First aid tips for you and your pets |

First aid tips for you and your pets

Steve Sheldon
Vail, CO Colorado

In the event of an emergency you will be your pet’s best friend if you know some first aid.

I call first aid ‘common sense treatment’ because intuition usually tells you what the right and wrong things are to do. Nevertheless, there are some important guidelines you should always follow.

We’ll discuss those and also how to respond to some specific emergencies. Remember to call your veterinarian immediately; first, you might get some life saving advice, and second, they’ll be ready for you when you arrive.

First-aid priorities are: airways, breathing and circulation. These areas require attention before other injuries.

Make sure the airway is clear of dirt, debris, mucus, blood and vomit by extending the head and neck, pulling the tongue forward, and sweeping the oral cavity with your fingers. If there are head or neck injuries don’t overextend the head and neck.

Next check that your pet is breathing by feeling for air at the nostrils and observing the chest for motion. Normal respiration should be 15 to 20 breaths per minute; expect it to be fast and shallow if the animal is in pain.

Check the color of the mucus membranes ” gums are best, followed by lower eyelid and vagina if gums are not accessible. If they are blue it suggests poor respiration. If the animal is not breathing, clear the airway and begin mouth-to-nose respiration. To do this place the tongue in it’s normal position, close the mouth, and blow into the nostrils for 2-3 seconds.

If you are doing it correctly the chest will rise and fall. Repeat every 3-5 seconds until the animal is breathing.

Circulation is next. Again check the color of the mucus membranes, they should be pink. If circulation is normal, when you press the gums they will turn white and back to pink within a second or two.Pale or white mucus membrane indicates shock, dehydration or blood loss, among other conditions.

Check the heart rate by feeling the animal’s chest or by checking the pulse in the following areas: inside thighs, under tongue or under the toes behind the major foot pad.

If there is no pulse start CPR. To compress the chest, lay the animal on its side and compress with the palm of your hand over the widest portion of the chest. For dogs less than 20 pounds, do three compressions for each breath. The ratio for medium-sized dogs is 5 to 1 and for the largest breeds, 15 to 2.

If there is any obvious, excessive bleeding control it using direct pressure or by using a bandage. Use a tourniquet only as a last resort and remember to release the pressure every five minutes or so to avoid permanent damage to the limb.

Then take the animal to the vet.

In next week’s article, we’ll discuss respiratory emergencies and heat stroke.

Stephen Sheldon, DVM practices at Gypsum Animal Hospital; he welcomes your questions and can be reached at 970-524-DOGS or

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