HomeInspireAnimals & Pets

How to do dog first aid if your pet gets in trouble

BY Blue Cross

23rd Apr 2024 Animals & Pets

4 min read

How to do dog first aid if your pet gets in trouble
As a pet owner, one of the scariest things can be witnessing your dog getting hurt. Don't panic, here are the dog first aid tips you should know
There are many situations where dogs may need quick-thinking first aid, before you are able to get to a vet, such as if your pet is stung while out on a walk or hit by a car.
National pet charity Blue Cross has provided some top tips for basic first aid for your dog, in a bid to help owners have more chance of saving their beloved animal from even more harm. 
"Treatment is provided more quickly if the dog is taken to the surgery, rather than if the vet is called out"
  • Firstly, ensure the safety of yourself and others. Keep calm and assess the situation before acting. Injured animals are frightened and in pain and they may react differently than normal and may even try to bite anyone who touches them.
  • Contact the vet. Keep your vet's phone number to hand and know the name of the practice. Always phone first, whatever the situation, as there may not always be a vet available but staff may be able to suggest immediate action you can take. Have a pen handy in case another number is given. Treatment can usually be provided more quickly if the dog is taken to the surgery, rather than if the vet is called out.
  • Never give human medicines to a dog—many will do more harm than good. Do not offer food or drink in case anaesthetic is needed—though a small amount of water may be offered to a dog with heatstroke. 

Road accidents 

Dog standing in the middle of the road
Prevention is better than cure. Even a well-behaved dog should be kept on a lead anywhere near traffic, including slow moving vehicles. Never have a collar so loose that a dog can wriggle free.
If the worst happens, beware of other cars. Talk gently to the dog as you approach. Move slowly and avoid making sudden movements. Put a lead on if possible and, if necessary, muzzle before handling. Even if the dog can walk, and doesn’t appear to be in pain, you must see a vet; there may be internal injuries that are not immediately obvious.
If the dog cannot walk, small dogs can be picked up by placing one hand at the front of the chest and the other under the hindquarters. Improvise a stretcher for larger dogs with a coat or a blanket. If the dog is paralysed, there may be a spinal injury, so try to find something rigid, such as a board. Slide the patient gently on to this if possible. Cover with a blanket to reduce heat loss. It will nearly always be quicker and more effective to take the dog to your vet rather than waiting for a vet to come to you.


Some of the common symptoms of poisoning are staggering; vomiting; dribbling; collapsing; and difficulty breathing. Try to find packaging from the substance swallowed and have it with you when you phone the vet.
"Do not make your dog sick unless the vet says to do so"
If chewing plants is suspected, try to find out the identity of the plant. Call the vet immediately, time can make a big difference. Do not make your dog sick unless the vet says to do so.

First aid for a drowning dog

Dog in a lake
Make sure the dogs airways are clear by wiping away anything covering the nose and mouth. Hold the dog upside down by the hind legs until the water has drained out. Give resuscitation if breathing has stopped. Even if your pet seems to recover, always see the vet as complications afterwards are common.


If on a hot day your dog is panting heavily, is distressed and especially if the dog is short nosed (e.g. a boxer or French bulldog), overweight or has been exercising, think heatstroke! Put the dog somewhere cool, preferably in a draught. Wet the coat with cool water (cold water contracts the blood vessels in the skin and slows heat loss) and phone or go the vet. You can offer a small amount of water but don’t delay going to the vet; getting there soon can make all the difference.

Basic dog resuscitation 

Put the animal on their side. Check that breathing has definitely stopped (hold a wisp of fur to the nostrils). Open the mouth, pull the tongue forwards and check for obstructions, such as blood. Be careful not to get bitten when removing any material. Call your vet for advice.
" Give two breaths into the nose for every 15 compressions of the chest"
If breathing does not start, try to wake the dog using vocal and physical stimuli. If this fails extend the head (nose pointing forwards). If you cannot feel a heartbeat, push on the chest just behind the front legs every second. Give two breaths into the nose for every 15 compressions of the chest. Compression of the chest does allow some air flow in and out of the lungs; consistent and firm chest compressions are what is needed. If after three minutes, your dog has made no improvement, sadly you may have to consider that there is nothing more you can do.

Broken bones 

Dog with a broken leg bandaged up
Deal with any serious bleeding by applying a bandage but do not apply a splint—it is painful, and can cause the bone to break through the skin. To put a bandage on your dog, you should take care first; put a muzzle on it as dogs in pain can be unpredictable.
Apply a layer that won’t stick to the wound such as a clean towel or cloth, add a layer of padding such as cotton wool to protect the wound, secure in place with a bandage that isn’t too tight and get to a vet as soon as possible. Confine the patient to a well-padded carrier for transportation to the vet.
For more first aid tips and additional advice on many other medical emergencies, please visit bluecross.org.uk/pet-advice/basic-first-aid-dogs 
Banner: Whatever injury your dog experiences, you should take them to the vet as quickly as possible. Credit: Tima Miroshnichenko
Keep up with the top stories from Reader's Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter