Be prepared in case your pet ever needs first aid care

February 25, 2004

A reader called asking for information on first aid preparation before it might be needed. She specified certain trauma situations such as being hit by a car, drowning, or entanglement in electrical wires.

In the first two accidental traumas, the main thing is to check to see if the dog is unconscious or dead. If the animal is breathing and has a heartbeat, there is no question, but if the vital signs are absent, then emergency measures are called for, such as mouth to snout resuscitation and external heart massage.

For a dog pulled from the water, it might be necessary to hold the animal upside down momentarily and apply moderate pressure just below the rib cage to expel any water in the lungs before commencing with mouth to snout resuscitation.

For those squeamish about putting a dog's snout in your mouth, include in your first aid kit a clean square of thin material such as cotton batiste to place over the muzzle. Call your veterinarian and plan to transport as soon as possible. Remember, if the dog requires resuscitation, someone else will have to drive because you will be busy breathing for the animal and stimulating its heart.


The third situation, that of electrical wires, is a case where you cannot run out to rescue the dog without thinking. If the wires still are live, you may injure or kill yourself trying to assist the animal.

Remember to be careful. If you suspect live wires, call the electric company. Once the dog is free of the wires, you can check its condition by lightly touching an eyeball with your finger. If the eyelid flickers, there is life, otherwise, it may be too late.

However, you can still attempt resuscitation, but don't be too hopeful since there was a critical time lapse when you checked the condition of the wires.

In transporting a dog that has had a violent accident, you may want to protect yourself by muzzling the dog. A real dog muzzle allows the dog to breathe better than taping the muzzle shut with gauze strips, or a strap, so do this only if necessary.

If you suspect a neck injury, tie a flat pillow around the neck before moving, otherwise transport on a flat surface or in a hammock type stretcher. (The Girl Scout Handbook (back in the 1940s) had pictures of stretchers made from two broom handles placed in the sleeves of a coat that is buttoned up.)

Be sure to cover the animal with a blanket, even in summer, to protect against shock.

Finally, it really helps if the dog trusts you. Bonding is important. Doing things with your dog creates this bond. A dog that trusts its owner generally will allow the owner to treat a painful injury even without a muzzle. I transported one of my dogs holding a wad of paper towels under her mouth to absorb the blood. By quietly saying "Easy, stay," she remained calm for the whole trip. Not a drop of blood inside the car.|2/24/04***

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