Canine first aid

You never believe deep down that you will ever need to use first aid on your own dog.

That nightmare happened to me recently and I was deeply thankful that I had attended a local canine first aid course.

Benson with bandaged TailHere’s “the tail” of my poor greyhound. It accidentally got caught in a slamming door during high winds and lost the last inch or so. Ouch!

A first aid seminar is really informative and it can make a huge difference to your own first aid confidence. The aim of the course was to give owners guidance and provide practical instruction for treating minor cuts and ailments. It also gave an insight into potentially problematic conditions that need immediate veterinary care and those that can be managed at home.

Why is this type of course useful?

  • By law you are not allowed to practice veterinary medicine but you are allowed to administer vital first aid.
  • This is the perfect time to  ask any questions you like of an RVN – usually the only time you speak to these angels is when you are in the vets with your own animal.
  • If you are a dog walker or other dog professional this will go a long way to providing proof and comfort for your clients of your dedication and capabilities.

Topics during the day included some very interesting at at times disturbing case studies, including the stick that was lodged through the dog’s throat and along the spinal column reminding us why it is never a good idea to throw sticks for our dogs (if you have to, make them very short or very long).

Scenarios where you may need first aid knowledge.

  • a road traffic accident
  • a dog fight
  • drowning
  • a burn
  • electrocution
  • poisoning
  • a stick injury
  • heatstroke
  • frostbite
  • a seizure
  • choking
  • snake bite

Useful information gathered

  • Learn bandaging techniques
  • become familiar with actual parasites common to pet dogs
  • Measure your own dogs vital statistics  – this will give you the baseline of what your own dog is like when at the peak of health.  Without knowing these basic numbers you won’t be able to tell when they are abnormal.

The basic vital statistics check:

  1. Heart rate 60-120 beats per minute (the bigger the dog the slower the rate)
  2. Respiratory rate 10-20 breaths per minute (size is a major factor)
  3. Gums should be salmon pink (disregard black pigment)
  4. Capillary refill time 2 seconds
  5. skin elasticity should return to normal quickly after pinching
  6. Examine dog all over for potential problems: ears, eyes& nose for discharge and inflammation; mouth for dental disease; skin for lumps or wounds; paws and nails for splits and wounds; genitals for discharge and inflammation; smell breath.
  7. Temperature 100.5-102.5 °F (38-39.1 °C): take temperature rectally with digital thermometer (not glass!) by cleaning with alcohol first, then dip in lubricant and insert it slightly to the side to avoid faeces (gives high reading).

Any advice or information given was not a substitute for seeing the vet but being prepared with a basic first aid knowledge can make all the difference to your dog’s immediate comfort.

It may have been fun bandaging paws on the course but in real life it can be more difficult. Bandaging a dog’s tail is particularly tricky. I managed to make a decent go of it third time round (according the the vet staff it was a good job).

View Canine first aid certificate

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