Dogs love to play and explore—and in the process, pups may get a few scrapes, bumps, or insect bites.
For minor injuries, it may be possible to provide care at home and, for emergencies, your initial responses can be lifesaving.
It’s important to know the right way to treat your pup, what you should avoid, and when to call a veterinary professional for help.
First Aid for Dogs
No one likes to think about their beloved pet getting injured, let alone facing a serious medical emergency.
Unfortunately, accidents, bumps, and scrapes are a part of life but, with the right preparation, you’ll know exactly what to do to help your pup.
What is Dog First Aid?
First aid may include providing home treatment for minor injuries and ailments—things like small scrapes, rashes, and splinters.
Or, it may involve keeping your dog stable and comfortable on your way to a veterinarian’s office, during a true emergency.
Your Dog’s First Aid Kit
You’ll want to have the right, dog-safe supplies—and know how to use them!
This first aid kit should include:
- Bandage supplies
- Soft gauze roll or pads
- A self-adherent covering (like Vet Wrap) or non-stick adhesive (something that won’t pull on your pet’s fur when removed)
- Blunt-tip scissors to cut the materials.
- Visual aids like a small flashlight and magnifying glass
- A mild antiseptic like chlorhexidine or povidone-iodine (these should be diluted, not full strength)
- A pet-safe antibiotic ointment, cream, or spray
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Aloe vera gel
- Tweezers for splinters or ticks
- A vet-approved antihistamine (like Benadryl), with your pet’s dose written down
- A cold compress
- Rubbing alcohol.
- A digital thermometer
- A towel
- A big blanket
- A basket muzzle
- Any important paperwork such as medical and vaccination records, emergency veterinary phone numbers.
Remember, not all products are safe for dogs!
Double check with your veterinarian regarding which over-the-counter medications (some human medications are toxic to pets!), antiseptics, and ointments are safe before adding them to your first aid box.
Also, when applying a cream or ointment, be sure your dog doesn’t lick and ingest it. You can also look for products specifically made for dogs.
What Can You Treat At Home, And What Needs a Vet Visit?
Even seemingly small cuts can get infected, and injuries can get worse without proper care. So, while minor things can often be treated at home, be sure to monitor your pup for improvement. When in doubt, call your veterinarian.
With that in mind, here are a few common ailments that can benefit from prompt first aid care:
- Cuts and Scrapes
Small injuries can be cleaned with saline or warm water, followed by a mild antiseptic. Dry the area and place a bandage (if needed) and a pet safe antibiotic cream. Make sure the bandage isn’t too tight, and change it 1-2 times daily. If the cut is deep or the bleeding doesn’t slow after placing pressure for a few minutes, call your veterinarian.
Rashes can be itchy and uncomfortable. And, your dog licking or scratching can lead to infections or painful open sores called “hot spots”. Help your dog’s mild rash by cleaning with a gentle antiseptic, then placing aloe vera or hydrocortisone cream.
- Insect Bites and Stings
If a stinger is present, remove it by scraping a credit card or other flat material across the area. Give Benadryl (with the dose approved by your veterinarian), and place a cold compress in a towel against the area for a few minutes to soothe any discomfort. Monitor your dog closely for several hours, and if your pup shows signs of an allergic reaction (facial swelling, hives, vomiting, diarrhea, distress, or difficulty breathing), seek veterinary care right away!
- Removing a Tick
Remove a tick by firmly grasping the tick’s head (the small piece attached to your dog’s skin) with tweezers, then pulling the tick out. Avoid squeezing the tick’s body, as doing so could increase the chances of your dog catching a serious infection like Lyme or Ehrlichia.
Minor burns can be treated by rinsing the area with cold water for a few minutes, then applying a soothing ointment such as aloe vera.
- Animal Bites
Bites from other animals warrant a veterinary visit. Often, bites go deeper than they appear—what you see is merely the “tip of the iceberg.” Plus, bites from other dogs or cats carry a high risk of infection, and topical antibiotic creams can actually “seal” in the infection and make it worse. You’ll also want to receive veterinary advice regarding rabies risk if the bite came from a wild animal or a pet who’s overdue for a rabies vaccine or has an unknown vaccine history.
- Heat Stroke
Treat episodes of overheating immediately by cooling your pup, then bringing them to a vet. Place your pup in the shade, ideally with a breeze, and use cool water on your dog’s body. Water should be cool, not cold—cold water can restrict blood flow and make heat stroke worse. You can also use rubbing alcohol on your dog’s paw pads. All of this helps with evaporative cooling, since dogs can’t sweat.
It would be impossible to cover all the different types of emergencies here, such as poisonings, equipment or automobile accidents, seizures, and more.
For all those different situations, here are a few good rules of thumb:
- Call the veterinary facility. They can give you first aid and transport advice for your pet’s specific situation. Calling ahead also gives the vet team a chance to prepare, so they can come to your pet’s aid as soon as you arrive.
- Be safe. Even the friendliest of dogs can bite when they’re scared and in pain. A basket muzzle helps prevent bites, without restricting a dog’s breathing.
- Keep your dog calm, quiet, and warm. Try talking to them in a soothing voice.
- Consider learning CPR for dogs, with a local or online class.
We hope your pup will never have a serious emergency. But should it happen, you’ll feel better knowing you were prepared—and that you can provide the best possible care to your best friend.
From our family to yours,
Fromm Family Pet Food