K9 First Aid for Emergencies

First Aid Dog

K9 First Aid

As a K9 handler, you need to be prepared in the event that some unfortunate accident happens while out on a search. Remember to always have your veterinary's phone number, and and emergency clinic number on hand. Here are some helpful first aid tips should you find yourself in an emergency with your dog.

Vital Signs
Artificial Respiration
Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation
Broken Bone
Eye Injury
Bites and Stings
Foreign Object
Heat/Cold Injury
Cuts and Open Wounds
Skin Irritations/Bloat

Emergency Approach

Remember to restrain injured animal prior to administering first aid.

Restraint - Due to pain, injured or ill animals can be unpredictable.

  • If possible, transport animals in a cage.
  • Small muzzuled dogs can be transported wrapped in a towel.
  • Support the back when transporting.
  • Keep an injured leg up.
  • Keep an injured chest down to allow for lung freedom.
Unnecessary movement of an injured animal will increase pain and may cause further injury.

Vital Signs
Pulse - Place a hand over the heart or feel the femoral artery.
  • To feel the heartbeat, grasp the chest with one hand behind the dog's elbows.
  • Move your hand slightly until you feel the heartbeat.
  • To feel the pulse in the femoral artery, place fingers on the inside of the back leg where it joins the body and move them slowly until you feel the arterial pulse.
  • Respirations can be checked by watching for chest movement.
  • If there is none visible, double-check by holding a hand or tissue in front of the dog's nose to feel or see movement as it breathes.
Artificial Respiration
Signs of Respiratory Arrest
  • Obvious Trama
  • Cyanosis (blue lips and tongue)
  • No chest movement
First Aid Action Needed
  • Pull tongue forward
  • Clear any visible objects.
  • Close animal's mouth tightly.
  • Place your mouth over the animal's nose.
  • Blow into the nose until chest rises. Adjust volume of breath to the size of the animal.
  • Remove your mouth following each breath to allow air to escape.
  • Repeat 10 times giving 1 breath every 3 seconds.
  • Reassess breathing
  • If dog is still not breathing, transport to a veterinarian. Continue artificial respiration during transportation.
Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation
This procedure is performed only when there is no heart beat and no breathing-Cardiac and Respiratory Arrest.
  • unconsciousness
  • no breathing
  • no heart beat felt with hand
  • no pulse (femoral artery)
First Aid Action Needed
  • Lay the dog on it's right side on a firm flat surface.
  • Extend head and neck and pull tongue forward.
  • Remove any visible foreign objects.
  • One person performs mouth to nose and the other chest compressions at a rat of 4 compressions to 1 breath.
  • Continue CPR as the dog is transported to the veterinarian.
Helpful Hint
  • Place hands on the lover half of the dog's chest immediately behind the elbow.
  • Chest is compressed 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm) 80 to 120 compressions per minute with one breath after every 4 compressions.
  • Ideally CPR should be performed by 2 people. If there is only 1 person, remember to position the head and pull the tongue forward before each breath.
Shock occurs when there is not enough oxygen circulating to meet the needs of the vital organs. If untreated the dog will die.
  • Pale gums and lips.
  • Weak and rapid pulse.
  • Rapid, shallow, irregular breathing.
  • dilated pupils.
  • Cold skin and legs.
  • Weakness.
  • Dizziness.
  • Collapse, unconsciousness.
Action Needed
  • Restrain as appropriate.
  • Handle the dog gently and keep him/her quiet.
  • Control any bleeding.
  • Check airway, breathing, and circulation.
  • Keep warm and transport to a veterinarian.
  • Do not give anything to eat or drink.

Broken Bone
  • Inability to use limb.
  • Pain
  • Swelling and discoloration.
  • Deformity of the limb.
  • Visible or protruding bone fragments.
First Aid Action Needed
  • Restrain as appropriate.
  • Treat any bleeding first.
  • Move animal as little as possible.
  • Place folded towel under leg for support.
  • Transport to veterinarian.
  • Wrap the limb with gauze, making sure it is long enough to go above and below the fracture.
  • Make a splint (tree branches, rolled up newspaper, bubble wrap...) and secure to both sides of the affected limb using adhesive tape and cohesive bandage.
  • Place your dog on a board, blanket or towel for a stretcher.
  • Transport to your veterinarian immediately.
  • Watch for symptoms of shock or bleeding.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Choking or gagging sound.
  • Rubbing face on ground.
  • Pawing at mouth.
  • Bulging eyes.
  • Cyanosis (bluish discoloration of the skin and mucous membranes).
First Aid Action Needed
  • Restrain animal.
  • Open mouth, pull tongue forward and inspect the throat area.If foreign object is visible, grasp with your fingers and remove it.
  • If unavle to remove, perform the Heimlich Maneuver.
Heimlich Maneuver
Small Dog
  • Place the dog against your stomach with his head up and his feet hanging down. Put your fist just underneath of the rib cage. (You can feel a soft hollow space). Push inward and upward using a strong thrusting motion. Continue until the object is expelled or until veterinary care is accessed.
Large Dog
  • Lay a large dog on its side on the floor and kneel behind him so your knees are touching his back. Lean over and fit your fist just below his rib cage, and press sharply upward and inward toward his head. Repeat until object is expelled or veterinary care is accessed.
Eye Injury
Signs of an eye injury
  • Rubbing and pawing at eyes.
  • Sensitivity or intolerance to light.
  • Swollen eyelid
  • Eye tightly shut
  • Watering eyes
  • Squinting
Foreign Object
  • Restrain as appropriate.
  • Separate eyelid and examine eye.
  • Remove foreign objects with clean cloth.
Note:Do Not attempt to remove foreign object stuck to the surface of the eye. Irrigate the eye with eye wash and transport to a veterinarian.

  • Restrain animal as appropriate.
  • For eyelid, apply direct pressure.
  • Secure pressure pad in place with bandages.
  • Transport to a veterinarian.
  • For eyeball, apply cold compress buy to not apply pressure to the injured eyeball.
  • Hold head steady to prevent further injury.
  • Transport to a veterinarian.
Prolapsed Eyeball (eye out of socket)
  • Transport at once to a veterinarian.
  • Keep eye moist with saline or eye and skin wash.
  • Keep animal quiet and treat for shock.
Poisons can enter the body through swallowing, inhalation,absorption through the skin or injected into the skin as in insect or snake bites.
  • Pain
  • Vomiting/diarrhea
  • Ulcers around mouth
  • Excitability/lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Irritation of eyes
  • Unconsciousness
  • Respiratory arrest
First Aid Action Needed
  • If poison was inhaled, remove your dog to fresh air.
  • Try to identify the poison.
  • Restrain if appropriate.
  • Contact veterinarian or poison center and follow their instructions.
  • Monitor airway, breathing and circulation.
  • Never induce vomiting if the poison is an acid, alkali or petroleum product. Give water to dilute the poison.
  • If the poison is on the dog's skin, flush with copious amounts of water.
  • Always try to contact a veterinarian before treating an animal for poisoning.
Bee Stings and Insect Bites
  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Licking or consistent attention to localized area.
  • Weakness
  • Irritation
First Aid Action Needed
  • Remove stinger by scraping at the base with a card (do not grasp stinger with forceps as this will inject more poison).
  • Clean area with antiseptic wipe.
  • Apply insect sting swab.
  • Apply hydrocortisone cream.
  • Distract your pet for 15 minutes to keep your pet from licking the cream so that it can begin to work.

Snake Bites

  • Fang marks from the bite.
  • Swelling. (May progress over a 24 hr. period)
  • Pain
  • Redness
  • Signs of shock
  • Blood does not clot
  • Bruising
  • Weakness
  • Breathing stops
  • Twitching and drooling
First Aid Action Needed
  • Attempt to identify the snake being careful not to get bitten.
  • Check to make sure your dog is breathing. Perform CPR as needed.
  • Watch for signs of shock and keep the animal calm and still. Movement may cause the venom to spread more quickly.
  • Put on gloves and wash the wound. Do not cut the wound or attempt to suck out venom. Don not ice or use a tourniquet on the wound.
  • Transport to your veterinarian immediately.
Foreign Objects
Porcupine Quills
  • Restrain as appropriate.
  • A few quills can be removed without sedation.
  • Grasp the quill close to the skin using needle nose pliers, and slowly pull straight out.
  • Wipe the wounds with antiseptic towelette and apply triple antibiotic ointment.
Note: A large number of quills, or quills that are deep inside the mouth should be removed by a veterinarian. If a quill breaks when being removed, mark the location and have your dog checked by a vet.

Fish Hooks

  • Gently withdraw hook if barbed portion has not penetrated the skin.
  • If barb has penetrated, push hook forward until the barb sticks out of the skin. Cut shank off the hook and remove it.
  • Clean wound with antiseptic towelette and apply triple antibiotic ointment.
Heat/Cold Injury
Body temperatures below 100 degrees F (37.7 C) or above 104 degrees F (40 C) are considered an emergency. Normal body temperature is 100.5 degrees F (38 C) to 102 degrees F (39.3 C).

  • Scaling and leathery feel of the skin
  • Tissues appear whitened and waxy
First Aid Action Needed
  • Handle carefully and warm up slowly.
  • Move inside and wrap in a blanket.
  • Immerse in lukewarm water until tissues are flushed. The thawing process is very painful. If at all possible, transport the dog to a veterinarian.
  • Shivering (will stop as severity increases).
  • Stiff muscles.
  • Low pulse and respiration rate.
  • Cold to touch and body temperature below 95 degrees F (35 degrees C)
  • Lethargy leading to unconsciousness
First Aid Action Needed
  • Move the dog to a shelter and warm with blankets.
  • Give warm liquid/sugar mixture to drink.
  • Access veterinary care immediately.
Heat Stroke
  • Panting and brick-red gums.
  • increased heart rate.
  • difficulty breathing.
  • vomiting/diarrhea.
  • anxiety.
  • increased temperature.
  • confusion.
  • seizures, coma.
First Aid Action Needed
  • Move the dog to a cool, shaded area.
  • Submerge in cold water or spray with a hose.
  • stop cooling process and dry the animal when temperature reaches 104 degrees F (40 degrees C).
  • Encourage the dog to drink.
The severity of a burn depends on its depth into the tissue and the percentage of the body affected.

Minor burns do not extend to the tissues below the skin whereas major or third degree burns do.
Minor Burns

  • Singed hair and redness of the skin
  • Pain, blistering and swelling
First Aid Action Needed
  • Restrain as appropriate.
  • Apply cold compresses or submerge area in cold water.
  • Apply sterile dressings and bandage lightly.
Major Burns
  • Singed hair, redness and blistering of the skin.
  • Charred appearance of tissues.
  • Pain and swelling.
  • Reluctance of the animal to move.
Action Needed
  • Restrain as appropriate and cover burned area with gauze pad wetted with sterile eye and skin wash.
  • Treat for shock and transport at once to a veterinarian.
  • Monitor airways, breathing and circulation.
  • Only replace body fluids if instructed by a veterinarian.
External Bleeding
Bleeding from minor cuts will stop within a few minutes. Severe bleeding needs immediate first aid. If left untreated it can cause shock and eventually death.
First Aid Action Needed
  • Restrain the dog.
  • Place gauze pads over the wound area and apply pressure until the bleeding stops.
  • Cover the wound with clean gauze and secure.
  • If bleeding continues reinforce dressing.
  • Transport animal to veterinarian.
Ear: A dog will shake its head when an ear is cut, preventing blood clotting. Bandage head and secure with tape, nylon, or a sock.
Footpad: Firm pressure bandage should be applied.

Internal Bleeding

  • History of trauma.
  • Distress and pain.
  • Visible bleeding from ears, nose, and/or mouth.
  • Coughing up/vomiting red or brownish blood.
  • Signs of shock.
  • Elevated pulse.
First Aid Action Needed
  • Restrain as appropriate.
  • Treat for shock.
  • Access immediate veterinary assistance.
  • Give nothing to eat or drink.
Treating Cuts and Open Wounds
  • Pain, distress.
  • Limping.
  • Shock.
  • Visible bleeding.
  • Swelling.
  • Withdrawal.
  • Licking or consistent attention to localized area.
Action Needed
  • Calmly secure your dog by wrapping him/her in a towel or blanket. (If the wound is bleeding excessively, Place gauze pads over the wound area and apply pressure until the bleeding stops.)
  • Gently cut hair from around the wound.
  • Flush the wound with Eye & Skin wash.
  • Apply PVP iodine to wound area.
  • Place gauze pads over the wound area and apply pressure until bleeding stops.
  • Don't remove blood-soaked pads; just add another on top with gauze roll and secure with adhesive tape.
  • Cohesive bandage may be wrapped over stretch gauze to secure bandage for extended periods.
  • For severe wounds, transport your dog to the veterinarian immediately.
  • Call your veterinarian about mild abrasions or cuts for further treatment.
Impaled ObjectsObject is still in the wound
First Aid Action Needed
  • Restrain as appropriate.
  • Do not remove object.
  • Flush wound with PVP iodine.
  • Build up trauma pads around the wound and secure with stretch gauze, adhesive tape and cohesive bandage.
  • Transport immediately to the veterinarian.
  • All puncture wounds should be seen by your veterinarian for removal of any foreign matter.
Sucking Chest Wound
An object penetrates the chest cavity and air enters the chest around the lungs.
  • Distress.
  • Difficulty Breathing.
  • Audible "sucking" noise.
  • Dog will go into shock.
Action Needed
  • Restrain as appropriate
  • Apply dressing over the wound and secure with stretch gauze, adhesive tape and cohesive bandage.
  • Treat for shock.
  • Transport to veterinarian.
Closed Wounds
A blow from a blunt object can cause a closed wound.
  • Limping.
  • Swelling and heat.
  • Pain, distress.
  • Scratches around the area.
First Aid Action Needed
  • Restrain as appropriate,
  • Cut away excess hair.
  • Clean wound with antiseptic towelettes.
  • Bathe area in cold water or apply ice pack.
  • Transport to veterinarian.
Rashes, Skin Irritations and Itches
  • Pain, distress
  • Swelling
  • Hot spots
  • Constant attention to specific areas, licking/scratching
Action Needed
  • Trim away hair.
  • Clean area with antiseptic wipe.
  • Apply hydrocortisone.
  • Distract your dog for 15 minutes to keep him/her from licking the cream so that it can begin to work.
Gastric Dilation and Bloat
An accumulation of gas and food in the stomach causing swelling. Occurs more often in larger breeds.

In some cases the stomach rotates on its axis (torsion) cutting off the blood supply to the spleen and stomach resulting in life threatening shock.

The cause of bloat is unknown, however, in nearly all cases there is a history of overeating, consumption of fermented foods, drinking excessively after eating, or vigorous exercise after a meal.


  • Excessive salivation.
  • Extreme restlessness.
  • Attempts to vomit and defecate.
  • Abdominal pain and distension.
  • Pacing and restlessness
  • Stretching
  • Looking at the abdomen
  • Anxiety
First Aid Action Needed