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Underdog Blog


Ali Legros


By: Grace Kulkarni

April is a good time to focus on canine health & safety. The week of April 10-16 is Animal Control Officer Appreciation Week, and April 30th is the celebration of World Veterinary Day. But what if you find an injured dog, or worse what if your pet is hurt, and you don’t have access to an Animal Control Officer or a world-class Veterinarian?

April is also the American Red Cross’s Pet First Aid Month, and they have produced lots of great resources aimed at the special types of first aid dogs and other pets need – lifesaving measures that can buy you the time to get to an urgent vet center or hospital.

In my last post, we discussed the symptoms of pet poisoning – from the minor (drooling, loose stool) to the seriously worrisome (seizures, bleeding). These are other symptoms to be wary of, and what you can do for your dog if they’re suffering.

SEIZURES: A seizure can look different depending on how serious it is – the most dire cause loss of consciousness and convulsions, but seizures can also cause collapsing, jerking, stiffening, muscle twitching, loss of consciousness, drooling, chomping, tongue chewing, or foaming at the mouth. It is also possible your dog will defecate or urinate while seizing.

If your dog is having a seizure, DO NOT restrain him in any way. Keep your hands away from his mouth, he could bite you involuntarily. Seizures can be very scary to watch, but your job is to remain calm – slide your dog gently away from anything he could strike while convulsing. You don’t need to put anything in his mouth, dogs won’t swallow their tongues like we can. Try to time the seizure if you can for the vet’s information. If the seizure continues longer than a few  minutes, your dog may overheat so aim a fan at him if you can do so easily.

If this is your dog’s first seizure, take him to the vet immediately after the seizure concludes (and after he’s comfortably breathing and conscious, of course). If this is part of an on-going disorder, it is best to call your vet after any major seizure to determine whether he’ll need to be seen.

HEATSTROKE & DEHYDRATION: In the summertime, pets love to be outside – but sometimes this is not the best thing for them. If you suspect your pet is dehydrated, pull up on the skin between his shoulder blades – it should spring right back down. If it stays tented, get him some water! The symptoms of heatstroke in dogs are similar to those seen in humans – collapsing, wobbling while walking, difficulty breathing, unable to calm down or unable to get up from lying down, excessive (for a prolonged period or very hard) panting, bloody stools or vomiting, red mouth, increased salivation – if you see any of those, take him inside and cool him down with a fan or near an A/C unit. DO NOT try to submerge or bathe your dog in cold water, this may send him into shock.

BITES: If your pet is bitten (by another dog or by any wild animal), take him to the vet as soon as possible. If he is bleeding, apply pressure using gauze – apply more gauze on top if the blood soaks through. DO NOT try to clean the wound yourself, you risk exposing yourself to rabies or other microorganisms which are dangerous to humans.

CHOKING/COLLAPSE: If your dog is choking, DO NOT attempt to do the Heimlich maneuver learned for humans.  Likewise, DO NOT attempt human style CPR on a dog. Below is a quick guide on how to perform artificial respiration, and how to add chest compressions if cardiac arrest occurs.

Remember also that RESPIRATORY arrest is very different from CARDIAC arrest. A dog can stop breathing and be unconscious but his heart is still beating – if that is the case, perform the artificial respiration below. If his heart also stops, also perform the compressions or CPR.

For RESPIRATORY ARREST, perform artificial respiration:

1.      Lay your dog on his side on a flat surface.

2.      Be sure your dog has stopped breathing: watch for the rise and fall of the chest, feel for breath on your hand, look at the gums - they will turn blue from lack of oxygen.

3.      Check the airway - it must be clear. Extend the head and neck. Open the mouth and look for a foreign object. If an object is blocking the airway, grab the tongue and pull it outward. If this does not dislodge the object, use your fingers, pliers, or tongs to carefully grasp it. If the object cannot be reached or pulled out, use the Heimlich maneuver (here’s a link on how to do the Heimlich on a dog in various situations:

4.      Once the airway is clear, begin rescue breathing: With your dog on his side, lift the chin to straighten out his throat. Use one hand to grasp the muzzle and hold the mouth shut.

5.      Put your mouth completely over the nose and blow gently; the chest should expand. Blow just enough to move his chest (blow harder for large dogs, gently for cats and small dogs).

6.      Wait for the air to leave the lungs before breathing again.

7.      Continue this, giving 20 breaths per minute (one breath every three seconds), until your dog breathes on his own or as long as the heart beats.

If there is also CARDIAC ARREST, do the same as the above and have another person perform compressions:

For Small Dogs or Puppies (under 30 pounds)

1.      Lay your dog on her side on a flat surface.   Place the palm of your hand on the rib cage over the heart. Place your other hand on top of the first. (For puppies and kittens, put your thumb on one side of the chest and the rest of your fingers on the other side.)

2.      Compress the chest about one inch. Squeeze and release rhythmically at a rate of 80 to 100 compressions per minute.

For Larger Dogs (over 30 pounds)

1.      Lay your dog on her side on a flat surface.  Place one hand on top of the other over the widest portion of the rib cage, not over the heart.

2.      Keeping your arms straight, push down on the rib cage. Compress the chest ¼ of its width. Push/squeeze and release rhythmically at a rate of 80 compressions per minute.

Don’t be afraid to Google for help – there are many good YouTube videos  and articles that will coach you through many of these situations. But do make sure you’re using reliable sites – like the Red Cross, or the ASPCA – don’t rely on Dr. Joe’s Holistic Hokey Health because it came up in the search. Try to find sites with .edu, .gov, .org or similar domains. is a good resource that breaks that rule – it is run by veterinarians.


PLUS the Red Cross has a handy-dandy Pet First Aid App for iOS and Android !