Do you know what to do if your dog starts choking on a toy? Or ate some chocolate? Emergency cases like these are so stressful and sometimes inevitable so being prepared is always helpful. Having a doggy first aid kit ready can be enough to save yourself a trip to the vet or even keeping your dog stable on the way to an ER. These tips can save your pup’s life!
Preparing a first aid kit for your dog: You can buy these pre-packed nowadays but here are some essentials for you to include in your own kit. Be sure to check annually for expiration dates and updated information.
- Health records such as vaccine history and medications
- Contact information of owners and veterinarian
- Gauze, bandages, and tape
- Milk of magnesia or activated charcoal to absorb toxins
- 3% Hydrogen Peroxide
- Pet thermometer: normal body temperature for dogs is 101-102.5°F
- More options: blunt tipped scissors, styptic powder, tweezers, gloves, oral syringe, antibiotics
Ingested poison or toxic substance: Many people will immediately induce vomiting but I recommend calling your veterinarian (free) or Pet Poison Hotline ($59) first. In some cases, you won’t need to induce vomiting depending on how much your pet weighs and how much of the toxic substance they ate. If done incorrectly, trying to make your dog throw up can be more harmful to them than the actual poison. Don’t induce vomiting if your pup is unhealthy (heart conditions, seizures, etc), ate a corrosive or sharp substance (like cooked bones), or ate something over 2-3 hours ago. If instructed, you can induce vomiting at home. Use approximately 0.5-1 mL of 3% hydrogen peroxide per pound weight (no more than 45 ml at a time). Squirt it into the back of their mouth using a syringe or turkey baster. If your dog doesn’t vomit, contact your veterinarian. Make sure your dog has access to water as vomiting can cause severe dehydration.
Prevent: Keep toxic substances out of reach. Teach a firm drop it/leave it.
Choking on a toy or chew: Signs of choking include trouble breathing, pawing at the mouth, and bluish lips/tongue. If you can see the object and it isn’t sharp, carefully and gently remove it with pliers or tweezers. If there is any struggle or it takes too long, immediately stop. Keeping your dog calm and take him to a vet. If you can’t remove the object, you can hold your dogs back legs in a “wheelbarrow” pose. You can also place your hands around their waist while they are standing on four paws and compress upwards 5 times. Another method is to apply firm and quick pressure to both sides of your dog’s rib cage, or lay them on their side and strike firmly 3-4 times to push air out of their lungs and repeat.
Prevent: Supervise dog with toys, chews, and treats. Remove small objects so they can’t be swallowed. Choose the correct toy or chew for your dog for example (you can stuff smaller chews in food stuffable toys as well.) Avoid objects that can splinter (cooked bones, sticks).
Respiratory arrest and cardiac arrest: If your dog stops breathing, check for consciousness and check airways for any obstructions by gently pulling their tongue forward. If the airway is clear, perform rescue breathing. Close your dog’s mouth with your hand and breathe with your mouth into your dog’s nose. You should see their chest expand. Repeat once every 4-5 seconds. If your pet has no heartbeat, you can begin chest compressions after rescue breathing. Lay your dog on its right side on a firm surface. The heart is located behind the elbow of the front left leg. Place one hand underneath the chest for support and the other over their heart. Press down gently about one inch for medium dogs, pressing harder for larger dogs and softer for smaller dogs. Press 80-120 times per minute or 100-150 times per minute. Alternate between rescue breathing and chest compressions, best done with a partner (4-5 compressions then 1 breath.)
In these situations, it’s important to stay calm and to keep your dog calm. Even the most gentle dog can bite or scratch when they are stressed and in pain and even hurt themselves. Training your dog to wear a muzzle comfortably will be incredibly helpful in emergency situations. Muzzle your pet before handling them if they are injured (do not muzzle if they are vomiting.) Also, be sure to have your veterinarian’s contact information easily accessible, as well as a 24/7 veterinary clinic in case. If veterinary care is needed, stabilize injuries as best as you can before transporting them in a secure manner such as a crate or blanket to act as a stretcher. With dogs especially, it’s best to be prepared as every second counts!