First aid for puppies

No matter how vigilant you are as caring owners, your puppy can get into all kinds of scrapes, some of them serious. That’s why a little pet first aid knowledge can be a life saver, literally.

Why is it important to learn first aid?

As a responsible pet owner, being able to help your puppy when in trouble whether it is a major or minor incident will ensure your pup has the best chance of recovery and could even save their life. From a very young age, puppies are curious and playful and can easily and unintentionally get into a situation where they have found themselves injured despite our best efforts to keep them safe and healthy. For example, cuts and grazes are common for young dogs exploring a new place or playing. The most important thing for you to do with your new puppy is to get to know their basic health signs and behaviour, so if they do begin to feel unwell, you can spot the change quickly. Changes may include an increase in heart rate, respiration or temperature.

The first thing to do if you are ever feeling worried about your pet’s health is always to speak to your vet. Even over the phone, they can give you some valuable advice and help decide if your pup can be treated at home or needs to come in to the practice. If your puppy has sustained a serious injury – for example, a broken limb in a traffic accident – then obviously they’ll need urgent professional treatment, and time is of the essence here. Wrap your pup in a foil blanket or towel to provide warmth, reduce shock and protect the injured limb, and take them straight to the vet. Bear in mind that a puppy in pain may well act out of character and possibly be aggressive. Handle them very carefully, don’t push it if they’re becoming defensive or stressed, and keep your voice gentle and reassuring.

Generally, the first hour of an injury is the most crucial. Having first aid knowledge will help give you the confidence to act quickly and sensibly. In turn, this will improve the welfare of your pup and potentially the time needed for any treatment they may require. But remember, if you’re in any doubt, call your vet. Even if you believe you’ve dealt with your puppy’s injury successfully, it’s best to have them checked over.

How to treat a graze on a puppy

  1. Look to see if your puppy has any other injuries that need treating. If he’s bleeding heavily or seems to be in a great deal of pain, then take him to your vet to be checked out.
  2. If necessary, carefully cut away any hair around the wound using blunt-ended scissors.
  3. Wash the area with saline solution, then blot away moisture with a swab.
  4. Apply a hydrogel (water in gel form that provides a moist environment to help wounds heal) to the area.
  5. Check the graze daily and keep applying the hydrogel if needed. Call your vet if the area looks infected (red, swollen or seeping liquid).

How to extract a grass seed from a paw

  1. Grass seeds have the potential to penetrate through fur and into the skin, so if you suspect one is stuck in your pup’s paw, soak it in salt solution.
  2. For the solution, use one teaspoon of salt to one pint of cooled boiled water.
  3. Place the paw in the solution for up to 10 minutes to see if this dislodges the seed. Some puppies will tolerate this better than others – don’t force them to comply if they’re unhappy.
  4. If the seed is visible above the skin, you can use tweezers to remove it (not sharp-ended ones, though). Ensure you remove all the seed and its hair.
  5. If you can’t extract it, or if the area becomes infected, contact your vet immediately. It’s easier to resolve grass seed injuries with early intervention.

Essential tips for keeping pets safer

  1. Prevention is better than cure, so walk your puppy on a lead near roads when they are old enough to go out. Also make sure your puppy is as visible as possible when out in the dark – light-reflective collars will help.
  2. Ensure hazardous substances in the home are kept well away from puppy’s reach. If you suspect they’ve eaten something toxic, don’t try to make them sick as this can be more dangerous. Take your pup along with any packaging, tablets or plant material that you think he might have swallowed to your vet as soon as possible.
  3. Keep your first aid kit in a place where you can grab it quickly. Put some basic first aid items in your car as well, in case he gets injured while out and about. And store your vet’s contact details in your mobile phone. What to keep in your puppy first aid kit can be found below.
  4. In an emergency, always call your vet practice first, because many will have out-of-hours clinics. Have a pen at the ready to take down an alternative telephone number if necessary.
  5. If you suspect your puppy has broken a bone, don’t attempt to apply a splint. Not only is this very painful for your pup, but it can cause the bone to break through the skin and create more problems.
  6. Never give human medicines to a puppy.

Get the kit

First aid kit

There are some basics that no puppy first aid kit should be without:

  1. Sterile saline solution
  2. Hydrogel
  3. Sterile wound dressing and swabs
  4. Bandages - Padding, Conforming, Cohesive and Adhesive
  5. Blunt-ended scissors (never use normal scissors when tending to your puppy)
  6. Tweezers (not sharp-ended)
  7. Elizabethan collar (or pet cone, to prevent pets from worrying at a wound)
  8. Vinyl gloves
  9. Foil blanket to retain body heat and help combat shock

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