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Dog first aid

Knowing basic first aid could prove vitally important if your pet has an accident or suddenly falls ill. If something happens to your dog, remember to stay calm and contact a vet as soon as possible.

We'd recommend speaking to your vet for specific first aid advice for your dog depending on their breed, size and general health. Please never put yourself in danger while helping your pet and always contact a vet as quickly as you can.

Dog cooling off © RSPCA

While first aid may save your pet's life, it should never be considered a substitute for professional veterinary treatment.


Symptoms of choking can include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Excessive pawing at the month
  • Choking sounds when breathing or coughing
  • Blue lips or tongue

How to remove the blockage

If your dog is choking look into their mouth to see if anything is visible. If you see something then gently try to remove it but be careful not to push it further down their throat or be bitten.

If your pet collapses or you can't remove the object then place both hands on the side of your dog's rib cage and apply firm, quick pressure, or lay them on their side and strike the rib cage firmly with the palm of your hand three or four times. Repeat until it dislodges or you arrive at the vets.

Not breathing

If your pet stops breathing have someone call an emergency vet while you give first aid: 

  1. Check to see if your pet is conscious and has a heartbeat
  2. Open your pet's airway by gently grasping his tongue and pulling it forward out of the month until it's flat
  3. Check their throat to see if there are any blockages
  4. Close your pet's mouth and breath into his nose until you see his chest expand, continue once every five seconds - if your pet doesn't regain consciousness get them to a vet as soon as possible.

No heartbeat

Have someone call a vet immediately while you begin emergency first aid:

  1. Feel and listen for a heartbeat
  2. Gently lay your dog on his side on a firm surface
  3. Place one hand under his chest for support and place the other over the heart (just behind the left front elbow)
  4. Press down on your pet's heart 100-120 times per minute (press hard for larger animals and with less force for smaller ones)
  5. Alternate every 30 compressions with two rescue breaths
  6. Continue until you hear or feel a heartbeat or you have arrived at a vet.


Symptoms of heatstroke include:

  • Panting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Excessive drooling
  • Increased temperature
  • Reddened gums
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Collapse

Cool your pet down

Call your vet immediately and follow advice on how to cool down your pet such as laying a damp towel over their body and applying cool (not cold) water to their paws and ear flaps. Move your pet away from any heat source and, if possible, open windows in your car to allow moving air to cool your pet slowly.


An animal could suffer shock as a result of severe injury or disease, or extreme fright. Possible symptoms include:

  • A weak pulse
  • Shallow breathing
  • Collapsed
  • Dazed eyes

Ensure your pet's head is level with the rest of his body and transport him to the vet immediately. You can use a towel, blanket or muzzle to avoid being bitten if your dog is in pain.


If you believe your pet has been exposed to something harmful contact your vet as soon as possible. Symptoms of poisoning can include:

  • Vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Strange or unusual behaviour
  • loss of appetite
  • Pale gums
  • Seizures
  • Lethargy and collapse

Take note of the poison and check the label

Call the vet if you suspect your pet has eaten poison and, if you know what product it is, check the label for any instructions on what to do. Take it with you to the vet and inform them what and how much your pet may have consumed.


Seizures can be a sign of epilepsy or another neurological disorder and possible symptoms can include:

  • Signs of stress or worry
  • Shaking
  • Itching
  • Trembling and paddling
  • Toileting
  • Foaming at the mouth

Prevent against further injury

Contact your vet as soon as you can and time the seizure. Keep any object that may harm your pet away from them, such as furniture. Use a blanket to stop injury if they are knocking against hard surfaces.

Don't try to restrain your pet, keep the area quiet and calm, darken the room and avoid bright or flickering lights. When the seizure stops, keep your pet as quiet as possible.


Call the vet and flush the burn (thermal or chemical) with large quantities of cold water. If it's a chemical burn, be careful not to flush any of the substances in their eyes.

Internal bleeding

Internal bleeding can be very serious, difficult to spot and requires immediate attention. Possible symptoms can include:

  • Pale gums
  • Weak rapid pulse
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Collapse
  • Bleeding from the nose, mouth or rectum

Call the vet and transport your pet to the nearest emergency vet immediately while keeping them as warm and quiet as possible.


Severe bleeding can quickly become life-threatening. Contact your vet immediately and keep your pet calm.

How to stem the bleeding

  1. Press a clean tea towel over the wound
  2. Hold pressure on the wound for a minimum of three minutes and then check
  3. Apply a bandage and keep pressure on the wound (loosen pressure for 20 seconds every 15-20 minutes)

Transport your animal to the vet as soon as possible.


Possible symptoms of a fracture can include swelling to the area or signs of pain such as limping or whining.

Keep your pet inside and limit their movement by putting them in a crate while you call the vet. If he cannot walk then gently lay him on a flat surface such as a board or stretcher to transport them to the vet.

When it's best not to intervene

Dog fights

People are often bitten trying to break up a fight and can worsen the injuries to dogs when pulling them off of one another.

Dog in water

Owners who jump into the water to rescue a pet often find themselves in difficulty whereas their dog is often able to free themself.

Find out more