In the first of this series of blogs, on first aid, we looked at the immediate management of an injured dog – the four Golden Rules (Keep Calm, Don’t put yourself in danger, Treat the most serious injuries first, and Seek veterinary care), and how to assess how severely they were injured. In this second part, we’ll look at what treatment you can do as the first at the scene.
Managing different types of wound or injury for first aid
Not breathing/heart stopped – these dogs need immediate CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). The protocol for CPR in a dog is:
- Call for veterinary assistance (your aim is to keep the dog’s brain alive until either we arrive or you get to us).
- Chest compressions – 100 per minute (to the tune of “stayin’ alive”, just like in people!). Your aim is to compress the chest by ⅓ to ½. This is best achieved by laying them on their right hand side (so their left side is uppermost) and:
- Small dogs – a hand around the bottom of the chest, just behind the elbow, squeezing the chest.
- Medium dogs – one hand on the chest, towards the bottom behind the elbow, compressing against the ground.
- Large dogs – both hands on the chest with the heel of the hand just behind the elbow.
- Assisted breathing – a couple of rescue breaths every 15-30 seconds. The best way to do this is NOT mouth to mouth, but mouth to nose – close their mouth with your hands and blow into their nose until you see their chest rise.
- Unfortunately, many dogs whose hearts stop won’t recover, but by doing CPR you are giving them the best possible chance.
Bleeding – stop the bleeding! Blood loss from a major vessel can cause death in as little as 30 seconds, but it usually takes several minutes before it is fatal. There are three main ways to stop bleeding in an emergency:
- Direct pressure – place a hand (ideally over a piece of gauze or other material to spread the pressure) over the wound and push.
- Pack the wound with sterile dressings.
- Apply a tourniquet (only useful on limbs, but only as a last resort and only if you know what you’re doing!). This is a tight bandage, belt or loop of string around the limb above the bleeding, to reduce blood flow to the wound. It can only be left on for 15 minutes before you risk gangrene of the leg – but that can buy you time to get to us.
- Do NOT put anything in their mouths (dogs cannot swallow their tongues when fitting but they can bite your hands off).
- If a seizure lasts more than five minutes or two occur in quick succession without recovery, pick them up and bring them to us immediately – this suggests status epilepticus which is fatal without immediate veterinary treatment.
Burns – cool and seek veterinary care.
- Most burns are incredibly painful, and can prove fatal from shock, fluid loss and infection. The very deepest and most severe burns, however, are often painless – because the nerves have been burned away.
- Burns may be caused by heat (most commonly), chemicals or electricity.
- NEVER put any sort of dressing or ointment on a burn – the best thing you can do is cool it with lots of cold water (this will also dilute any caustic chemicals – but make sure there’s no current still running if it’s an electrical burn).
- Then, cover the burnt area with cling film and bring them to as as fast as possible.
Fractures – if possible, immobilise and bring them in.
- Fractures can be identified by:
- Abnormal movement or angulation of the limb.
- Local pain.
- Severe or total (non-weight bearing) lameness.
- If the fracture is to the distal limb (the part away away from the body, so below the elbow or stifle), it can be helpful to immobilise or splint the limb, especially if the dog is in a lot of pain. This can be done by wrapping a bandage around the leg, going at least as far as the joint above and joint below the injury.
- Fractures higher up the limb should not be splinted or bandaged as the dressing will act as a pendulum and make it worse.
- If you’re not sure how to splint or bandage the fracture, don’t – a poorly applied dressing will be worse than none at all. Just bring them to us, moving them as little as possible!
Spinal injuries – do NOT move if possible; if you have to move them, do so on a rigid board.
- Spinal injuries are most likely after a fall from a height.
- Typical signs include:
- Weakness of the hindlimbs, or all four limbs.
- Paralysis (partial or complete).
- Abnormal gait.
- Less severe pain than the injury would suggest.
- Dogs with spinal injuries should only be moved if absolutely necessary, and then on a rigid board or plank.
Minor cuts and grazes – clean and call for advice.
- Minor cuts and grazes should be washed out with water (to remove any dirt) and then kept clean.
- Do NOT allow the dog to lick at them!
- Sometimes, they will need dressings – we will be able to do that for you.
- Call us for advice before you apply any creams, ointments or dressings.
If your dog is hurt or injured in any way, call us for advice!