By Chris Pitts, RVT, of Broadway Animal Hospital.
When I think of life-saving first aid for a dog in a life-threatening situation, the top three skills I think of are CPR, applying direct pressure and keeping calm.
Most can agree that breathing is important. Dogs, although unlikely to have a actual heart attack, can stop breathing. The Red Cross puts on a wonderful Pet CPR class that I would recommend to anyone who likes to hike with their dog, or who lives more than a five-minute drive from a veterinarian. There are a lot of reasons a dog might stop breathing, but the majority of cases I have seen have been caused by contusion to the lung, in the case of dog versus car, or by laryngeal paralysis, where a dog breathes in so hard that their floppy airway sucks in on itself. The other risk is choking on, or inhalation of, foreign objects. Starting CPR and hightailing safely to the veterinarian is the best way to get the best outcome for your dog.
While we are talking about not-so-fun things that can happen to your dog, let's touch on bleeding. A dog can bleed a lot from a broken toenail or an ear. But the time to seriously worry is when the blood is spurting out of a cut in a regular beat. In all cases of bleeding, apply direct pressure and get to the veterinarian. Your local Red Cross or local Veterinary Medical Association may have a pet first aid class available.
And as for you, lovely human. Your job is to breathe deep, stay calm and form a plan. Can you safely start CPR or first aid? Can you get someone to safely help you transport your pet? And, can you get a veterinarian on the phone to help talk you through your emergency until you can arrive on their doorstep? Yes, human, you can do all of the above if you remain calm.
The classes that you take in CPR or first aid are not meant to take the place of a veterinary visit, much like, if you need to have CPR performed on yourself you do not just pop up and thank the person who performed the CPR and go on about your day. You go to the doctor. However, that person who performed CPR on you may well have saved your life by buying you the time you needed to get to and be seen by a medical professional. It works the same way with your pets. But getting trained in first aid and CPR is a fantastic way to hopefully buy your canine buddy some needed time in a moment of distress.
Photo Credit: the paw pad (CC)