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Vet's corner

Essential first aid you can do for your dog


From choking and collapsing to bleeding and broken bones, Petplan veterinary expert Brian Faulkner tells us the ways you can help and comfort your dog if he's in trouble.


You do everything you can to keep your dog safe, but sometimes accidents happen – even to the healthiest of animals. While it’s always best that your canine receives professional treatment from a vet as soon as possible, you’ll be reassured to know there are some key first aid techniques you can do for your pet to help them immediately after an incident.


My dog… has collapsed

‘While CPR may be common practice with humans, I don’t recommend doing this with your dog. Not only is there risk of contamination, but fragile rib bones can be broken, and the lungs and heart may be accidentally bruised or crushed during compressions.

‘Instead, put your canine into the sternal position (pictured above). Rather than laying your dog on one side, arrange him on his front with his paws out ahead. This helps straighten the airway, enables the dog’s ribcage to move, and allows air to flow better.’


My dog… is choking

‘It’s very rare for dogs to choke, but golf balls or smaller rubbery balls can get stuck at the back of their throats. In this instance, don’t put your fingers into their mouth – you won’t be able to grip the object and, and your pet’s reflex will be to bite down.

‘Instead, put your thumbs behind your dog’s jaw, coming in from behind, and gently push upwards. Imagine doing it to yourself: put your thumbs on your throat glands, with your palms facing your cheeks and fingers pointing upwards. By doing this, you push from behind the obstruction – and that pressure can often be enough to help dislodge the object. Don’t be tempted to try the Heimlich manoeuvre on your pet as most dogs don’t have the right body shape for it, and you’ll either break some bones or get bitten!’


My dog… has stopped breathing

‘Your dog’s breathing can be subtle, but there are a couple of things you can do to check for it. First, simply look to see if there is a rise and fall of the ribcage. When animals panic, they breathe more quickly, which is easy to see. If you’re having trouble seeing this, place a cold mirror in front of their nostrils – as their breath hits this, you’ll see condensation form. If you’re worried about your dog’s breathing take him to the vet immediately.’


My dog… might not have a heartbeat

‘In dogs, the heart is positioned low in the chest and forward in the body. Place your fingers on either side of his ribcage, at the point just underneath his front legs. Once you’ve found the right spot, don’t squeeze – just gently apply contact pressure and from this you’ll be able to feel if the heart is beating.

‘Heartbeats can be trickier to feel in some breeds of dog, especially barrel-chested breeds, like bulldogs, because their fat and thicker skins make it harder to detect – so take your time. If you’re concerned about your dog’s heartbeat take him to the vet straight away.’


My dog… is bleeding

‘Remember that a little blood goes a long way! One of the most common causes of bleeding in dogs is when they accidentally pull out a claw or slice their pads. If you’re able, the best thing to do is apply some pressure (but not too hard) by wrapping the injury. Use a clean white tea towel or handkerchief, depending on the size of your dog’s paw, as these are absorbent and let you see the bleeding more clearly. Don’t apply a tourniquet (a very tight bandage to stop the blood flow) to the leg, as this can cause more harm than good.

‘If there is bleeding on the head or ear you can try to apply a bandage, but make sure you don’t apply it too tightly around the throat.’


My dog… has broken a bone

‘When a broken bone sticks out, this is called a compound fracture. Until seen by your vet, there isn’t much you can do about this and other kinds of breaks, except – if appropriate and safe to do so – cover the injury up to try and keep it clean to avoid infection. Don’t give them pain medication like aspirin or attempt to splint the bone – they don’t work and you’ll be adding weight to the broken part of the bone, which can make the injury worse.’


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