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Aims of first aid

To preserve life

To prevent suffering

To prevent the situation from deteriorating.

The four rules of first aid

Do not panic!

Maintain the airway: mainly through stretching out the neck carefully and removing anything from the mouth if possible.

Control bleeding: see below under 'haemorrhage'

Contact the vet

Handling injured animals

Be gentle but decisive, reassure the dog. Try and put a lead on the dog, possibly using the noose technique (photo 1), but be careful! The dog may bite, especially if he is frightened or in pain. You may need to muzzle the dog, perhaps with a tape muzzle, unless there is an injury to the nose, skull or muzzle.

Brief examination and first treatment

Check the airway: listen for breathing sounds, watch the chest moving up and down

Check for bleeding and control (see later)

Check for fractures and immobilise (see later)

Dress wounds cleanly

Transport to the vet's surgery

If the dog can walk, let him! If not, carry him carefully: in small dogs, use a basket or other carrier (make sure the patient can be watched though and that there is sufficient ventilation), in bigger dogs use a stretcher or blanket. A stretcher can made of a plank of wood for instance. The latter is especially important if there is any suspicion of spinal injury or the dog is collapsed or severely injured. Be as quick as you can but do not take any unnecessary risks.


Most poisonings are the result of accidents, overdose, unusual reactions, carelessness or ignorance, but some are malicious! There are several categories of poisons:

1. Medicines, e.g. sedatives, painkillers, heart tablets etc.

2. Pesticides, e.g. weed killer, slug pellets, snail bait, certain flea treatments (e.g. those containing organophosphates) etc.

3. Household chemicals, e.g. rat / mouse poison, antifreeze etc.

4. Plants, not often seen, e.g. deadly nightshade, kale, rape, white bryony, cherry laurel, ergot, hemlock, dumb cane, foxglove, egg plant, horsetails, St John's wort, rhododendron, laburnum, linseed, dog's mercury, oak, philodendron, bracken fern, ragwort, rhubarb, spurge laurel, sugar beet, black bryony, yew, tomato, tobacco, winter cherry, woody nightshade and possibly others.

5. Insect stings, e.g. wasps, bees etc.

6. Snake bites, e.g. adders.

Prevention of further absorption of the poison can be achieved in several ways:

1. Removing the source, e.g. by washing the dog's coat if the poison is on the animal, putting on an Elizabethan collar or a bandage or a T-shirt.

2. Induce vomiting, e.g. by using washing soda or ordinary kitchen salt directly in the mouth or on the back of the tongue. BUT: do NOT use this method if the poison could have been something corrosive or a sedative, when the dog is fitting or when it was more than four hours ago than the dog was poisoned!!!

3. Gastric lavage: this can only be done by your vet. It means washing out of the stomach through a stomach tube.

4. Prevention of absorption through the stomach or intestinal wall, e.g. through the use of activated charcoal or by giving a laxative.

In many cases it is unknown what poison has been taken and therefore the dog will often be treated symptomatically, which means the vet will look at what symptoms your dog displays and treat it accordingly.

Haemorrhage (Bleeding)

Dogs can bleed from arteries (bright red and pumping), from veins (darker red, not pumping), from capillaries (oozing) and from a mixture of these. Bleeding can be external (from wounds, nose, bowel, mouth etc.) or internal (muscles, chest, abdomen etc.). Treatment can be by four different methods:

1. Direct pressure: put your finger or hand directly on the bleeding wound

2. Pad and pressure bandage: use anything clean you can find, such as a towel, a piece of clothing etc.

3. Pressure on 'pressure points': this is where the artery, supplying the body part it is bleeding from, runs. Not many people will know where to apply pressure though.

4. Using a tourniquet: this is something to put pressure on the artery above the point of bleeding. Different things can be used, such as elastic bands, belts, scarves etc. Never leave a tourniquet on for more than 30 minutes!!!


Burns / scalds

Burns are the result of dry heat, extreme cold, corrosive materials or electricity. Scalds are the result of moist heat, e.g. steam. The best treatment for both is cooling with water, keeping the dog warm (e.g. with blankets / towels), dressing the wounds (sterile pads or cling film), and preventing too much movement in the area of the wound (sometimes splinting is necessary for this). Complications of burns can be shock, infection or difficulty breathing (smoke!). Do NOT use creams, powders and lotions to put on burns!


Fractures (photo 10) can be open (broken skin) or closed (skin intact). Signs can include pain, swelling, loss of function (lame, leg held up), deformity or 'crepitus' (grating feeling / sound). Treatment is based on controlling bleeding if open and minimising movement of the part of the body involved. Handle as little as possible and provide support. This can be achieved by using a bandage or a splint. Splints can be made from wood, metal, plastic, rolled up newspaper or anything else which is stiff).

Nose bleed

This can be due to trauma, foreign bodies (e.g. grass, wood, metal etc), blood clotting problems or a tumour. Initial treatment will be with a cold compress on the nose and muzzle, dog permitting. It will often look a lot worse than it actually is!


Fractures of teeth are not uncommon. If they are fresh, see the vet the same day if possible! If they happened some time ago, it is no longer an emergency. Loose teeth are normally the result of chronic periodontal disease and therefore not an emergency. Foreign bodies can be lodged in between the top molar teeth on the roof of the mouth, e.g. a stick or bone. If they can not be removed by gentle traction the vet may have to sedate the dog for successful removal.

Tongue / lips

Foreign bodies will lead to salivation and extensive licking and sometimes bleeding and gagging. Try to remove the foreign body gently, but only if this can be done safely! Fish hooks should be left in place for the vet to remove. Ulcers are sometimes seen in the mouth as a result of the ingestion or licking of corrosive materials. Wounds are often the result of 'stick injuries' where the dog has launched itself onto a stick, thrown by the owner. They can bleed heavily but often stop bleeding quite soon. These stick injuries can cause extremely serious complications and should be avoided at all cost!

Ball Stuck in Throat

This can lead to suffocation. Try to remove the ball with your fingers initially, but beware for bites! Pressure from behind the ball sometimes helps. If all else fails, a corkscrew can be carefully inserted into the ball to pull it out.


If you suspect that your dog may suffer from bloat, the best advice is to go and see the vet immediately! Symptoms may include a swollen abdomen, trying to vomit, collapse, pale mucous membranes, and abdominal discomfort.

Swallowed foreign body

These include stones, coins, balls, toys etc. If they are small they will usually pass eventually. If they are larger it is best to ask your vet for advice. Some foreign bodies can be seen on X-rays, but not all! Do not try and make your dog vomit without speaking to your vet.

Eye injuries

Swollen eyelids are often the result of allergic reactions (e.g. insect bites) or foreign bodies (e.g. grass seeds, splinters etc.). Prevent rubbing by putting on an Elizabethan collar. Rinse the eye with copious amounts of saline solution (best is the ophthalmic solution used for contact lenses, otherwise make your own by dissolving a teaspoon of household salt in a pint of clean water) or alternatively water. Corneal injuries are often the result of scratches, bites and foreign bodies (e.g. thorns). Flushing the eye is best (see above). Also prevent rubbing (see above). Eye prolapsed: This is a very serious condition, mostly the result of blunt trauma such as a road traffic accident. It happens mainly in short nosed breeds, such as Pugs etc. The most important thing to do is to keep the eyeball moist, e.g. with saline solution, oil, butter or similar, and to seek veterinary attention urgently! Prevent rubbing (see above).


Bleeding: this is often the result of cuts, bites, scratches etc. They often look worse than they are, especially as the dog will shake its head and spread the blood around. Try and stop the bleeding (see above) and put a bandage on if possible. Prevent rubbing of the ear. A good way to prevent the ear flap being flapped around is by putting a cut up pair of tights on the dog's head. Aural haematomas are swellings of the ear flap, these are not an emergency. Foreign bodies are often seen in the ear, mostly grass seeds (awns) in the summer months. These are intensely painful and need to be removed, often under general anaesthetic, by your vet.

'Stroke' / Vestibular syndrome

This condition is caused by damage to the balance organ in the inner ear. It affects mainly older dogs, who will show a head tilt, loss of balance and sometimes circling. In some cases the eyes flick up and down or from side to side, this is called nystagmus. It is often, wrongly, called a stroke. It can be caused by infections, trauma, tumours or unknown causes. First aid consists of protecting the dog from harming itself and reducing the anxiety by putting the dog in a quiet and preferably darkened room.

Epilepsy / Fitting

If a dog has an epileptic fit or similar, the best thing to do is to put the dog in a quiet and darkened room and prevent it from harming itself. Clear the mouth if necessary, but beware of biting! If the dog stays in a fit for more than five minutes (this is a very long time!) ring the vet. Most dogs will come out of a fit within a few minutes. Stay calm!

Heat stroke / hyperthermia

This is an abnormally high body temperature and is more common in short nosed dogs and long haired dogs, but can happen in all breeds. It is of course most common in the summer months. Dogs will pant heavily and can show drooling, restlessness, unsteadiness, collapse and even coma and death! First aid treatment is geared towards cooling down the dog. Do this with water (preferably running water) or wet blankets. Your vet may use a cold intravenous drip to further cool down the patient. Clear the mouth if necessary. Do not immerse the patient in cold water as this can cause shock!


This is an abnormally low body temperature and the opposite of hyperthermia. It happens mainly to young or very small dogs. First aid treatment is geared towards slowly warming up the dog. To this purpose you can use massage, cover the dog up, or use a hot water bottle, a heat lamp or a warmed up drip (at the vets).

Nails / dew claws

Nails can break off and cause pain and bleeding. The bleeding will usually stop within minutes. If this does not happen, you can try and stop the bleeding by holding cold wet cotton wool against the nail(bed). It is not really an emergency.



If you ever get into a situation where you think your dog needs help urgently, stay calm, be sensible and ring your vet for advice whenever possible.



The health and welfare of our dogs (and cats) is of great importance to us all. One way we can help to keep our animals fit and well is to ensure that they are not aggravated by flea infestations. Fleas are not just a minor irritation to dogs and cats as they can be the cause of serious skin infections and are responsible for the transmission of the flea tapeworm. In extreme cases they can be a cause of severe anaemia in the animal.

The adult fleas that are found on dogs and cats stay with that animal. They do not jump from host to host. A female flea can lay over 2,000 eggs in her lifetime. The eggs develop into larvae and they spin a cocoon and the adult flea develops inside it. The cycle is then complete in about 12 days when the adult flea emerges and jumps into the animal's coat. Fleas do not only inhabit an animal's coat, the eggs can fall onto carpets and the larvae can inhabit furnishings.

It is important to get rid of the adult fleas as quickly as possible before they can start laying eggs. There are many preparations on the market to assist in this task and deal with both the animal and the home (if that is also required because of a bad infestation). They include a variety of sprays or spot on drops that are absorbed through the skin. A veterinary surgeon will always give good advice on the preparation to suit your animal.

Control of fleas is an important part of caring for a dog or cat. Our animals look to us to keep them fit and well and free from parasites. It is another way in which to maintain a healthy relationship with our treasured dogs and cats.


It is important that ticks are controlled effectively as they have the potential for transmitting Lyme disease to both dogs and man. Lyme disease was first identified in 1977 in Lyme, Connecticut, U.S.A., where it is known to occur in 14 different states. The disease is transmitted by the tick. The survival of the infection is assured by the high animal tick infestation. Man is the accidental host in the cycle. Man becomes infected when bitten by a tick. The optimum time for this to occur is in the Spring and Summer when ticks are in their greatest numbers in nature. Lyme disease is difficult to diagnose as the symptoms can arise some time after the tick bite by which time it has been forgotten or not thought to be important.

The occupational groups which are at most risk appear to be, forestry workers, farmers, farm labourers, anyone in fact whose work involves being outside in the rural community. However it should also be stated that those who follow leisure pursuits such as walking, golf, fishing, shooting, animal related hobbies or simply escaping to the countryside for a holiday in a tent or caravan must also be considered at risk.

After being bitten by a tick, a skin lesion appears from 3 to 20 days. The lesion initially begins with a red area that widens. It has clear borders and as the centre of the lesion pales, an erythema starts to form. The erythema may be recurrent and appear in different parts of the body. This may be accompanied be fever and feeling unwell. Some patients may develop further symptoms after a few weeks or months. Arthritic attacks in the large joints is not uncommon and may persist for some years.

Lyme disease

occurs in sheep, cattle, horses and dogs. The infection is transmitted by ticks from animals in nature, Animals are affected by a multi- systemic disease including weight loss, swollen joints, lameness and muscle pain.

Prevention is the key factor when dealing with ticks. Preparations exist that can be acquired from a veterinary surgeon that will ensure ticks do not survive in your dogs (and cats) coat undetected. Our animal's health and welfare is closely bound up to our own. We do our animals and ourselves a great service by ensuring we take the matter seriously and make sure ticks never become a problem.


Is the product of a fungus. The natural reservoirs are animals, transmission to man is by direct contact or by indirect means by contaminated objects such as gateposts or fencing. Ringworm is very common. As the infection is not notifiable, the true incidence is not known.

Ringworm is a superficial infection of the body in humans, involving the nails, hair and skin. Sometimes it can become infected and cause more serious problems. It is characterised by a circular lesion that is pink on the outer ring and silver in the centre. Incubation can be from 1 to 2 weeks.

As animals are the natural reservoir for this disease, it can be seen on dogs, cats, horses, cattle and rodents. Advice and treatment from a veterinary surgeon will be required to ensure the infection is dealt with correctly.

Scabies. (Mange)

The mite, Sarcoptes scabiei, is the agent that produces human scabies. The female mite is larger than the male and they burrow beneath the epidermis of man and animals and lay their eggs there. The development from larvae to adult mite takes about 10 - 14 days. The mite is found world - wide.

The scabies mite is transmitted by close contact with animals and occasionally by contaminated objects. The mite can survive for several days away from its host on bedding, clothing, blankets, leather and wood, producing another source of infection. Individuals who have close contact with animals are at risk from this infection, those to include veterinarians, farmers and rural dwellers.

The mite can only be seen with the aid of a magnifying glass. The result of its burrowing beneath the skin is itching. They are usually found in areas like the back of the hand, elbows, abdomen, axilla and groin area.

Sarcoptic scabies can be found in the head, ears and neck of an animal. If it is not controlled it has the potential to cover a body with the resultant crusting of the skin and hair loss. It will cause severe irritation and cause an animal to scratch which results in damage and possible infected skin areas. In such a case the animal's health is compromised. Scabies requires veterinary intervention as quickly as possible as the mite can be very difficult to eradicate.


Like most of you I enjoy a bar of chocolate (or two) and the gateau, 'Death by Chocolate' is a wonderful treat.We are often tempted to share our treats with our dogs and in many cases this is a harmless action, but the sharing of chocolate is not. I don't intend to blind you with science and go into the ins and outs of the physiological mechanisms of a dog's body. Simply to say that the ingredients in chocolate are harmful to dogs and a dog cannot excrete and get rid of these harmful products to save the day, in fact they reabsorb them through the liver and the outcome can be fatal.You might have heard of people who have taken an overdose of paracetamol who after a while seem fine, only to collapse later because they have reabsorbed the substance and in a way have re-poisoned themselves. It is a similar situation, but with a different substance, when dogs ingest or overdose on chocolate. Small amounts can be as lethal as large, some dogs, like humans are allergic to it, the rule is never give it in the first place. Perhaps you (and I) shouldn't be having as much of it as we do (have you weighed yourself lately like I did? -- eek!) then you won't be tempted to give your dog a very dangerous titbit.

Hydatid Disease

Human hydatid disease is caused by infestation with the eggs of the dog tapeworm, echinococcus granulosus. It is acquired by ingesting the eggs of the tapeworm, which are excreted in dog faeces. The eggs develop into cysts that can settle in any part of the human body, including the lungs, liver or brain. Humans can only catch hydatid disease from dogs; it cannot be transmitted in any other way. The only treatment of human hydatid disease, until recently was surgical removal of the cysts. If the cysts were burst during removal they would release thousands of daughter cysts into the body, each with a capability of becoming new adult cysts. Today, a drug has been developed that can give satisfactory results but can in itself produce toxic reactions.

E.granulosus is a tapeworm, 3-9mm in length, consisting of 3-4 segments. The end segment becomes able to produce eggs. Eggs that are released from the segment, pass into the faeces of dogs The parasitic eggs are microscopic and sticky. Humans can pick up the worm eggs from areas where the dog has dirtied or by stroking or by being licked by an unwormed dog. Humans can also pick up the worm eggs if they eat vegetables, fruit or salad from an infected area where a dog has been allowed to dirty. Therefore it is important that all vegetables and fruit are washed before being eaten. It is essential that personal hygiene is of a good standard to prevent human ingestion.

Sadly dogs become infected with E. granulosus due to the fact that owners do not follow the simple precautionary procedure of worming their dogs. Regular worming of dogs is the vital preventative measure that ensures transmission of the disease does not occur. The only preparation that will kill the E. granulosus tapeworm is Dronsit or Drontal Plus (which kills roundworms as well). Any other worming pill will not kill this tapeworm. Dronsit and Drontal Plus can only be purchased from a vet. Hydatid affects all dogs, working and pet alike. Working dogs on farms are recommended to be wormed every six weeks and should be prevented from scavenging on sheep carcasses. Pet dogs should be wormed about every twelve weeks to be safe. . Dogs are infected by eating raw offal or scavenging on sheep carcasses that contain cysts. Sheep and humans become infected by contact with the faeces of infected dogs. Hydatid disease is more prevalent in the sheep rearing counties of the UK.

The prevention of hydatid disease is simple, worm your dog.


By caring for our dog's health and welfare, our own good health follows. It is, after all a small price to pay for the devotion and enjoyment we all receive from the ever-faithful companions that we call man's best friend, the dog.