Basic first aid for dogs

Dogs are inquisitive animals by nature and they’re often first to get their nose stuck into places they shouldn’t be. For that reason, you may find your dog needing medical attention and you could be required to perform basic first aid on them until you’re able to see a vet.

As scary as the situation can be, it’s essential to keep calm when providing your dog with first aid. Rushing around can result in your dog feeling more anxious as they’re able to pick-up on your feelings, and may cause them to harm themselves even further.

In this article, we’ve shared the basic first aid equipment that every dog owner should have, along with the three most common ways to provide first aid to your pet:

Things to remember

Along with remaining calm throughout the process, you should contact your vet as soon as possible. When explaining their illness, they may advise you to perform a different form of first aid that is more suitable for your pet’s condition.

Avoid giving your dog any form of medicine until you’ve spoken to your vet. This is because some medicines can have an adverse effect on an injury and could cause the illness to become worse.

First aid kit

You should keep a first aid kit for your dog in a place of your home that is easily accessible, and remember to take it with you if you’re travelling with your pet.

There’s no need to pack hundreds of medical items. A basic first aid kit for your pet should include:

  • A thick towel
  • Surgical tape
  • Bandages
  • Non-adhesive dressings
  • Blunt-ended scissors
  • Antiseptic wipes

Most common requirements for first aid

Whilst there are a variety of accidents that could result in your dog needing first aid, the following are the most common:


Similar to humans, burns on your dog’s skin must be run under cold, running water for at least five minutes in order for the temperature to cool.

It’s important to keep the rest of your pet’s body warm whilst soothing their burns. This can be done by wrapping them in a blanket or warm towel.


Another potential requirement for performing first aid can happen when your dog has consumed something poisonous. Items such as household cleaning items, human food like chocolate and things found in the garden could be poisonous to your dog and can result in them vomiting or experiencing diarrhoea.

Dog eating food

Unless advised specifically by your vet, never force your dog to vomit the suspected substance back up. This could cause more harm than good and be more dangerous for their internal organs.

Instead, try and find out exactly what your pet has consumed that could have caused the poisoning. This information may be able to help your vet provide your dog with better treatment.

Important: Make sure to call your vet as soon as it happens as there is a 30 minute window before the content passes from your dog’s stomach. This will provide the best chances of reducing further complications.

Bite wound

Bite wounds very often get infected because of the high concentration of bacteria in the mouth. Always have your pet checked by your vet if they have been bitten or attacked even if there are no obvious concerns. Bite wounds tend to be more serious than they look because of hidden damage below the skin.

What to do if your dog has a bite wound

First, check your pet:

  • Is your dog conscious?
  • Is your dog breathing? Look at their chest, is it moving with the breaths?
    • IF NOT call your vet immediately as they may advise you to do CPR.
    • IF they are breathing, check them for wounds.

Second check:

  • Is there severe bleeding?
    • IF YES, apply pressure and go to the vet.
    • IF NO and your pet looks fine. Clean the wound with salted water (1 tsp to 500ml of water) and clean the wounds as best as possible. Book an appointment with your vet.

Then, finally, a vet check.

Road traffic accident (RTA)

If your dog has been involved in a traumatic accident be very careful when moving them. Any animal that has been in a road traffic accident should be checked by a vet as there could be internal injuries that need veterinary attention.

What to do if your dog was in a road traffic accident

First, check your pet:

  • Is your dog conscious?
  • Is your dog breathing? Look at their chest, is it moving with the breaths?
    • IF NOT call your vet immediately as they may advise you to do CPR.
    • IF they are breathing, check them for wounds.
  • Is there any constant bleeding?
    • IF YES apply pressure. You can do this by placing a thick piece of material (such as a towel) firmly over the area and covering it with non-adhesive dressing, keeping it held down with cotton wool or tape.

Gently move them to a safe place:

  • Avoid touching or moving too much in the painful area.
  • Don’t let them walk or move around until you speak to your vet.

Call your vet.

Fit or seizure

A seizure is an episode of uncontrolled electrical activity in the brain, which can result in involuntary tremors or full-body convulsions.

Do not hold or try to comfort your dog as this could prolong their fit.

What to do if your dog is having a fit or seizure  

Stay calm and look at your surroundings:

  • DO NOT cuddle your dog or cover them.
  • Clear the space around your pet, and use cushions or soft materials to prevent any fall or injury during the fit.
  • Remove other pets or children from the area.
  • Switch off any music or television or keep the noise level at a minimum.
  • Turn off lights or close curtains.

These are all important to reduce the fitting time.

If you can, monitor the time or ideally record the seizure so that you can show your vet. 

Recovering period:

  • Check if they have relieved themselves during the fit so that you can clean up.
  • Monitor how long it takes for them to recover completely.
    • Note their behaviour after the fit, are they confused? Or did they recover straight away?

Report all this information to your vet. When you call, they might advise you to take your pet in once they’re fully recovered, to help prevent another fit by overstimulation.

Electric shocks

Dogs can sometimes chew electrical cords or cable, which can cause electrical injury with some canine companions being unfortunate enough to be struck by lightning. Electric shocks can cause burns, organ damage and death in animals, so it’s important to know what to do when it happens.

Stop the shock:

  • Switch off the power switch! If you can’t then make sure to turn the main fuse box off.
  • If you can’t turn off the electric source, try to move your dog away from the wire using a non-conductive material such as plastic.

When it’s safe to do so, check your pet:

  • Is your dog conscious?
  • Is your dog breathing? Look at their chest, is it moving with the breaths?
    • IF NOT call your vet immediately as they may advise you to do CPR.
    • IF they are breathing, check them for wounds or burns.
  • Then wrap your pet up to keep them warm

Call a vet.


Heatstroke is a life-threatening medical emergency that can occur when a petʼs body temperature becomes extremely elevated (40°C or higher).

Scenarios include a dog being locked in a hot car or even playing outside for too long on a hot day.

Do not try cooling your dog down with ice-cold water as this can stop the heat from leaving the body.

Be aware that there are some dogs more likely to suffer from this such as flat-faced breeds (e.g. Bulldogs, Pugs, Shih Tzu) and overweight or obese dogs.

What to do if your dog has heatstroke

Firstly, move your dog to a cool area. A place with shade or air conditioning.

Then, cool your dog down.

  • Create air circulation by using a fan or opening windows.
  • Offer fresh water to drink.
  • Pour fresh water (NOT ice-cold) on their body.

Do not cuddle them or cover them with a towel, even if is wet, as this will stop the air circulation that’s needed to cool them down.

Get to your nearest vet.


So now you have some basic first aid tips for your dog, you can be more prepared in case the worst should happen. These should not be used in place of a trip to the vet, but can be used to make your pooch safer and more comfortable whilst on your way to the clinic.

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