First Aid for Dogs

If you are experiencing an animal emergency then please stop here and call your vets for direct and immediate advice! This article is designed to help you prepare for an emergency. First aid is not a substitute for veterinary treatment and first aid should always be followed by a veterinary visit! 

Knowing what to do in emergency situations will make a huge difference to the outcome of a potentially critical situation. It is important that you know what to do if your dog is injured or has an unexpected medical emergency. Acting calmly and quickly may mean the difference between life and death.

Dog CPR Training Sandwich, Kent

The basics

  1. Remove your dog from further danger but do not put yourself at risk.
  2. Call a vet as soon as possible for tailored advice. Ideally get a friend to call so that you are free to help your dog.
  3. Handling an injured dog can be difficult. Even the kindest, most gentle dog could become aggressive due to fear and pain; so please be careful that you don’t get bitten. 
  4. Using a towel or blanket to wrap your dog can help to keep them warm and reduce risk of further injury.
  5. Make a plan to get your dog to a vet as soon as possible; it may be necessary to perform CPR during the journey.
  6. Do not offer your dog food in case they need an anaesthetic once they get to the vets.

CPR for dogs

  • Firstly, check for a heartbeat but placing hand around the bottom of the chest, behind the elbows.
  • Lay the dog on its side and check in the mouth for any debris and to pull the tongue forwards.
  • If there is no heartbeat then chest compressions are needed. The force needed depends on the size of the dog and the shape of their chest.
    • Place your hands on the ribcage, just behind the elbows. Then squeeze the chest, aiming to compress it by half with each compression. Aim for a rate of about for about 100 compressions per minute. Pause every 30 seconds to see if there is a spontaneous heartbeat or any breathing.
    • For medium and large dogs you will need to put your hands on top of each other and keep your elbows straight to transfer enough force. 
  • If there is no spontaneous breathing then try mouth-to-nose respiration. 
    • Start by holding the mouth shut, tilting the head backwards and then blow small breaths into both nostrils for 2 seconds, pausing for 3 seconds between breaths. As you do this you should see the chest move. Be careful not to over-inflate the lungs of small dogs.
  • Aim to give two breaths for every 30 compressions.
Dogs in snow

Below is more specific advice for certain situations

Road Traffic Accidents (RTAs), trauma and falls

  • Remove your dog from the area of danger. 
  • Be gentle when handling as they may have fractured bones or internal injuries.
  • Try not to twist the body in case of spinal fractures.
  • Shocked dogs get cold very quickly so wrap them in a blanket to keep them warm.
  • Get to the closest vet immediately! Ideally let them know that you are on your way so that they can prepare equipment for swift treatment.


  • If you suspect that your dog has ingested something poisonous then please contact your vet immediately. Even if you are not sure if something is poisonous, it’s always best to check.
  • Symptoms of poisoning can be very non-specific but can include drooling, vomiting, diarrhoea, incoordination and seizures.
  • If you know what your dog has managed to ingest then please take the packaging with you to the vets.

Burns and scalding

  • Burns are very painful so be careful you do not get bitten as you try to help.
  • If possible, cool the area with water for at least 10 minutes.
  • Go to the vet immediately.
  • Do not apply anything but water to the area. Do not cover the area with bandages as these will stick to the wound.

Haemorrhage (bleeding)

  • If your dog will let you, applying a compress over the area will help stem the blood loss. Avoid trying to use any disinfectants as this will sting and may also damage the exposed tissues.
  • Get to a vet as soon as possible for pain relief and further treatment.

Seizuers and fitting

  • Do not try to hold your dog as you may be injured.
  • Place the dog on the floor, darken the room and lower the noise levels.
  • Call your vet for direct advice.
  • Time the length of a seizure.
  • When dogs recover from a seizure they can become very disoriented and possibly aggressive so be careful.


  • Most importantly, make sure you turn off the power supply and remove the plug from the socket before touching an electrocuted animal.
  • Check if the dog is conscious, if not then begin CPR as above.
  • If the shock does not kill them, the electric shock may burn the tongue and mouth.
  • Contact your vet urgently.
Dog in the Sea in Deal


  • Never endanger your own life when trying to rescue an animal from water.
  • Once the dog has been removed from the water, check that it is conscious
  • If not conscious then check for a heartbeat by placing your hand around the bottom of the ribcage, just behind the elbows. 
  • Lay the dog on its side with the head lower than the body and then check for anything stuck in the mouth and pull the tongue forwards. Be careful not to get bitten.
  • If there is no spontaneous breathing then carefully press on the dog’s chest and then allow the lungs to inflate. This may help bring some of the fluid out of the lungs.
  • Begin CPR as detailed above.
  • Wrap the dog in a blanket and get to a vet immediately. Wet dogs get cold very quickly.


For more you can join me on


Deal and Sandwich vet Claire


Hi, I’m Claire and I am a veterinary surgeon working in East Kent. Having grown up locally I was delighted to be able to move home and settle near Sandwich. I love all animals but I mainly treat dogs, cat and rabbits. My lifelong passion for animal healthcare has led me to start this blog in the hope that I can interest your inner animal lover and share some fascinating stories along the way. You can also find me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Read more

Keep in touch!

I occasionally send out emails containing recent posts, pet health alerts and useful information. If you would like to receive these please sign up below.