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September 2022

Dog First Aid Kit and Pet CPR

CareHealth & Nutrition

No one wants to think about their pet getting hurt or injured, but it’s an unfortunate possibility – and how you respond could save your pet’s life. From first aid and CPR to common pet emergencies, we’re going to break down dangerous situations you might find your pet in and detail how to best react. Quick action can make all the difference!

What To Put In A First Aid Kit For Dogs

very pet parent should have a first-aid kit on hand, ready for emergencies. Animal first aid kits are similar to human ones – with some differences. See below for a full breakdown of what you should have in your first-aid kit.

Your First-Aid Kit Should Contain:

  • A cold pack.
  • Bandages: this should comprise of gauzes, non-stick gauzes and some sterile bandages. It’s useful to also have a pre-wrapped bandage in a donut shape that can
  • be easily slipped over the animal’s leg if needed.
  • Sterile water.
  • Thermal shock blanket.
  • A muzzle (or something you can use as a muzzle - you can fashion a muzzle out of a lead or even bandages but it’s easiest if you have a muzzle on hand).
  • A spare lead and collar.
  • Absorbent items you can use for bandages: you can use sanitary or incontinence pads or puppy-training toileting mats for this. Tampons are also useful as they can be inserted into hole-shaped wounds.
  • Cotton buds (you can soak these in sterilised water and use them to remove anything that could be obstructing the animal’s eyes).
  • Antibacterial spray or manuka honey wound gel.
  • Scissors (to cut bandages).
  • Tweezers.
  • Tick remover.
  • Ziploc bags (these are useful if the animals been attacked, and their ear has been chewed off by another dog – the vet can sew them back on provided they’re kept clean and cool).
  • A sample jar (in case there’s vomit or other bodily fluid you need to collect to take to the vet so they can test it).
  • Gloves.
Hot Tip

Dog owners should have two first aid kids – one that’s kept in the house, and one that’s kept in your car. For cat owners, one at the house will suffice.

How To Perform CPR On A Dog

You might find yourself in an emergency situation where your dog or cat isn’t breathing and doesn’t have a pulse – do not panic – like with humans, you can perform CPR to keep blood pumping to their vital organs until you take them to the vet.

Step-by-Step Process for Pet CPR

  1. First thing to do in an emergency is to make sure there’s no danger towards you or anyone around you. You’ve got to put yourself, and your safety, first. Ensure there are no surrounding hazards before proceeding.
  2. If your dog is conscious, you need to put a muzzle on them; you must do this even if they have no history of aggression. An animal that’s in pain and distressed will often go to bite you when you try to handle them or get too close to their injuries. Use the muzzle from your first aid kit, or fashion a muzzle out of their lead by wrapping it around their head and mouth.
  3. Put the dog on its side and check to see if they’re breathing. If they’re breathing, you should be able to feel their chest moving up and down and feel the air coming from their nose.
  4. To check for a pulse, press your finger behind their elbow on the left-hand side (this is where their heart is and thus where you should be able to find the strongest pulse). Another place you can find the pulse is inside the back legs (where the femoral artery is). When feeling for a pulse, don’t use your thumb – your thumb has a pulse, and you can misidentify your thumb’s pulse for your pet’s pulse.
  5. If you don’t detect breathing or a pulse, begin CPR. Unlike with humans, pet CPR is performed from mouth to nose (not mouth to mouth). You need to close the animal’s mouth, breathe into their nose with a strong breath and you should see their chest go up and down as you do this.
  6. Start compressions. Compress one third of the chest, and pump with your hands (not your elbows). A smaller dog or cat will need less pressure than a larger one, but you still compress to a third of their chest capacity. Be careful not to push too hard, or you risk breaking the animal’s ribs.
  7. Repeat the pattern of two quick, strong breaths into the nose followed by 30 compressions. Make sure you follow the 30 pumps followed by two breaths sequence. What you’re doing here is keeping the blood pressure stable and protecting their vital organs and if you time it incorrectly, you risk destabilising them further.
  8. Repeat this process until they start breathing for themselves. If they’re still not breathing for themselves, keep performing CPR and get someone to take you and the animal to an emergency vet hospital. Keep doing CPR until you reach the vet.

FAQs for Pet CPR

When do you perform CPR compressions on a pet?

You perform compressions when you don’t feel a pulse – which means their heart isn’t beating. If you do compressions when their heart is beating, you’ll put their heart out of rhythm and it could stop. Only do compressions when you don’t feel a pulse.

Do you perform compressions if their heart is beating, but they’re not breathing?

No. If you can feel their pulse but they’re not breathing then you don’t do compressions but breathe mouth to nose to simulate breathing and continue till they start breathing for themselves or until you reach the vet.

Is CPR the same for a cat as it is for a dog?

Yes, you follow the same process to perform CPR on a cat as you do on a dog, but you’ll need something smaller to muzzle them. You can wrap a bandage around the cat’s head to prevent them from biting you (leaving the nose exposed so you can breathe into it). You also won’t push as hard to perform compressions on a cat as you would a dog, but still follow the rule of compress to one third of the chest.

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How To Respond To Common Pet Emergencies

We’ve compiled a list of emergency situations you and your pet might be faced with. While not an exhaustive list of every possible scenario, these are cases that are seen most frequently. It’s not pleasant to think about but familiarising yourself with the appropriate response to common emergencies could be instrumental to your pet’s survival and recovery.

What Should I Do if My Dog is Hit by a Car?

  1. The first thing you should do is make sure you’re not in any immediate danger – particularly if you’re on a road.
  2. Once it’s safe, muzzle your dog.
  3. Examine your dog’s wounds. Is there blood coming out? And if there is – how is it coming out? Spurting indicates an arterial wound which will quickly bleed out if you don’t attend to it. This is where sanitary pads and toileting mats from your first aid kits will be useful as they’re highly absorbent. If you don’t have these on you use a towel, scarf or even items of clothing – whatever you have to hand. Wrap the bandage loosely around the wound and continue to wrap until blood ceases to soak through. Be sure not to wrap it too tight – you’re not trying to create a tourniquet as that will slow the blood flow altogether and speed up your dog’s deterioration.
  4. Wrap your dog in a blanket. Like humans, dogs will go into shock. This will mean they can’t regulate their temperature and it will exacerbate their distress. Keep them as calm and warm as possible.
  5. Take them to the vet. Ideally get someone to drive you so you can monitor your dog during the drive and make sure their bandages stay intact and they remain wrapped in the blanket.

What Should I Do if My Dog is Bitten by a Tick?

  1. Remove the tick as quickly as possible. Use a tick remover if you’ve got one in your first aid kit, otherwise you can also use tweezers. With this method, you need to pull the tick off by attaching the tweezers or tick remover to the tick’s mouthpiece, twisting the tick, and pulling it off. Avoid squeezing the tick’s body as that will release more toxins into your dog.
  2. Store the tick in a container or jar and bring it to the vet so the vet can identify it.

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What Should I Do if My Dog is Bitten by a Snake?

Unless you see it occur, you may not realise your dog has been bitten by a snake until they show symptoms of having been poisoned – their pupils will dilate, they’ll be lethargic, and they may be drooling or foaming at the mouth.

If you suspect your dog has been bitten by a snake, wrap them in a blanket and keep them as calm and still as possible. This slows the spread of toxins through their body. Take them to the vet immediately. The vet will identify the type of snake bite and give them antivenom.

What Should I Do if My Dog Has Ingested Poison?

If your dog has ingested poison, you must call the vet immediately and let them know what poison your dog has consumed – depending on what they’ve eaten and how close you are to the vet they may ask you to bring your dog in immediately, or they may instruct you to make the dog vomit.

How to Make Your Dog Vomit

  1. Tip a large amount of salt (at least 2cm worth) into 200ml of warm water and stir it until it’s dissolved.
  2. Open your dog’s mouth and tip the full amount of water down their throat. It’ll take about 30 seconds to come back up.
  3. Either collect a sample or take a photo to show the vet.
  4. Give your dog fresh water immediately afterwards as inducing vomiting will dehydrate them.
  5. Take them to the nearest vet for further examination.

When to Induce Vomiting for Your Dog

  • Only induce vomiting after direct instruction from the vet – your vet may instruct you to induce vomiting if you’re a fair distance away and if your dog has ingested pest baits, fertiliser, chocolate or other similar toxins.
  • Do not induce vomiting if your dog has had anything that’s acidic (washing detergents and powders, cleaning agents, bleaches, and car coolant are all acidic toxins) as it’ll burn their throat when it comes back up and injure them further. Anything acidic needs to be removed by the vet through stomach pumping.

What Should I Do if My Dog Has Severe Bloating (Gastric Torsion)?

Gastric torsion is something to be conscious of for owners of deep-chested dog breeds, like Great Danes, Weimaraners, German Shorthaired Pointers, German Shepherds, Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Basset Hounds and Dachshunds. It occurs when the gut fills with gas, and that causes the stomach to twist – preventing blood from getting to the stomach and eventually killing the dog if not corrected.

If your dog is showing signs of gastric torsion (swollen stomach, retching and lethargy) get them to the vet immediately. The vet will empty the gas out of their stomach and move it so it’s in the correct place.

How to Prevent Gastric Torsion in Dogs

  • Feed your dog two small meals per day, rather than one large meal.
  • Use a slow-feeding bowl that prevents your dog from gulping down food too quickly.
  • Do not feed your dog within 2-3 hours (either before or after) of strenuous exercise.
  • Limit the amount of water your dog drinks immediately after eating – do not allow them to gulp down large quantities of water.

If your dog’s breed is predisposed to gastric torsion, there is a preventative procedure that can be undertaken to significantly reduce the risk of it occurring to your pet. Consult the vet to learn more.

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