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This page is only a guide - always telephone your veterinarian for advice.

The following information will help you to give first aid to your dog in an emergency - print this out and keep it accessible, for example, next to your veterinarian's telephone number.

Also check out how to make your own Dog First Aid Kit.

Road accident

 You may actually see the incident, or your dog may return obviously injured. Ensure that your dog is removed from further possible injury, off the road. Keep your dog as quiet, still and as comfortable as possible. Restrain it if necessary to prevent further injury. Put pressure on any obviously bleeding points with a clean bandage or cloth. Call your veterinarian as soon as possible to obtain advice.


If the limb is dangling, it is probably fractured and you should seek immediate veterinary care. If you suspect a sprain or strain, crate rest can help. When the dog needs to relieve itself, take it out on lead and bring it in as soon as it's finished. Avoid allowing the dog to jump up, especially on furniture. For a Cairn-sized dog, one baby aspirin every 12 hours may help to relieve the pain. Exercise should be restricted for at least 4 to 6 days.

Hind Leg/Knee*

For a strain, a pull or a rupture of the crusiate ligament, the dog will need complete rest; preferably in a crate. This is a condition that should be seen by your vet.


If very painful when touched, see vet. Don't try to treat it yourself.

Cut paw

Sudden bleeding due to a laceration from broken glass or other sharp objects often found on beaches and out on walks. If bleeding is profuse, wrap the paw in gauze dressing or clean cloth and put a firm rolled bandage with even pressure around the paw. Take the dog to your veterinarian for appropriate treatment. Never use an elastic band or other form of tourniquet around the limb, especially for prolonged periods (over 15 minutes).


Superficial - 1" or less can be flushed with hydrogen peroxide. (Never use it near the face.)

Major - These cuts are recognized by profuse bleeding. Don't flush! Apply pressure and see the vet. Remember that blood flow from an artery pumps, while bleeding from a vein is steady. The mouth is the exception; you can apply pressure with gauze or cotton. In a normal animal it should clot in about two minutes. If the dog experiences a nosebleed, see your vet as it could indicate a serious condition such as a tumor, ingestion of rat poison, vWD or another immune-related disease.

Bleeding Nail*

Check to see if nail is fractured; if so it won't break off so you should remove it with nail clippers treated with alcohol. Check the color in the mouth or eye. It should be pink, not white. If nail has been trimmed too close to the quick, apply pressure with gauze (a clean white tube sock will do in a pinch). Apply styptic powder (don't use a styptic pencil as it will sting on contact). Ordinary baking flour will work, too. Bleeding should stop in a few minutes.

Rectal Bleeding*

One possible cause is constipation; if blood is on the outside of the stool, it could be caused by internal parasites such as tapeworm. Other causes could be tumors and infected or abscessed anal glands. If blood is seen IN the stool, contact the vet. Be sure to always take a stool sample in with you whenever you see blood.

Injured eye

Look and carefully remove any obvious foreign body, such as a grass seed. This can be done by flushing the eye with clean, warm water. Prevent the dog from rubbing the affected eye with his paws or on furnishings, and take him to a vet for examination and treatment. If the eye is severely injured then cover it with damp gauze and take the dog to the vet immediately. Do not treat the eye without first obtaining a veterinary diagnosis as steroid medications that are used to treat conjunctivitis can cause corneal damage if there is an ulcer present. Your vet can stain the eye and he/she will be able to detect an ulcer if one is present. Cherry eye is a prolapse of the third eyelid. It is not a medical emergency, but should be seen by a vet.


It is actually normal for dogs to vomit occasionally, and it is only when it occurs several times frequently, or the animal appears generally unwell that you need be concerned. If your dog is vomiting persistently, take note of both the act of vomiting and the nature of the vomits, so that you can describe it to your veterinarian. Collect some vomits in a bottle for the veterinarian to examine. Do not feed your pet, and call your veterinarian for advice.

Acute diarrhea

Very loose stools, which may contain blood and/or mucus. This may be accompanied by vomiting. Withhold all food and keep your dog warm. Offer small volumes of water with some glucose, Pedialyte (unflavored variety) or weak bouillon. If the dog is weak, lethargic or depressed, take him to your veterinarian immediately; if your dog is otherwise bright, take him during normal consultation hours the next morning. Telephone your veterinarian first and take careful note of any advice given. A drug called FLAGYL (available through a vet) is an excellent treatment to use. Also, Imodium (1/2 tab for Cairn-sized dog) can be administered once. When starting dog back on regular food, use a bland diet (boiled chicken and rice) and gradually build up to it's regular diet over a period of 3 or 4 days. When traveling with your dog, always bring your own water.

Urinary Bleeding*

See your vet. Bring a sample of your pet's urine with you (a morning sample is best). A small plate or cup can be used to collect it. Attaching a small plastic bag to the dog can sometimes work. Having the dog on lead makes collection easier.

Stings and snake bites

Sudden acute pain often followed by swelling and sometimes discoloration of the skin. If a dog has been stung in the throat, breathing may be difficult. Keep your dog cool and avoid any exercise. Administer Benadryl (25 mg.) Repeat dosage in three hours, then follow label instructions for 24 hours. If Benadryl doesn't work in 15 minutes, see vet immediately. Cortaid can be administered topically. If swelling persists for more than an hour or if the sting is around the face or neck, take your dog to the veterinarian. Keep the tongue forward and the airway clear if possible. If a limb has been subject to snakebite, a firm pressure bandage should be placed around the limb, the type of snake identified if possible, and the dog taken to the veterinarian immediately.

Fits or seizures

Sudden, uncontrolled spasmodic movements, often with champing of the jaws and usually accompanied by salivation. The dog may fall onto its side. There may be violent twitching of the muscles under the skin of the head, neck and limbs. Remove the collar and be sure that the dog is away from any danger (e.g., fireplaces, stairs, and unstable tables). Make sure he can breathe by holding the head and neck extended if possible - but do not put your fingers inside the dog's mouth. Keep the environment darkened and quiet and prevent all sudden noises like doorbells and slamming doors. Most fits are over quite quickly (although it seems a long time!) Make a note of the exact signs before, during and after the fit and call your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Sudden ear ache

Your dog will scratch his ear and may hold his head to one side. He may rub it along the ground, shake his head, whine and be reluctant for anyone to touch his ear. If this is a sudden onset, there may be grass seed or another foreign object in the ear. Do not put anything at all in the ear and contact your vet. A strong odor can indicate a yeast infection. If the dog frequently shakes it's head due to an infection, a hematoma (blood blister) can develop. This condition requires surgical correction. If your dogs swim, it's a good idea to prophylactically treat the ears with a solution that cleans and dehydrates. Make sure it has the proper pH. Your vet can recommend a product. Ear problems must be attended to early, before secondary changes occur, making the condition more difficult to treat.

Known poisoning

If your dog is seen swallowing a known poison, induce vomiting straight away by pouring a solution of salty water (teaspoon of salt in a glass of water) down the throat. Only give milk if the substance swallowed is at all corrosive. Never do this more than once and NOT AT ALL if your dog cannot stand. Seek your veterinarian's advice quickly and take the rest of the poisonous agent and/or its packaging to the veterinarian if it is available.


Your dog may be gagging, or tearing frantically at its mouth with its paws. Try to open his mouth and remove the obstructing object - note that you stand the chance of being bitten in doing this. Look at the roof of the mouth, as sometimes sticks or bones get wedged across the top. In some cases a general anaesthetic may be required to safely remove an object from the mouth area. Even after you have removed the object, it's a good idea to get your dog checked by your veterinarian.


If caused by kennel cough, it can be treated with Robitussin DM.

Dosage is 1/2 teaspoon (Cairn-sized dog) as directed on the label. It will generally run it's course in 10-14 days. The vet should usually see coughs.

Unplanned mating

If your bitch is accidentally mated, it is not strictly speaking an emergency, but a pregnancy can often be prevented. Your veterinarian can give an injection soon after mating which will usually prevent your bitch from having puppies. It is vital to contact your veterinary practice within 24 hours, so that they can advise you on the timing of the injection.

(Personal note: I discourage this practice. It would be better to allow the bitch to have puppies and deal with the consequences than to take the chance of upsetting a valuable bitch's hormonal balance.)


Obtain veterinary advice immediately. Put dog onto a blanket and keep airway free.


If the dog's abdomen appears distended and full of gas GO TO THE VETERINARIAN IMMEDIATELY.


Transporting your dog to the veterinary practice in an emergency

It is usually preferable to take your dog to the clinic/hospital rather than for your veterinarian to come out (Yes, some vets still come to your home!). This is because there is specialized equipment and trained personnel at the clinic. Do not give your dog anything to eat or drink, just in case he requires a general anesthesia. Gently slide your dog onto an old blanket or coat on the ground, dragging with the body first (so that any broken legs or other injuries will be pulled onto the blanket rather than pushed which may cause further injury). Two people can pick up the corners of the blanket to form a soft stretcher to transfer the dog to the back seat of the car. The person walking backwards should go right through the car so the dog can be lowered gently onto the seat. Someone should stay in the back with the dog on the way to the clinic. If the dog is trying to bite, a necktie or bandage can be temporarily tied around its muzzle - do not leave on for any prolonged period as this may compromise its breathing. Always notify the veterinary practice that you are on your way so that they can prepare for your arrival.

Items marked with (*) were presented at a Potomac Cairn Terrier Club meeting by Dr. Tim Cujdik, then passed along to Cairn-L and presented here with the permission of Fay Fowler Gross. They are not meant to replace professional veterinary care. Do not hesitate to contact your veterinarian when in doubt.

Again, these are just tips and not meant to replace professional veterinary care.


First Aid Kit

This page has been visited times since January 17, 1998

This page was last March 30, 2002


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