Consider taking CPR class for your pet

  • AJ is a one-year-old Chihuahua mix, who weighs in at 9.5 pounds.

    AJ is a one-year-old Chihuahua mix, who weighs in at 9.5 pounds. Courtesy of The Buddy Foundation

  • Chelsea is a 3-year-old Beagle, who weighs in at 23 pounds.

    Chelsea is a 3-year-old Beagle, who weighs in at 23 pounds. Courtesy of The Buddy Foundation

By Ellaine Kiriluk
Posted10/6/2016 9:55 AM

If you've had a dog in your life, you've probably had a dog emergency of some sort. A bleeding toe nail, a cut paw, a twisted ankle.

I've been to emergency veterinarian clinics several times with my dogs for a bleeding tongue, a torn toe nail and other scary, but not life threatening events. Every time I go, it reinforces my belief I should learn first aid and CPR for my animals.


Dr. Elizabeth Rozanski, DVM, a specialist in emergency and critical care at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, suggests helpful first-aid techniques that we can use to provide valuable information to a veterinarian in an emergency. These procedures can also indicate your dog's general health.

They include checking your dog's gums, taking his pulse and knowing his heart rate. Other first aid techniques include checking breathing in an unconscious dog, helping a dog who is choking and stopping bleeding in a wound.

Checking the gums. Dr. Rozanski describes healthy gums as pink and moist. Pale, white or blue gums can signal a problem such as shock or anemia, which is a low-red cell count. The best way to check the gums is a couple millimeters above the canine tooth. (Slightly more than a third of an inch).

Lift up your dog's muzzle and press lightly with your finger on the gum area above the canine tooth. It should return to a pink color within a couple of seconds.

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Taking the pulse. The number of heart beats per minute varies by size of your dog, with larger dogs having a slower rate. Dr. Rozanski notes it's good to know your dog's normal rate. If it's usually 80 and is now 150, that can mean he's in trouble. A rapidly beating heart can indicate shock or pain.

To take your dog's pulse, lay him on his right side, then follow these steps:

• Gently lift his upper hind leg away from the lower hind leg.

• Place two fingers as high up as possible on the inside of the leg where the leg meets the body.

• Feel for a recess in the middle of the leg, about half way between the front and back. This is where the blood vessels are located and where you'll find the pulse.

• Count the number of pulses in 10 seconds and multiply that number by six to give you the beats per minute.

Stopping bleeding in a wound. If your dog is bleeding due to a bite or cut, Dr. Rozanski's first advice is "Don't panic. Dogs have more blood than you think. Put pressure on the wound, but do not take it off to see if the bleeding has stopped. If you don't have a first-aid kit handy, a towel and duct tape work well. Always keep towels in your car."


If you can treat the wound it's better not to use peroxide to clean it. Dr. Rozanski suggests, "Peroxide is bad for wounds. It delays healing." She recommends using sterile saline solution or tap water.

If necessary, you can create a homemade muzzle by ripping strips from a towel or T-shirt to avoid being bitten when treating an injured, conscious dog. Approach the dog from the side -- not directly head on -- and talk in a calm voice. (If the dog was hit by a car, make sure he is in a safe area).

Take a cloth strip and tie it around the dog's nose and then behind the ears. Dr. Rozanski cautions even a sweet tempered dog with a broken pelvis or other injury might bite.

After writing this column, I'm more convinced than ever I need to take a first aid course for my dog. I'll let you know when I find one. I wrote this column for informational purposes only. Consult your veterinarian regarding any of these first aid procedures and how and when to use them.

Help Buddy: Help support The Buddy Foundation by attending Bowling for Buddy from 1:30-5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 6, at Arlington Lanes, 3435 N. Kennicott Ave., in Arlington Heights.

Tickets are $30 for adults in advance and $35 at the door; children ages 12 and younger are $15. Your ticket includes two games of bowling, shoe rental, pizza, salad, dessert and a soda. There will also be a special raffle for a 32-inch Samsung LED TV.

For tickets or information, visit or call (847) 290-5806.

• The Buddy Foundation, 65 W. Seegers Road, Arlington Heights, is a nonprofit (501c3), all volunteer, no-kill animal shelter. For information, call (847) 290-5806 or visit