First Aid for Dogs: How to Handle a Canine Emergency


First aid for dogs can be a life-saving skill. It's no secret that dogs are prone to injury, but did you know they can also become sick? Whether your pup is ailing or injured, knowing what to do in an emergency situation is key. From head injuries and broken bones to poison and shock, we'll cover everything from treating the symptoms of an illness or injury to how best to handle an emergency yourself at home without taking your dog to the vet first.

Head injuries

If your dog has a head injury, do not move it. The best thing to do is stay calm and assess the situation. Use a flashlight to check for signs of bleeding, such as blood coming from their ears or nose. If they are unconscious, check for breathing and heartbeat by placing your hand on their chest just behind the elbow joint (the elbow crease). If there is no heartbeat or breathing after five seconds, call a vet or emergency animal hospital immediately!

If your canine companion is conscious but seems confused, look at their eyes: Are they dilated? Do they look cloudy? Check their ears: Are they bleeding excessively? Do they smell bad? Next, go down to mouth level--are there any cuts in their tongue or gums? Finally, check under its chin area where some dogs will have an ID tag attached to them; if there isn't one then you can use one hand while holding onto something sturdy with another so as not to fall over yourself during this process


Heatstroke is the most serious canine emergency and can be fatal if not treated immediately. The signs of heatstroke include:

  • Excessive panting, with no other symptoms (the dog may not be in distress)
  • Heavy drooling, with or without vomiting
  • A body temperature above 105 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius)

Dog bites

About 4 million Americans are bitten by dogs each year and half of those injuries require medical attention.

  • Prevent dog bites by educating yourself about your pet's behavior and keeping him away from children who may be too young to understand how to behave around him. If you know someone who has been bitten by a dog, teach them what steps they should take immediately after being attacked so they don't make things worse or get infected with rabies if it was not already given treatment right away.
  • If you have been bitten by another person who has been infected with rabies: Wash thoroughly with soap and water; then apply an antiseptic lotion or hydrogen peroxide onto any wounds where blood flowed out freely from the bite area.

Broken bones, torn tendons, and sprains

If you suspect your dog has a broken bone, torn tendon or sprained leg, there are some basic steps you can take to diagnose and treat the injury.

  • Check for broken bones by gently moving each of the limbs in question. If there's any pain or resistance when you do so, it could mean that there's an underlying fracture that needs attention from a vet immediately.
  • Look out for torn tendons (which connect muscle to bone) by pressing down gently on them with two fingers--if there's a pain when doing so, there may be damage done here too!
  • Sprains happen when ligaments stretch beyond their normal range of motion; this causes inflammation around those areas which will then cause swelling over time if left untreated - it can take weeks before these heal completely so make sure not to leave them alone!

Poisonous plants

  • Stay away from poisonous plants.
  • If you see a dog eating a plant, get it away from the plant immediately and contact a veterinarian.
  • If you suspect your dog has eaten a toxic plant, contact a veterinarian immediately and do not attempt to give first aid unless instructed by your vet to do so (in which case, follow directions). Do not use herbal or homeopathic remedies without consulting with your veterinarian first--this can be dangerous for both humans and animals alike!


  • Shock is a serious condition.
  • Signs of shock include:
  • Pale gums and tongue; cold extremities; a rapid heartbeat that may be irregular or slow; low blood pressure (you can check this by feeling the pulse at your dog's tail) and weakness.
  • Treatment for shock includes placing your pet on his side with his legs tucked under him, raising his head slightly higher than his back, supporting him with a blanket if necessary, giving him small amounts of water if he can't drink on his own due to nausea or vomiting--but don't force him! Also, make sure he has plenty of fresh air so he doesn't become overheated. If you need help caring for your injured dog at home during an emergency situation like this one, contact us today!

Knowing what to do when a dog is hurt or sick can save lives.

Knowing what to do when a dog is hurt or sick can save lives.

  • Know the signs of an emergency: If your pet has a sudden change in behavior (such as lethargy, weakness, vomiting, or diarrhea), contact your veterinarian immediately.
  • Know how to call for help: Make sure someone in your household knows how and when to call your veterinarian if there's an emergency with your dog--and make sure they're prepared for that possibility! If you're going out for long periods of time and won't be able to check on your pup regularly during those times, consider finding someone else who can check on him/her periodically throughout the day instead of leaving them alone at home unattended for long stretches at once without supervision from either yourself or someone else who's responsible enough not only handle such responsibility but also report any concerns about their health immediately should something seem off about them while under observation by another party other than yourself (which could mean life-threatening issues could go unnoticed until too late).


If you're not sure what to do in an emergency, the best course of action is always to call a veterinarian. But if you know how to administer basic first aid and have some supplies on hand, it can make all the difference in the world for your dog.

Back to blog