Royal Oak, MI 48073
Call or Text: (734) 462-2810
Alternative Canine Training Logo

What To Know About First Aid For Dogs

April 11, 2024

what to know about first aid for dogs

One of the best things you can do for your dog is learn basic first aid steps. You never know when your dogs - or someone else’s - might become injured. The more immediate and skilled the response, the better most dogs fare. 

9 First Aid For Dogs Reminders And Skills

While your dog is certainly your priority, these reminders and skills may help to save the life of a dog you encounter at the dog park, on a walk, or alongside the road if they’re a stray.

Preventative wellness care, vet visits & vaccines are a foundation

Preventing illness or injury is the primary step to keeping your dog healthy and safe from catching - or developing - some of the most common canine diseases. This includes:

By providing a healthy foundation for your dog’s health, they’ll be able to recover more quickly from illness and injury.

Establish a doggy first aid kit

We also recommend putting together a dog-specific kit for first aid for dogs. We put multiple kits together, leaving one at home, keeping one in the car's trunk, and maintaining a travel version in our dog-walking packs. This means you’re prepared to handle unexpected emergencies wherever you and your dog may be.

Things to include:

  • A few pairs of disposable gloves.
  • Spare collar and leash (helpful for friendly strays or when a dog breaks free of theirs).
  • Sterile gauze pads in varying sizes.
  • A roll of sterile gauze (in addition to wound care, sterile gauze forms a soft, safe muzzle for injured dogs. However, you should never muzzle a vomiting dog or one that is struggling to breathe).
  • Self-adhering, non-stick tape for wrapping dressed wounds.
  • Blunt-edged scissors for cutting bandages/tape/etc.
  • Saline solution (like travel bottles for contact lens solutions), which is great for flushing wounds or eyes.
  • Medicine dropper (also good for flushing wounds or giving dogs small doses of water).
  • Sterile lubricating jelly (used to cover wounds or injured eyes until they can be treated). 
  • Small flashlight.
  • Paper with information about your pet, vet contact info, etc.

At home, we also recommend having a digital thermometer for taking your pet's temperature (Click Here to watch video instructions on taking a dog’s temperature).

Avoid hugging or putting your face too close to your dogs

Injured or ill dogs may be more aggressive or reactive than normal. Even though it’s hard, the best thing you can do when treating an injured dog is to:

  • Stay as calm as possible.
  • Keep your face away from theirs if you can.
  • Safely and gently muzzle them if you can (but never if they’re vomiting or struggling to breathe).
  • Enlist others to call a vet hospital so they can relay instructions on how to treat the situation and stabilize the dog before you transport them.

One of the best things you can do in a dog first-aid situation is to remain calm and prevent further injury to yourself and your dog.

First aid for dogs that are injured, bitten, or bleeding

If you see that your dog is injured, bleeding, or bitten, get the dog to the closest flat area where they can lie down, and you can get a better look. A bandage or stabilize the injured area if you feel you can do so safely. 

Keep the dog confined to as small an area as possible to prevent further injury while transporting them to the vet. If you can use hands-free features or have someone else with you, contact the veterinary office ahead of time so they know to expect you.

If your dog ingests something toxic (or unknown)

We do our best to keep dogs from chewing or eating things they shouldn’t. This is one of the reasons it’s so important to provide your dog with plenty of dog-safe chews and interactive toys. The more they safely satisfy their natural chewing and tearing tendencies, the less likely they are to ingest something they shouldn’t.

Even so, accidents happen. If your dog ingests or is exposed to poisonous or harmful household poisons/toxins:

  • Read the label for specific instructions on what to do next. 
  • You may be instructed to flush the dog’s eyes or affected area with water in which case you should do so immediately.
  • Contact the Pet Poison Help Line at 800- 764-7661 for further clarification. Be prepared as experts run these hotlines; a small fee may apply, but it’s well worth it to protect your pet.

Call your veterinarian or an emergency vet hospital for further instructions on how to proceed.

Your dog shows signs of heatstroke or shock

Dogs are very sensitive to heatstroke if they don’t have access to shade, airflow, and cool fresh water. Even a car that seems cool to a human and without proper ventilation can become stifling to a dog, especially if they’re thick-coated breed, are older, or overweight.

Common scenarios leading to heatstroke or heat-induced illness include leaving your dog in a parked car on a hot humid day, going on a long walk or hike without cooling or cold water breaks, keeping dogs outside for extended periods without shade or fresh water, and so on. 

Signs of heatstroke include:

  • Excessive panting and drooling
  • Whining
  • Trembling
  • Lethargy
  • Pale gums
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Vomiting/diarrhea
  • Seizures

If your dog seems to be suffering from heat illness or stroke symptoms, move it to a cool area and fan it if you can. Soak small washcloths with room-temperature water and place them around their neck, armpits, and groin—and then refresh the towels every few minutes to provide a cooling effect. 

DO NOT place them in a tub of cool water, as this can create a shock effect. Slow and steady cooling is essential to keep their system stable. See if they’ll drink cool water (unless they’re having seizures). Contact your vet and follow their instructions.


It’s very scary when a dog has a seizure. At the moment, all you can do is remove anything that could harm them until the seizure is over. Time it. Once it’s over, move them to a quiet space and keep them calm and comforted while you contact the vet. 


It’s not uncommon for dogs to choke, and they usually get things up independently. It’s best to leave them to their own devices if they’re actively coughing, gagging, etc. unless you can easily remove the object from their mouth. If they struggle and aren’t breathing because the airway is blocked:

  • If you can safely open their mouth, pull the object straight out, but stop if your interaction forces it back down.
  • Smaller dogs can be picked up by their thighs and hung upside down. Gently swing them from side to side, which can dislodge the item.
  • You can perform the Heimlich maneuver on larger dogs, standing them up on their hind legs and performing it just as you would on a human.

If the object isn’t dislodged quickly, get them to the vet immediately and contact them ahead of time if you can safely do so.

Your dog is not breathing OR has no heartbeat

If your dog stops breathing:

Open their mouth and grasp their tongue so that it lolls out the side. This helps to clear the airway.

  • Look into their mouth and look for any obstructions. If you can, remove them - following the instructions in #8. 
  • You can perform “rescue breathing” on dogs just as you would on a person. However, in this case, you gently hold the dog’s mouth closed while breathing gently into their nose. You want to perform about one breath every six seconds, averaging 10 breaths per minute. 

Keep this up as the pet is transported to the vet’s office or emergency vet hospital.

If your dog’s heart stops beating:

If your dog’s heart is not beating, begin performing rescue breathing as instructed above. Then, add chest compressions. Chest compressions for dogs should be performed to the rhythm of the song, “Stayin’ Alive” at 100 to 120 beats per minute. 

How you perform these depends on the size and shape of the dog:

  • For most medium-to-large dogs: Lay the dog on its side and begin chest compressions at the roundest part of its ribs, locking your arms and pressing 100 to 120 times per minute. 
  • For barrel-chested dogs (like a bulldog): Lay the dog on its back and perform compressions on its breastbone.
  • For keel-chested dogs (like Dobermans or greyhounds): Lay them on their side and perform the chest compressions under the armpit.
  • Small dogs: If you have a very small dog, use one hand to form a cup and encircle their chest underneath, with your thumb on one side and your fingers on the other. Then, gently squeeze the chest to pump the heart. 

You’ll never regret being prepared for emergencies with some doggy first-aid know-how!

Interested In Learning More About Safety And First Aid For Dogs?

Would you like to learn more about how to keep your dog safe, along with some first-aid tips? Schedule dog training with Alternative Canine Training. Several members of our staff are also certified in dog CPR and first-aid. Our one-on-one and group classes are a great way to keep your dog socialized, learn the commands that help keep them safe, and learn a little more dog first-aid along the way.

phone-handsetmap-markermenuchevron-downcross-circle linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram