First Aid for Fido: How to Be Prepared for Any Dog-Related Emergency


After determining that your pet is choking, remove any item that may be constricting the neck. Examine inside the mouth and remove any foreign object you see. Do not blindly place your hand down your pet’s throat and pull any object you feel. Dogs have small bones that support the base of their tongues. Owners probing the throat for a foreign object have mistaken these for chicken bones. Do not attempt to remove an object unless you can see and identify it.

If your pet is small and you cannot easily remove the object, lift and suspend him with the head pointed down. For larger animals, lift the rear legs so the head is tilted down. This can help dislodge an item stuck in the throat.

Another method is to administer a sharp blow with the palm of your hand between the shoulder blades. This can sometimes dislodge an object. If this does not work, a modified Heimlich maneuver can be attempted.

Applying Bandages

If you and your dog are far from help (perhaps camping or hiking), and your dog hurts himself, you need to know how to stabilize him until you can reach a veterinarian. Therefore, learning how to properly apply bandages is vital.

Head Bandages. The most common reason a head wrap is applied is to stop bleeding from the ears. Use long strips of gauze or torn sections of sheet, and wrap them completely around the head, pinning the ears to the side of the head. Be very careful not to wrap too tightly, and do not cover the animal’s eyes with the head bandage. Once the bandage is in place, apply tape to the front edges of the bandage, and make sure that the hair is included in the tape. Test the tightness of the bandage, and frequently check for facial swelling or difficulty breathing.

Leg Bandages. Leg bandages are typically applied to help temporarily stabilize a fracture or to help reduce bleeding from a wound. Begin by wrapping several layers of cotton (roll cotton) around the leg. If the bandage is being used to stabilize a fracture, the joint above and below the fracture must be included in the bandage. After several layers of cotton have been applied, place several layers of stretch gauze over the roll cotton. This should be snug and compress the cotton. Be careful not to make the bandage so tight that circulation is disrupted. Finish the bandage by applying an elastic bandage such as VetRap®, Ace® bandage, or adhesive tape.

Splints. Splints are used to add extra support to fractures of the bones below the elbow. Be very careful if you apply a splint to the rear leg. Due to the natural position of the rear legs, bandaging these bones in a straight alignment can be detrimental. Splints are best used only on the front legs. First, follow the instructions for leg bandages. After the cotton and stretch gauze have been applied, place a flat stick or straight piece of metal on either side of the leg and tape in place. Cover the bandage and splint with elastic bandage such as VetRap® or Ace® bandage, and secure the top of the bandage to the animal by applying one layer of sticky tape.

Bandages and splints do not help fractures of the humerus (upper arm bone) or femur (thigh bone). They can even cause more damage. If you suspect that your pet has a fractured upper thigh bone or upper arm bone, do not use a bandage or splint. Try to keep your dog as quiet and confined as possible and contact your veterinarian.

Resources for Canine First Aid

Want more useful advice on how to be prepared for any dog-related emergency? Check out our featured articles:

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