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First Aid For Dogs , Emergency Treatment for Trauma and Fractures

Rover’s Recess, Inc.

Give you and your dog a break!


can you use first aid on dogs

    First aid for dogs is a highly recommended skill to master, if you are serious about your dog’s health.

Dogs sustain fractures and other traumas, just as humans do, most commonly as a result of being hit by a car, falls, abuse, and blunt trauma.  Fractures can manifest themselves from dogs riding in cars when not properly restrained, from great falls, or from abuse.

  Depending on the mechanism of injury and what bones you suspect are broken or what other injuries are sustained will determine what emergency treatment technique is used.

    For the safety of the rescuer, it is important to muzzle the dog before evaluation and treatment commences, as even a friendly animal may attempt to bite if in pain.  However, if the dog is unconscious and/or breathing difficulties are present, muzzling should not be done.

evaluating dogs with trauma

    first aid for dogs starts with an evaluation… In evaluating a dog with unwitnessed trauma, you should assess the Airway, Breathing, and Circulation. These are the A, B, Cs that are always part of a primary evaluation. Once any problems with the ABCs are corrected, airway maintained and bleeding controlled, you should quickly move to the secondary assessment of the animals condition.

   You may evaluate the dog’s level of consciousness by brushing a finger against the dogs “eyebrow” whiskers. If the dog in not deeply comatose, you will observe the eyelid twitch.  If the dog is breathless and pulseless, mouth to snout CPR should be started.

  You may receive special training in animal CPR.  See the resources at the end of this article.

how do you give your dog first aid

     Start at the head and work your way along the dog’s body to the tail, palpating and examining each area.  Then, examine all extremities.  If you see blood in the ears, suspect skull fracture or brain injury.  The dog’s pupils should be equal in size, otherwise there may be brain injury.

  Vomiting of blood may indicate brain injury or damage to internal organs in the chest or abdominal cavity.  Any swelling of the abdomen could be related to the effects of the trauma or could be a sign of shock due to internal bleeding.  Bloody froth coming from the snout or mouth is an indicator of internal injuries to the lungs and is a life threatening emergency.

Deviation of the dog’s trachea, which is normally inline with the center of the neck,  indicates a collapsed lung and requires immediate emergency care by a vet.   Blood coming from the rectum or urinary tract may also indicate internal injuries.

evaluating rate of pulse for dogs

    You can evaluate the strength, character, and rate of pulse by palpating the blood vessel in the dogs rear leg. You will feel a chord like structure on the inside of the dog’s upper hind leg, what we would consider the thigh.  Use your fingertips to lightly press the vessel against the bone. Use an uninjured leg for this test.

Do not use your thumb, because your thumb has a pulse and you will not be able to discern your pulse from the dogs.  The pulse should be taken for 30 seconds (multiply the result by two to obtain the beats per minute)  and should be strong, with no skips. The rate for a normal adult dog is around 70 – 180 beats per minute, a puppy is around 200.

  Weak, thready, or rapid pulse is indicative of shock. To treat a dog for shock, first immobilize the dog’s body as indicated below for spinal injury. Then, elevate the dog’s body so that the head is lower than the heart.

emergency treatment for dogs with fractures

    Although there are many types of fractures, the emergency treatment is basically the same. For a compound fracture, where bone in sticking through the skin, do not attempt to straighten the extremity.  You will need to use padded boards, rolled up newspaper, anything stiff to splint the injury with.

  All fractures must be immobilized “as they lay,” to prevent further damage. If bone is protruding and there is only oozing blood, protect the wound and broken bone ends with a clean, preferably sterile gauze pad moistened with saline or plain water.  If there is spurting blood, a sign of blood coming from a damaged artery, you will have to use the animal’s pressure points to control bleeding.

    If there are no breaks in the skin and the dog is limping, you should look for deformities in the extremities, which are most commonly fractures, sprains, or strains.  Treat any limp as though the extremity may be broken. Splint the extremity to prevent further damage and transport the animal to the veterinary hospital as soon as possible. Splinting will also reduce pain. Apply ice packs to any injured areas to reduce pain and swelling.  The ice will also promote control of bleeding.

    If the animal has sustained a serious injury, such as being hit by a car and the dog cannot move its extremities, suspect a broken back.  Gently pinch each extremity and the tail.  If there is no response, the dog may be paralyzed. To transport an animal suspected of having a broken back, you must immobilize the entire animal.

Enlist the help of bystanders to place the injured dog on a rigid surface, such as a board, even an ironing board may work in a pinch, large enough to hold the dog. One person should ensure that the dog’s neck moves as a unit with the rest of the animal as you log roll it or drag it onto the backboard.  Use roller gauze, tape, rag strips, belts, or padded rope to help secure the dog to the board.

  Be sure to control any bleeding if present. For bleeding due to cuts or punctures, direct pressure is best.  If the dog’s extremity is seriously mangled hanging by a thread, it may be best to use a tourniquet above the break.  Loosen it slightly every 5 minutes and then re-tighten. Repeat the cycle as needed, but do not totally remove the tourniquet.  Leave the tourniquet in place for the veterinarian.   Use a wide strap or a belt, as thin materials, like rubber bands or string, may cause further damage to blood vessels.

    If the dog has sustained a penetrating injury, such as a gunshot , stabbing, puncture, or other penetrating injury, control the bleeding with direct pressure, but do not remove any impaled  object. if the object, such as an arrow or stick is impaled in the dog, leave it in place and immobilize it with tape, gauze, and even a paper or styrofoam cup to prevent it from moving, causing further injury.


    first aid for dogs with trauma and fractures needs some courage and patience, but Remember, time is of the essence, so conduct your assessment and treatment carefully but quickly. Then, package the animal for transport and proceed to the closest veterinary facility carefully and quickly.

    An untrained person can learn to save an animal’s life, but the safest thing for you and the animal is to get some training.  Check the resources below to learn where you may receive low cost training to assist animals in difficulty.

First Aid for dogs and pets Resources:

 American Red Cross Pet CPR
 American Red Cross Pet First Aid
 Detailed info on bone fractures
 Muzzling a dog

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