First Responder – Level 4
At-Home First Aid for Dogs
A first-aid kit and other supplies are essential for minor canine emergencies.
By Jon Gellar, D.V.M.
Keep an organized pet first-aid kit and other supplies handy in case your dog needs emergency treatment at home. Here’s how to administer basic first aid. Always consult your veterinarian if your dog is injured or sick.
1. Inducing vomiting: If your dog ingests a toxic substance, such as rat poison, human medications or antifreeze, induce vomiting by giving him 1 to 2 teaspoons of hydrogen peroxide orally with a syringe. You can repeat administration of the hydrogen peroxide one time if your dog does not vomit within 10 minutes. If your dog doesn’t vomit after the second dose of hydrogen peroxide, take him to the nearest veterinary clinic for treatment. If the dog does vomit, further treatment might be necessary, so a visit to your vet is still required. Always call a veterinarian before inducing vomiting to find out if it’s an appropriate treatment for the ingested substance. Certain caustic substances, such as bleach or drain cleaners, should not be induced to come back up.
2. Managing vomiting and diarrhea: Many dogs experience occasional vomiting and diarrhea, but when it is protracted or severe, your dog can become seriously dehydrated. Withhold food for at least 12 hours after an episode of vomiting or diarrhea to allow the inflammation of the stomach and intestines a chance to subside. Offer water or an electrolyte mixture (such as Pedialyte), to replace electrolytes. Give fluids in small quantities initially (about 1/4 cup at a time for a small dog and 1/2 cup for a larger dog). Gradually reintroduce food in the form of an easily digestible diet, such as boiled white rice, plain yogurt, boiled chicken and plain cottage cheese. Offer small amounts every four to six hours as long as your dog is not vomiting. Gradually transition to a regular diet. If vomiting or diarrhea last more than 12 to 24 hours, or if your dog is lethargic, visit your vet to have him checked out.
3. Splinting fractures: If your dog has an obvious fracture to his leg, it’s beneficial to provide some kind of support before transporting the dog to the veterinary hospital. If your dog will allow you to gently handle the fractured leg, use a tightly folded up newspaper to make a splint that you can duct tape and bandage to the leg. Wrap the tape firmly around the splint and leg being careful not to put it on too tight. If your dog resists your efforts, do not risk injury to yourself or your dog. Just get him to a vet as quickly as you can.
4. Heatstroke: Left untreated, heatstroke can be fatal. If you suspect your dog is overheated, take his temperature rectally with a digital thermometer. A normal temperature in a dog ranges from 100 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. If your dog’s temperature is above 105 degrees, gently cool your dog by misting him with water and pointing a fan at him. You can also pour rubbing alcohol on the paw pads and offer small amounts of cool (not cold) water to drink. It’s important not to cool your dog off too quickly; an abrupt change in temperature can lead to shock and death. Never use ice packs or immerse your dog in water. Recheck your dog’s temperature every 15 to 30 minutes until it gets down to 103 degrees, then transport your dog to a veterinary hospital to check for after-effects, such as kidney failure or blood-clotting abnormalities.
5. Bee stings/insect bites: Facial swelling or hives can sometimes be controlled with over-the-counter diphenhydramine (Benadryl). You can give your dog up to 1 milligram per pound of body weight. If your dog is very small, look for pediatric diphenhydramine formulations. This dose can be repeated every four to six hours up to three times. It’s important to use plain diphenhydramine oral tablets, capsules or liquid that contain no other ingredients. It typically takes about 20 to 30 minutes for the antihistamine to take effect. In some dogs, only an injection of steroids and antihistamine by your veterinarian will be effective. If the swelling is anything more than mild, give diphenhydramine at home, then immediately take your dog to the vet for repeat injectable drugs.
Jon Geller, D.V.M., Dipl. ABVP, is an emergency veterinarian and freelance writer in Fort Collins, Colo. He is board-certified in canine and feline medicine, and is also certified by the American Society of Veterinary Journalists. He shares his home with his family, including three cats and one dog.