A Guide to Emergency Canine First Aid

canine first aid

We all love our dogs, but what would you do if your dog was involved in an accident? Giving canine first aid can give a dog precious time before getting veterinary help.

This post contains expert advice and is written by Rachel Bean, a Qualified Veterinary Nurse

Move the Dog out of Harm’s Way

Should the worst happen, and your dog is involved in an accident, your first priority at the scene is to move the dog out of harm’s way. Then notify a Veterinary Surgeon of what has happened and that your dog will soon be on its way.

Always have a vet’s telephone number written down or stored in your phone. If the dog is not yours and has identification, try to call the owners to let them know of the accident.

The following are crucial steps in your canine first aid.


If the dog is unconscious, you need to :


  • Take off any collar or harness.
  • Check the dogs tongue as it could be blocking the airways.
  • Place the dog on his side, use your fingers to pull the tongue forward, extend the neck, leaving the tongue out of the side of the mouth.


  • Check for any breathing, can you see the dog’s chest moving?
  • Can you feel any breath from the nose?
  • If not, you have to prepare to give Artificial Respirations by closing the dogs mouth with two hands and gently breath into the nose.


  • Check if the heart is still beating. Feel for the heart on your dog’s chest.
  • If the dog is on his side, the heart is where the elbow rests.
  • Check for a pulse by feeling for the Femoral Artery which lies high up on the inside of the back leg.
  • If no breathing or heart beat is detected then you have to start CPR - Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation.
  • CPR is designed to manually keep the heart pumping keeping vital oxygen moving to prevent brain death.

To perform CPR, you must

  • Do 30 Chest compressions over the dog’s heart behind the elbow directly over the heart,
  • Then do 2 rescue breaths –
  • Repeat the 30 chest compressions.
  • Keep going until you get to the Vets.

Control any Bleeding

If any bleeding is present, apply direct pressure to the wound to stem the bleeding.

Apply a clean cloth or gauze pad to the wound and apply pressure. The bleeding should stop within 5 minutes.

If the bleeding continues, apply another bandage on top and apply more layers of dressing, and use masking tape or duct tape to give enough pressure.

Make sure the circulation is not cut off below the wound.

Check for signs of Shock

Shock is serious as it means the flow of blood through the body is reduced, limiting the amount of oxygen in the blood.

Signs of shock are:

  • Weakness,
  • Pale/grey gums,
  • Rapid breathing,
  • Reduced consciousness,
  • Collapse.
  • Convulsions.


Wrap the dog up warm and head straight to a Vet.

Safe Handling - Injured Dogs may be Aggressive

Dogs can be scared when they’re hurt, which, in some cases, can lead to aggression. To handle injured dogs correctly:

  • Small dogs – you can cover the head with a blanket to avoid getting bitten.
  • Larger dogs – may have to be muzzled with an emergency muzzle using a bandage or a lead.
dog first aid

At the Vets

Once you’ve safely transported your injured dog to the emergency vet, you should let the vet’s Reception know you have arrived, letting them handle and transport the dog from the car to the surgery. They will know to transport them correctly and will do so in a way that is best for everyone involved.

Give them as many details of the accident as possible about what injuries you think the dog has sustained.

Rachel Bean is a Qualified Veterinary Nurse and has worked in Veterinary Practice for 27 years. She is working hard to train more Dog Owners and Dog-friendly businesses to be more knowledgeable in Canine First Aid – If you would like training, then contact Rachel at rachelbean@hotmail.co.uk.

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