Know first aid, CPR to help your dog in case of emergency

  • Jasmine, a 13-week old, female shepherd mix, is new to the Buddy Foundation.

    Jasmine, a 13-week old, female shepherd mix, is new to the Buddy Foundation. Courtesy of The Buddy Foundation

  • Mater is also new to the Buddy Foundation. He is a 2-year old, male terrier mix, who weighs in at 46 pounds.

    Mater is also new to the Buddy Foundation. He is a 2-year old, male terrier mix, who weighs in at 46 pounds. Courtesy of The Buddy Foundation

By Ellaine Kiriluk
The Buddy Beat
Updated 6/17/2021 9:19 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, the life threatening event of bloat (due to his breed, not because of feeding practices) and, most recently, a very scary nose bleed.


Every time I go, it reinforces my belief that I should learn first aid and CPR for my animals.

Veterinarian Dr. Elizabeth Rozanski, 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 stop 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.

by signing up you agree to our terms of service

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.

Stop 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.

"Peroxide is bad for wounds. It delays healing," Dr. Rozanski said. She recommends "using sterile saline solution or tap water."

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. Dr. Rozanski said even a sweet-tempered dog with an injury might bite.

It's good to know first aid for our dogs. You never know what can happen. 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.

• The Buddy Foundation, 65 W. Seegers Road, Arlington Heights, is an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization with all funds directly assisting its animals. Call (847) 290-5806 or visit

Article Comments
Attention: We are experiencing technical difficulties with our Facebook Comments module at this time. Comments will remain disabled until we are able to resolve the problem. We apologize for the interruption. We invite you to engage with our content and talk with other commenters on our Daily Herald Facebook page at Thank you.