Downeast Dog News

What to do in an Emergency

Nov 01, 2018

Q. I don’t live near an animal emergency clinic. What should I do in an emergency?

A. Being in a rural state and not all veterinary hospitals have after hours coverage, knowing some first aid procedures can be lifesaving. The first thing you should do is find the location of the closest emergency clinic and have the phone number in an obvious place. If you do not have a veterinarian, get established as a client. Veterinarians are busy and need to take care of their current patients first. They may not have room to work in a non-client emergency.


Now, what emergency procedures should I learn to do? Let’s start with the Heimlich maneuver. In people, we learn this maneuver in school or in adult ed first aid. For dogs, it isn’t much different. If your dog is choking and making noise, then he can breath. If the dog isn’t making any audible noise, try to clean a possible foreign object out of the mouth by using a sweeping motion with your hand. When unsuccessful, pick up the hind end of the dog to shake him and dislodge what is stuck. If that doesn’t work, then the Heimlich maneuver is needed. The idea is to use force on the chest to pop whatever is lodged out. Here is a link to a YouTube video on this maneuver:


Next is CPR. If you ever took a first aid course, part of the training is CPR. The procedure is similar in a dog. First, if the dog is unresponsive check the airway by opening the mouth, sweep anything that may be obstructing breathing. Check for breathing by feeling the chest and see if it is moving, put your ear to the nose to feel the breath, or put pressure on the chest to feel air coming out the nose. Also check if air can get into the chest by holding the mouth closed and blow in the nose. If the chest rises then the airway is open. The next part is chest compressions. It is difficult to feel a pulse on dogs. You can try to hear a heartbeat. If you can’t, then start the compressions. You want to use straight arms and two hands like with people. You want to do 120 compressions a minute. If you have someone to help, then the rhythm goes as follows: one person does 30 compressions, then stop, and the other person, or if just you, gives the dog 2 breaths. Repeat up to two minutes and then change positions with the other person. The reason is to prevent you from becoming fatigued. Here is a link that shows you how to do CPR:


If you know or think your dog ingested something, call poison control or the animal emergency clinic. Depending on what was ingested, they may want you to induce vomiting. Generally, that is done by having your dog drink hydrogen peroxide. A medium size dog would get at least one tablespoon and repeat if he doesn’t vomit. More is given for a big dog and less for a small dog.


When there are bleeding wounds, pressure is used to stop the bleeding. This is done with your hands until someone can get you a towel or bandage material to keep the pressure over the area that is bleeding. If there isn’t any bandaging material, you can make bandages by tearing strips from a sheet. If the bleeding is from a large vessel in a leg and the pressure doesn’t stop the bleeding, then a tourniquet maybe needed. You apply a rubber tubing, torn strip of sheeting, or bandage strip around the limb above the bleeding wound. This is tightened until the bleeding stops. Often you tie a stick in the knot, so it can be tightened. You don’t want to leave this on too long or the tissue may start to die from lack of blood. You will have time to get to an emergency facility with the tourniquet in place.


For any of these emergencies, remember to call your veterinarian or emergency facility first for help. While one person is calling, another can start the needed first aid.


Judith K. Herman DVM, CVH

Animal Wellness Center

Augusta, Maine