How serious is my dog's injury?
How to assess the seriousness of your dog's injury or condition.
Table of Contents
1. Outdoor Travel and Prevention
2. Preventing Injury to You: Is the Scene Safe?
3. Restraint and Physical Examination
4. Dog is not breathing: CPR
CPR-1 Chest Massage
CPR-2 Mouth-to-Nose Recusitation
CPR-3 Heart Massage
5. Choking Trouble
6. Dog Unconscious and Breathing: Coma Trouble
Mild Shock, Weakness, Dog Awake
Shock due to Internal Injuries
Anaphylactic Shock and Allergic Reactions
9. Severe Head Injuries
10. Wounds and Bleeding
Cuts, Scrapes, Bruises, and General Wound Care
Water, Wraps, and Bandages: Precautions
Excessive Licking of Wounds
11. Gunshot Wound, Impaled Stick, and other Chest Wounds
12. Dog Fight and Wild Animal Bits
13. Fish Hook and Line Trouble
14. Broken Bone and Joint Trouble
Back and Neck Injuries: Broken Spine
Ligament, nerve, joint, and tendon injuries
15. Near Drowning
16. High Altitude Trouble: Pulmonary Edema
17. Abdominal and Stomach Trouble
Internal Injuries and Bleeding
Loss of Appetite
18. Breathing Trouble and Coughing
19. Foot Trouble
Toe and Pad Injuries
Pad, Toe, and Web Cuts
Foot Pad Blisters and Injuries
DewClaw Rips and Tears
20. Cold and Exposure Trouble
Frostbite and Ice Balls
21. Heat and Exposure Trouble
Burns and Smoke Inhalation
22. Eye Trouble
Pink Eye, Sore Eye, Goopy Eye
Cloudiness of Cornea
Watery or Weepy Eyes
23. Ear Trouble
Stuff in Ear Canal
Swollen Ear Flaps
24. Mouth and Tooth Trouble
Burns and Cuts to Mouth and Tongue
25. Porcupine Quills and other Nose Trouble
26. Tick and Insect Trouble
28. Snake Bite
29. Limp Tail Syndrome
Appendix A Dog First Aid Kit Contents and Use
Appendix B Your Dog's Normal Vital Signs
First Aid for the Active Dog, Canine Health and Prevention
Spiral-bound for easy reference and specifically written for non-specialist general readers with canine companions, First Aid For The Active Dog is an excellent emergency resource, and a perfect "take along" for when one is on the go with an active dog.
Dogs travel outside with us on a regular basis for recreation, adventure, and exercise. Unexpected accidents can and do happen during these outings. Immediate professional veterinary care is not always readily available
Prevention is essential. The chapter on Outdoor Travel and Prevention will help you prepare your dog for an outdoor adventure. The chapter on Preventing Injury to You lets you know when it is safe to administer first aid to your pet. The chapter on Restraint and Physical Examination explains how to examine your dog safely and how to restrain, transport, and care for your dog. Read these chapters before you go.
Effective handling and safe transport of the injured dog to a veterinarian are critical elements of first aid. Most injuries and illness will require eventual veterinary care for effective healing. Successful treatment of many injuries can be beyond the scope of your ability.
Administering dog first aid requires instruction and preparation. Dog First Aid will serve you best if you read and study it carefully before having to use it in an emergency. This book is not intended to replace professional veterinary care when it is available. If you have any doubt about your dog’s health or the extent of his or her ailments always contact your veterinarian at the earliest opportunity for further information, medical assistance, and emergency care. Visit your veterinarian regularly. If your dog has any medical conditions that will be affected by outdoor travel arrange for regular physical examinations before departing on strenuous outdoor trips. Most veterinarians are eager to help and will help make the trip considerably safer for you and your dog.
Chapter 1: Outdoor Travel and Prevention
Injury to your dog is primarily avoided by keeping careful track of your pet when traveling outdoors. The majority of injuries occur while your dog is out of sight and hearing range. All dogs should be trained to return to you when they are called, especially in the heat of excitement. A receptive obedient response to the basic commands of come, sit, stay, and heel will consistently aid in avoiding situations which endanger your pet’s health and safety.
A leash is the most essential piece of outdoor first aid equipment. When your dog is injured a leash is necessary to allow proper restraint to administer first aid. Many dogs will run away or hide when injured and painful. Accustom your dog to the use of a leash before traveling outdoors.
In addition to a leash, a collar properly fitted on your dog with your name, address, and phone number and your veterinarian’s phone number, clinic, and location is a must. It can save you much heartbreak and grief should your dog get lost or run away because it is injured.
Next, for you outdoors adventure you need a dog first aid kit. It should be tailored to your dog’s size and needs. The Appendix A includes a list of the contents for a dog first aid kit. Your veterinarian will help you prepare a kit to for your dog and may provide specific medications your dog may require. Many of the items in human first aid kits can be used for dog first aid. Some, but not all, of the principles of human first aid apply to dogs.
Many veterinarians and dog clubs offer courses in dog first aid. Take a class before you venture into the woods.
An informed awareness of the terrain and wildlife of the area is important to prevent outdoor injuries to dogs. Pay close attention to your dog’s behavior and interests when hiking outside. Attempt to educate yourself of the dangers that may effect you or your dog that exist within the settings you explore. Be alert for old mines, other potential toxic areas, or a history of rabies in the area. Knowing the wild animals, poisonous plants, and mushrooms in your area is important. Be especially alert for areas with skunks, porcupines, grizzly bears, and moose.
Avoid conflicts with wildlife. When you encounter wildlife in their native habitat retreat with your dog and allow any and all wild animals their deserved space and tranquillity. The spring of the year is especially critical for young wildlife. Wildlife are best avoided and not approached when met by you and your dog. Also be aware of national parks and recreation areas where dogs are not allowed on certain trails.
Preparing your dog for strenuous activity is vitally important. Condition your pet to withstand the outdoor vigor expected of him or her before trips into the wilderness. Dogs are more sensitive and sometimes less prepared to withstand changes in outdoor environments than people are. Many dogs do not adapt well to sudden changes and harsh environmental conditions, especially for pets that have grown accustomed to living inside in a strictly controlled environment such as your home. Take your dog on short outings in different weather conditions to familiarize him with harsh weather changes.
You can prevent most injuries and illness by making sure your pet is healthy and feeling well before heading out. Regular visits to your veterinarian for annual physical examinations and consultations regarding your dog’s individual needs and weaknesses will better prepare your dog for outdoor activities.
Prevention of injuries or illness while traveling outdoors with your dog requires planning. Constant observation is essential. An understanding of dog health, nutrition, conditioning and first aid will make the trip safer and more enjoyable. When venturing outdoors always prepare for the unexpected. Bring along your dog first aid kit and any specific medical supplies or medication your veterinarian has determined your individual dog may need.
Chapter 2 Preventing Injury to You: Is the Scene Safe?
Always assess the circumstances, probable causes, and situation associated with an injured dog. Your safety is ultimately most important for you and your injured pet. When your dog is injured determine if continued danger exists for you or your dog. Dangers associated with wildlife and rugged terrain resulting in dog injuries may persist. Make sure that such things as an angry wild animal or unstable geologic condition does not present further danger. If your dog is fighting with a wild animal retreat until the fight subsides. Certain circumstances may allow certain appropriate diversion tactics to scare wildlife off but these are rare and any action other than retreat may result in the wild animal attacking you or others in your party instead. If there is a wildlife encounter and the offending wild animal somehow dies save the intact head if possible for determination of rabies. If your dog is fighting with another dog spraying with water or pulling the hind legs out from the aggressive dog may be appropriate. Physical intervention can result in dog bites to you. Use leashes and controlled familiarization between dogs unaccustomed to each other. Avoid feeding and affection conflicts. Avoid behavior that would cause a dog to attack a person that the dog felt was threatening to its master, a child, or another dog.
First Aid Procedures
Assessing Severity of Injury or Illness
Examining Your Dog
Copyright2003, Sid Gustafson DVM
If you suspect your dog has been injured or is sick, but do not know where or what is wrong, do a thorough exam. Use all of your senses; check the gums first, then feel your dog everywhere; observe his gait while walking and trotting and note which limb is injured; take the time to feel, move, and smell all of the body parts.
Check each suspected injured area closely to locate the specific area of pain note any wincing, whining, or pulling away. Other indications include a misshapen appearance or reluctance to allow the exam of a certain area of the body. Always compare the suspected injured body part (eye, ear, and limb) to the opposite normal body part.
Injured Dog Checklist:
1. Head: Ears, eyes, nose, mouth, teeth, throat, tonsils, and windpipe.
2. Legs: Check for irregularities of pads, toenails, joints, bones (with any lameness always check for split or cracked toenails).
3. Chest: Feel the chest movement and listen with your ear placed on the chest, smell the breath. Count the breaths per minute and compare later.
4. Abdomen: Feel for pain, tenderness, or tenseness, look for bloating or lop sided appearance, observe bowel movements and urination, their color and frequency. Observe the appetite and drinking, note the frequency and volume of vomiting, diarrhea, and gas (burping and farting). A bloated abdomen is the most serious sign and is often life threatening especially if there is a rapid onset accompanied by labored breathing.
5. Measure the Vital Signs-to determine the seriousness of your dog’s injuries.
Vital Signs are the normal physiologic criteria of essential body functions known as TPR (temperature, pulse, and respiration) and gum color. Pink gums indicate normal function. Pale, white, purple, or muddy gums indicate serious injury or illness. Know the normal color of your dog's gums before you go outside with your dog.
The measurement of the vital signs and color of the gums determine the seriousness of injury or illness and how soon you should seek professional care. Heartbeat or pulse rate, breathing rate, temperature, and gum appearance vary with breed, age, conditioning, size, diet, and activity. Familiarize yourself with your dog’s individual normal resting rates and write them in the back cover of this book so you can refer to them easily in a medical crisis.
Average Normal rates at rest:
Respiration- 10 to 25 breaths each minute. Observe chest rise and fall; count the breaths per minute. Panting due to heat and exercise elevates the respiratory rate. Dogs do not sweat except on the margins of their footpads. To cool off they pant. Normal respiration cannot be accurately determined in a panting hot dog. The time it takes your dog to recover from exercise is important. Healthy dogs should stop panting 15 minutes after exercise in cool conditions. Excessive panting in the absence of exercise or heat indicates an abnormally elevated respiratory rate.
Resting Pulse or heart rate- the average normal dog’s heart beats 80 times per minute. The normal range is 50 to 150 beats per minute. Small breeds and pups have faster resting rates. The heartbeat is felt low in the chest between your dog’s elbows. The hind leg pulse is felt for inside of the thigh high in the groin.
(Diagram 3A: Proper placement of fingers for measuring chest pulse and hind leg pulse)
The heart and pulse should be simultaneous. When you feel the heartbeat you should feel the corresponding pulse in the groin.
A thermometer allows the only accurate measure of body temperature. A dry or wet nose means very little. If a thermometer is not available, feel inside the mouth. If it is cold shock and/ or low body temperature are likely present. The ears are the best indicators of fever, if the ears are hot when pressed between the fingers a fever may be present.
An accurate temperature is taken rectally with a clean, lubricated (K-Y jelly, Vaseline, or soap) rectal thermometer. The glass thermometer is shaken down until it reads below 90° and is carefully placed in one inch and held in the rectum for three minutes. It is then removed and rotated until the mercury reading can be read. A digital electronic thermometer is easier to read and is recommended. There is no need to shake it down and unless the batteries fail it is more dependable and less likely to break in the backcountry. Water can damage it so keep it dry.
Pink or pale pink is the normal color of unpigmented gums. Circulation is determined by the capillary refill time. Gum refill time should be less than one second and is determined by applying light finger pressure on the gums above the upper teeth. This pressure will blanch or whiten the gums by pushing the blood out of the capillaries. After removing the finger the whitened gum should refill and return to the normal pink color within one second. This indicates that the circulation is normal and shock or life threatening injury is not immediately present. If the gum capillaries take 2 seconds or longer to refill (return to color) shock is present and veterinary care is needed immediately. A three-second-refill time is a grave sign. Longer refill times with purple gums indicate impending death. Provide assisted breathing and heart massage and seek immediate veterinary care.
Vital Sign Signals
Your healthy pet should recover to these normal parameters within 15 minutes of rest after strenuous activity if the weather is cool. Hot weather may cause persistent panting and indicates the dog requires cooling. If your dog requires a prolonged time to recover to the normal vital signs this indicates serious illness, heat prostration, internal injuries, or circulatory shock.
(Diagram 3, location of vital organs, heart, lungs, abdomen)
Table 1: Normal Resting Dog Vital Signs.
Chapter 4 Dog is not breathing: CPR
Immediate care is necessary to save the dog’s life.
Cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is the stimulation and revival of heartbeat and breathing functions. If the dog is not breathing and the heartbeat is weak or absent both the heart and lungs must be mechanically manipulated to restore their function or replace their function until they begin to function again on their own. First attempt chest pushes (CPR-1) for 1-2 minutes, if no response attempt mouth to nose (CPR-2) for 1-2 minutes, if no response attempt heart massage and mouth to nose breathing (CPR-3)