Keep Calm and Learn Dog First Aid: Essential Skills for Owners

As a dog owner, you know your furry friend better than anyone. You can tell when something’s not quite right with their health or behaviour, even if it’s subtle. That’s why having some basic first aid knowledge can make a real difference if your dog has an accident or takes ill. Knowing what to do in those crucial moments before you can get them to the vet could potentially save their life. So don’t panic, we’ve got you covered. In this article, we’ll walk through the essential first aid skills every dog owner should know. From checking their vitals to dealing with common injuries or emergencies, we’ll give you the knowledge and confidence to act fast if the worst happens. Stay calm and read on to become the best first aider for your beloved four-legged friend!

Why Dog First Aid Skills Are Essential for Owners

As a dog owner, you know how much joy your furry friend brings to your life. But with that joy comes serious responsibility. What if your dog has a medical emergency and you’re the only one around? Knowing basic dog first aid could save their life.

Be Prepared for Emergencies

Accidents and illnesses can strike at any time. Is your dog choking? Do they have a wound that’s bleeding heavily? Are they showing symptoms of heat stroke? In these scenarios, every second counts. By learning skills like the Heimlich manoeuvre for dogs, how to properly bandage a wound, and how to cool them down, you’ll be ready to provide emergency care until you can get them to a vet.

Give Immediate Treatment

For many conditions, the treatment you provide in the first few minutes can make a huge difference in the severity and outcome. Know how to properly check your dog’s vital signs, perform CPR if necessary, and treat issues like seizures, allergic reactions, and poisoning. The faster you can respond, the better their chances of a quick recovery.

Reduce Stress and Anxiety

Seeing your dog in distress is incredibly upsetting. But by having the knowledge and skills to help them in an emergency, you’ll feel more in control and able to remain calm. Your dog will also feel less anxious if you’re able to confidently handle the situation. Dog first aid training gives you the ability to think clearly in a crisis and do what’s best for your faithful friend.

Overall, dog first aid skills are essential for any caring owner. Make the time to learn, and you’ll have peace of mind knowing you can respond in a medical emergency. Your dog’s life may depend on it.

How to Assess Your Dog in an Emergency Situation

So, your dog has an emergency and you need to figure out how severe it is. The first step is to remain calm and assess the situation.

Check your dog’s vital signs

Take your dog’s pulse by placing two fingers on their inner thigh, near where the leg joins the body. A normal pulse for a dog is between 60 to 120 beats per minute. Check that their gums are pink – pale gums can indicate blood loss or shock. Make sure their breathing is normal before proceeding.

Examine your dog for any visible injuries

Look for bleeding, broken bones, burns or other wounds.

Put pressure on any heavy bleeding to slow blood loss. Immobilise any broken bones to prevent further injury. For burns, flush with cold water for at least 10 minutes.

Determine if your dog is in shock

The symptoms include pale gums, weakness, rapid pulse, shallow breathing, and loss of consciousness. Shock can be life-threatening, so get emergency help immediately. Keep your dog warm and still until help arrives.

Check how responsive your dog is

Call their name and see if they respond to you. Gently pet or pinch their ear to elicit a response. Unresponsiveness can indicate a severe head injury or toxicity.

Once you’ve assessed your dog’s condition, you’ll know whether the situation requires emergency vet care, or if you can treat minor injuries at home. Your ability to stay calm and quickly determine the severity of the problem could save your dog’s life. With the essential first aid skills and knowledge of your dog’s normal vital signs, you’ll be ready to handle any emergency situation.

Essential Dog First Aid Supplies to Have on Hand

To be prepared for any canine medical emergency, there are a few essential supplies you should keep in an easily accessible first aid kit. Having these on hand can help stabilise your dog until you can get them to a vet.

Bandages and Gauze

Stock up on rolls of bandages, gauze pads, medical tape, and elastic bandages which can be used to control bleeding, cover wounds, or immobilise injuries. For larger dogs, you’ll want wider bandages, while smaller adhesive bandages also come in handy for minor cuts and scrapes. You’ll want both sterile and non-sterile options.

Antiseptic and Cotton Swabs

Antiseptic solutions like hydrogen peroxide help clean wounds and reduce infection risk. You’ll also want alcohol swabs and cotton swabs to apply the antiseptic. Be very careful using these around the eyes.

Scissors and Tweezers

A pair of blunt scissors and sterilised tweezers are useful for removing debris from wounds, cutting bandages to size or removing ticks. You can also get special tick removal tools that help grasp the tick firmly at the head for safe extraction.

Emergency Blanket

Have a reflective emergency blanket on hand in case of shock or temperature regulation issues. These lightweight blankets reflect body heat and can help prevent hypothermia.

Other Useful Items

  • Disposable gloves
  • Eye wash solution
  • Activated charcoal (in case of ingestion of toxins)
  • Saline solution
  • Pet first aid book for reference
  • Emergency contact info for your vet

Keeping a well-stocked first aid kit and knowing how to properly care for wounds and stabilise your dog in an emergency situation can truly save their life before you are able to get them to a vet. Be sure to check and replace any expired contents regularly.

Common Dog Emergencies and How to Respond

Cuts and Bleeding

Accidents happen, and dogs can easily cut themselves on sharp objects, thorns, or get nicks and scratches. For minor cuts, wash the area thoroughly with water and apply pressure with a clean cloth to stop bleeding. You can then apply antibiotic ointment and cover the wound with a bandage. For major bleeding or deep wounds, apply firm and direct pressure to the wound with a clean cloth for 10-20 minutes continuously while heading to an emergency vet.


If your dog is choking, you’ll see them pawing at their mouth, drooling excessively, and wheezing or coughing weakly. First, open their mouth to see if the obstruction is visible—if so, remove it with your fingers. If not, perform back blows while supporting your dog in a standing position. Give 5 quick blows between the shoulder blades with the palm of your hand. Check their mouth again and perform chest thrusts or the Heimlich manoeuvre if back blows don’t work. Take your dog to the vet immediately even if you dislodge the item.


Seizures can be terrifying to witness but try to remain calm. Make sure your dog is in a safe area away from stairs or other hazards. Do not put your hands near their mouth, as they may bite down involuntarily. Time the seizure—most last 1 to 3 minutes. After this time, the seizure should stop on its own. Call your vet for seizures lasting more than 3 minutes, or if your dog has trouble breathing afterwards. Provide comfort and water once they are alert again.


On hot days, dogs can overheat quickly, so be very cautious when exercising them. If your dog is panting excessively, drooling, vomiting or has bright red gums, get them into shade immediately and cool their body. Apply cool water all over, give them water to drink in small amounts, and take them to the vet. Heatstroke can become deadly very fast, so this is an emergency situation.

Staying calm and knowing how to properly respond in an emergency can save your dog’s life. Keep this information handy, but also discuss emergency response plans with your vet in case the unexpected happens. Your dog will thank you for it!

Dog CPR and Choke Rescue Techniques Step-by-Step

Check for breathing

If your dog collapses or is found unconscious, the first thing you need to do is check if they’re breathing. Gently open their mouth to check for obstructions. Place your ear next to their nose and mouth to listen for breath sounds and feel for a pulse. If there are no breath sounds or pulse for 10 seconds, begin CPR immediately.

Chest compressions

Place your dog on their side on a firm, flat surface. For medium to large breed dogs, place the palm of your hand over the widest part of the chest, just behind the elbow. For small breed dogs, compress the chest with two fingers placed just behind the elbow. Push down by about 25-30% of the chest depth for 30 compressions at a rate of 100-120 compressions per minute.

Rescue breaths

After 30 compressions, tilt the head back, lift the chin up and open the mouth. Take a normal breath and place your mouth over their nose and mouth, making an airtight seal. Breathe out firmly to make the chest rise. Give 2 rescue breaths.

Continue CPR

Keep doing cycles of 30 chest compressions and 2 rescue breaths until your dog starts breathing on their own or emergency help arrives. Check for a pulse every 2 minutes. If their heart starts beating, continue rescue breaths if they are still not breathing.


If your dog is choking, open their mouth to check for any obvious obstructions. Tilt the head back, lift the chin up and check the back of the throat. For small obstructions, hold the mouth open and sweep out anything in the back of the throat with your finger. For larger obstructions, perform a modified Heimlich manoeuvre: place one hand on their back for support and place the other hand in a fist just behind the last rib. Thrust upward and forward in an attempt to dislodge the obstruction. Repeat until the object is cleared or your dog becomes unconscious, in which case start CPR.

Staying calm in an emergency situation and knowing how to properly respond can help save your dog’s life. Familiarise yourself with these techniques and be prepared to act fast—every second counts.


So there you have it folks – the essential dog first aid skills every owner needs to know. Don’t panic if you feel overwhelmed right now. Just start with the basics like checking your dog’s vital signs and learning CPR. As you practise, your confidence will grow. Remember that even knowing a few simple techniques could save your best friend’s life one day. Stay calm, trust your instincts, and keep this guide handy, just in case. But let’s hope you never have to use it! Now go give your dog a big hug and get ready for your next adventure together. Stay safe!