneuver should only be performed as a last resort as serious injury can occur. One method is as follows : Straddle your dog from behind. Put your hands over the back of your dog, letting them hang down. Put your hands together and clasp them together just behind the last ribs in the center. Using the back of your hands lift up and forwards in several quick successions.


Stomach is full of gas and greatly expanded in size. AN EMERGENCY



Unless the ingestion of the poisonous substance has been witnessed the symptoms can be difficult to diagnose. Symptoms can include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, lack of appetite, staggering, and difficulty breathing.

If a known poison has been seen to be ingested and is not unconscious then in most cases it is best to induce vomiting.

This can be done by pouring a salt solution of water down the throat. Do not do this for petroleum or caustic liquids (i.e.. Bleach) as they might damage the throat again on the way up. In all cases contact your vet with the details of what has been eaten and if possible how much.


Your dog could seem withdrawn, lame, limping or repeatedly licking an area of its body.

Look at the area and if it is swollen check the area for snake bite wounds. If snake fang puncture wounds are found then contact your vet immediately.

For stings, if any can be seen such as bee stings then remove them with a pair of tweezers, otherwise keep an eye on your dog over the next hour. If your dogs condition deteriorates or the swelling increases contact your vet. Contact your vet immediately if you suspect it might be a venomous spider bite or scorpion sting.


Very loose bowel motions which can result in weakness. Withhold all food and keep the dog warm. Offer a small volume of warm glucose solution (a tablespoon of glucose to a pint of water). If the dog is weak then take it to a vet as soon as possible however if the dog is otherwise bright then take him the next available appointment.


You might witness the accident or the dog might return obviously injured or lame.

Restrain your dog if necessary to prevent further injury. If in a dangerous position move the dog and yourself to a safe area. The dog will most probably be in a state of shock, could be frightened and might bite. Approach the dog slowly and fit a muzzle if possible. Speak gently to the dog, make slow movements and keep the dogs temperature stable

Try and assess any injuries and whether you think it is possible to transport the dog to the emergency veterinary hospital or if the dog will need a veterinary ambulance. Speak to your vet immediately and beware of any internal injuries which might not be obvious.

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