Dog care and first Aid in specific conditions
As a dog owner, you should familiarize yourself with some common emergency conditions, so you will know what to do and when to seek professional veterinary assistance.
Vomiting and diarrhea
If they are not depressed and if their symptoms are mild, dogs with vomiting and diarrhea can be treated at home. The best approach is to withhold food and water for at least 12 hours.
If the symptoms abate, offer water, then bland food such as white rice with a little added cooked chicken. As long as vomiting or diarrhea does not resume, the dog’s regular diet can then be slowly reintroduced.
If there is blood in the dog’s stool or vomitus, if the dog becomes dehydrated or if he is depressed, veterinary help should be sought. Even though they may not look ill, puppies under 16 weeks of age and geriatric dogs should always receive veterinary care if vomiting or diarrhea continues for more than 12 hours with no signs of abatement. These individuals are particularly prone to dehydration and salt (electrolyte) imbalances.
Bones or sticks can get lodged between the upper teeth, across the palate, causing the dog to frantically paw at its mouth. These objects can be removed with a strong finger grip or a pair of pliers.
Barbed fish hooks that pierce the tongue, cheek or any part of the body need to be pushed through the tissue in order to be removed. Some dogs need an anaesthetic to resolve this painful problem, especially when multi-pronged hooks are lodged in the mouth.
A dog will swallow just about anything; luckily, most things will eventually pass through the intestines. If you know your dog ate a foreign object, watch him closely for signs of vomiting, depression, lack of appetite, or dehydration. If symptoms do arise, the object may be causing a blockage in the gastrointestinal tract. Veterinary assistance is needed. If the dog exhibits no symptoms, just watch his stool carefully for the object to appear. It may take several days to pass.
If an ‘E-collar’ isn’t available, one for small dogs can be fashioned from a piece of cardboard. For larger dogs, substitute a plastic bucket with the bottom cut out. It won’t be fancy, but it will be functional.
All eye problems should be treated as emergency situations, meaning the dog should be assessed by a veterinarian as soon as possible. Small exophthalmic breeds, such as Pugs and Boston Terriers, are at risk for having an eye pop out of its socket. If this happens, place a clean wet towel over the eye to safeguard it while you transport the dog to a veterinarian.
Symptoms of bloat include drooling, retching or attempting to vomit, anxiety, restlessness and pacing. The abdomen may feel or look distended (bloated). In just a short time, the dilated stomach can twist, triggering shock, followed by death. Bloat requires immediate veterinary attention. The longer the delay, the less likely the dog will survive.
Prolonged labour is also a concern. Once a bitch is having visible contractions, she should deliver her first puppy within half an hour (some veterinarians say one hour). There should always be progressive (outward) movement of the puppy through the birth canal. If there is no puppy showing, or it is not moving, the bitch needs assistance.
Heart and kidney failure as well as diabetes are examples of ailments that can be readily managed if they are discovered before they become an emergency.
All dog owners should purchase and read a good pet first-aid book. This reference will not only act as a guide in the event of an emergency, it will also help determine when homecare or immediate veterinary intervention is needed. The First Aid Companion for Dogs and Cats by Amy D. Shojai, and First Aid for Dogs: What to Do When Emergencies Happen by Bruce Fogle, D.V.M., are recommended.
Signs of dehydration
Skin turgidity can also be assessed to estimate dehydration. The skin over the shoulder blades is pulled away from the body and released. The time taken to fall back into a normal position increases with escalating dehydration.
In a well-hydrated dog, the skin will snap quickly back into place. Don’t use the skin over the neck for testing because this skin is less pliable than that over the shoulder, so it naturally goes down more slowly.
The last test for dehydration is looking at your dog’s eyes. If his eyes are sunken, he is extremely dehydrated.
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
If you find your dog flat out but are unsure what happened to him, you first need to determine if he is unconscious or dead. To check him, step on his tail (if you startle a deeply sleeping dog by touching his head, you could be bitten). If there is no response, watch for breathing and check for a heart beat. If there is none, place your finger on the surface of his eye (his cornea). This is a very painful test. If there is no reaction, your dog’s brain is not functioning so your dog is no longer alive. If there is a response, CPR should be initiated.
When performing CPR, there are three steps to follow that are as simple as ABC: Airway, Breathing,
A. If your dog is not breathing, ensure his airway is open by extending his head and neck and pulling his tongue forward. Saliva or vomit in the mouth needs to be wiped out. To prove his airway is open, push on his chest and you will hear or feel air come out.
B. The next step is to give your dog a series of test breaths. Hold the corners of his mouth closed so that air doesn’t leak out. In larger dogs, pull the tongue forward between the teeth to seal the mouth. A breath is then given into the nostrils and allowed to escape. Three breaths are given and then the dog is observed for spontaneous breathing. Continue artificial respirations at a rate of 20 to 25 breaths per minute until the dog breathes on his own.
C. Once respirations are initiated, feel the chest just behind the elbow for a heart beat. If there is none, begin chest (or cardiac) compressions to promote circulation.
A very small dog should be laid on his side. His chest should be compressed about one inch behind his elbow, using a forefinger and thumb. The depth of the compression is two to three centimetres. A larger dog should be positioned on his back so his sternum can be compressed for a distance of three to seven centimetres.
Chest compressions should be given at a rate of 80 to 100 compressions per minute. When performing CPR, you can give three heart compressions, followed by one compression and one breath given simultaneously.
A multi-published writer, Jeff Grognet, D.V.M., runs a veterinary practice in Qualicum Beach, B.C., along with his wife, Louise Janes, D.V.M.