We all hear stories of situations with our puppies and dogs that scare us…
As a dog owner ourselves we have experienced choking, sickness, and various other emergencies.
At Chichester Secure Dog Park, we hope that none of our customers ever experience this…. sadly however, as dog owners, sometimes all the preventative measures we put in place are not enough.
We asked Kathy Hobson of Dog First Aid Sussex, to share with visitors of Chichester Secure Dog Park her top tips on Dog First Aid.
Users of our enclosed dog field may find reading this useful in case of a dog first aid emergency.
KEY ACTIONS TO TAKE IN A DOG FIRST AID EMERGENCY
We all hope that this will never happen to us. Even us Dog First Aid trainers hope never to have to use our skills in a real-life situation. Unfortunately, it is a fact that most dogs will have accident/incident during their lifetimes, and it is our responsibility as their owners/carers to know what to do. I have written another blog about ‘Why dog first aid is important’ if you still need convincing!
Here is an explanation of the key actions that you should take in any dog first aid emergency. These are fundamental, practical and important steps to carry out before you even attempt treatment. They don’t need to take long to do but are of enormous benefit to both you and the dog.
Your safety is the most important factor. If you become injured you cannot help your dog and also you then become the first aid priority, which means it takes longer for your dog to get the treatment he needs. You might need to stop and put gloves on or turn the electricity off.
Then assess the situation. Is it safe? Do you need to stop traffic or secure dogs, for example? How many casualties are there? If any of them are human – you need to try to help them first.
Call for help and call the vet
Shout for help. Other people can help you in several ways: They can help you with treating the dog. They can call the vet for you. They can stop traffic or keep people/dogs out of the way. They can go and get a car closer to transport the dog to the vet. Being able to delegate tasks will also help you to stay focussed on what needs doing and not panic.
Calling the vet is important, not just to get advice or reassurance on your first aid treatment. There may be situation-specific advice they can give you and they need to know you are on your way to see them. If you turn up at your vets unannounced, they are likely to be busy with other patients. They have a duty of care to these patients so cannot drop what they’re doing to come to your rescue. You may be told to wait or to go to a different vet. Calling ahead to the vet can make a big difference to the time it takes for your dog to get treatment.
Securing the dog
This is all about the fight/flight/freeze response. A frightened and injured dog will be reacting instinctively, not rationally. He will probably try to run away, the flight response. If he does this then you cannot treat him, and it may make the injury worse. You need to secure him with a collar and lead.
If the dog cannot run away, then his next response may be to try and fight his way out of the stressful situation. This means there is a bite risk to you - trying to treat an injured animal can be dangerous. Imagine a situation where your dog’s bleeding and you need to put pressure on the wound. The application of pressure is going to hurt your dog and their instinct will be to try and get you off – they are not going to understand that you are trying to help.
If you consider there to be any risk at all the dog biting you then you should muzzle him. It is only a temporary measure, is for your safety and ultimately for the benefit of the dog. We recommend practising this with your dog regularly so that it is familiar, and you are not adding to the dog’s stress in an already stressful situation.
Examining the dog
We spend a lot of time talking about this during our training sessions. Practising it with your dog means that you can be fast and efficient at it and be very familiar with what’s normal for your dog, thus being able to spot anything abnormal much more easily. Any information you can give the vet will be helpful.
In an emergency it may be obvious what the problem is, for example there may be a stick poking out of the dog’s chest, or they might be holding their leg at a strange angle. However, if the problem is not immediately obvious then we recommend looking at the dog’s gums first. There is a bite risk with this of course so it is up to you whether you’re prepared to take the risk, probably also depending on how the dog is behaving. The gums should be a salmon pink colour in a healthy dog, but other colours (tinges) indicate serious problems. Blue indicates a lack of oxygen, i.e., breathing difficulties, yellow is jaundice and is a liver problem, pale/grey is usually shock and red is usually heatstroke.
Above and Beyond all of this advice....
The most important thing to do is to stay calm and keep your dog calm. If you are stressed, then your dog will pick up on that and get (even more) stressed themselves. A stressed dog will be more difficult to treat. They will also have elevated blood pressure which will make some situations worse, for example they will bleed more quickly, and toxins will travel around the body quicker.
Always seek the vet’s advice, even if you feel that you have resolved the problem. First aid is about knowing how to save a dog’s life in a critical situation where you do not have time to get to the vet, such as choking or CPR, but more often it is about getting the dog to the vet in the best possible condition. First aid is certainly not a substitute for veterinary treatment.
Want to attend a Dog First Aid Course...?