Knowing what to do in a life threatening emergency with your dog is something every pet parent should know. The American Red Cross is a wonderful resource when looking to educate yourself on preparedness for the whole family, your dog included.
Some key points for first aid are:
- Know what is normal for your dog.
- Have a first aid kit in your car and your home.
- Know how to check your dog's pulse. An easy spot is the inside of the hind leg.
- Know how to read the color of your dogs gums. They should be pink, unless black is normal for your dog.
- Know how to watch for hypothermia. A temperature below 96 indicates that your dog is likely in hypothermia. Wrap him gently with towels to raise body temperature.
- If your dog is in shock, his vital organs are not getting enough oxygen. Be sure to cover your dogs torso to keep him warm. Also, raise the hind quarters if possible. This will encourage blood to flow back to the area and get oxygen to his vital organs. In shock, you have about 15-20 minutes to get your dog to the vet. Signs of shock are labored breathing, unresponsiveness, white capillaries after gentle pressure (you can check this on the gums).
- If you are giving mouth to mouth, do not breathe too heavily. Too much air that fills the lung to capacity will cause vomiting and aspiration.
- CPR can be administered to dogs if mouth to mouth is not successful. Make sure the dog is laying on his right side, since his heart is on the left. You will place one hand under and one on top. The action is much more gentle that it is with humans. 5 compresses to one breath in a quick pace. Hand is placed up on the heart, not on the rib.
- Always check your ABC's - Airways, Breathing, Circulation
- If a dog has been hit by a car, you want to move him as carefully with as little movement as possible onto a board or a blanket that can be lifted by two people as to not cause any further injury and immediately transport him to the closest veterinarian.
Being prepared is always your first line of defense. When you are the "first responder" every second counts.
The American Red Cross has a book called Dog First Aid that every pet parents should have on hand and review often. It also includes an instructional CD. The Red Cross also offers periodic classes in pet first aid. To find classes visit http://www.redcross.org.