First Aid/Emergency

Even if you give your puppy all the love, care, and guidance it needs, accidents and unexpected illnesses can still happen. Being prepared and knowing what to do in an emergency situation may save your dog’s life.

Normal/Abnormal Behaviors

One of the biggest responsibilities as a pet owner is to observe your puppy for any normal or abnormal behaviors.  Call your veterinarian if you notice one or more of the following abnormal behaviors as they can be signs of serious health problems:

Normal Behaviors/Signs

Abnormal Behaviors/Problems


Should be bright and clear


If stools are bloody, watery or continue for more than 24 hours, or are associated with vomiting or not eating


Should be clean and free of discharge, odor and redness


Can be caused by ingestion of substances like hair, bones or foreign materials.


Should be clean and without discharge or sores


Frequent or persistent vomiting containing blood or accompanied by diarrhea, abdominal pain and not eating.


Should smell fresh, gums pink.  Teeth should be free of tartar or plaque.  Mouth and lips should be free of sores or growths.

Abnormal Urination

Straining to urinate or blood in urine may indicate apainful infection


Should be shiny and clean.

Excessive Scratching

Puppies do scratch more than adult dogs, however excessive scratching could be a sign of dry skin,  external parasites or skin infection.


Active, playful dogs are usually not overweight.

Repeated coughing/difficulty breathing:

This could be caused from heart/lung issues or foreign body in trachea


Report changes in the frequency or consistency of your dog’s urine or stool to your veterinarian.

Unusual laziness, lethargy, or reluctance to play:

Wide variety of causes from injury to internal illness.  Contact your veterinarian as soon as possible if you notice any of these symptoms.

First Aid

Checking Vital Signs:

  • Use rectal thermometers for pets. Newer human digital thermometers are best.

  • Heart rate can be checked by placing a hand over the dog’s chest.

  • Respiration can be measured by observing the flanks or holding a wet finger in front of the nostrils.

  • Measure both rates for 15 seconds, then multiply by four to get the rate per minute.  Make sure the dog is in a calm, resting state to ensure normal rates.

Normal Vital Signs
  • Heart Rate: 70-160 beats/minute
  • Respiration: 6-20 breaths/minute
  • Temperature: 101-102.5 F
Emergency Warning Signs
  • Abnormal heart rate

  • Loss of appetite

  • Restlessness and panting

  • Unproductive retching

  • Abnormal temperatures:  below 99, above 103

  • Collapse

  • Dilated pupils

  • Pain

  • Coughing

  • Distended Abdomen

  • Lethargy/weakness

  • Vomiting

  • Pale gums

What To Do In Emergency Situations:

Click on a tab below to see what actions you should take in certain emergency situations.

Bee/Wasp StingBleedingShockHeat StrokeLimpingVomitingBloatingBurnsSeizuresAnaphylaxisBite WoundsEye InjuriesChokingRodent Poisoning
  • Neutralize the sting:  Bee stings are acidic.  Neutralize with baking soda
  • Wasp stings are alkaline.  Neutralize with vinegar or lemon juice.
  • Apply cold pack
  • Apply calamine or antihistamine cream
  • In case of severe swelling or difficulty breathing, transport to clinic immediately
  • Give Benadryl right away. Dose: 1mg/lb

Apply Pressure to Wound and call veterinarian immediately

  • Signs of shock include: Rapid breathing, elevated heart rate, pale gums, cold ears or feet, vomiting, and shivering. May also become quiet and unresponsive.
  • Keep pet as quiet as possible
  • Cover with blankets to conserve heat
  • Check airway for obstruction if possible
  • Check heart rate
  • Check respiratory rate
  • Check temperature if possible
  • Call your veterinarian immediately
  • Place in a cool shaded area
  • Immediately bathe the dog with tepid water
  • Do not leave dog unattended while soaking, even if conscious
  • Monitor rectal temperature. When temperature drops to 103 degrees, dry your pet off
  • Transport to clinic and continue to monitor temperature
  • Do not allow animal to become excessively chilled.
  • Attempt to localize injury through gentle inspection. Once localized, examine affected area to check for pain, heat, injury and swelling
  • If a fracture is suspected, gently stabilize limb for transport
  • Cover any wounds with a clean cloth
  • Examine vomit for blood or other clues as to cause
  • Gently press on stomach to detect any abdominal pain
  • Withhold all food and water for 24 hours and contact your veterinarian
  • If poisoning is suspected, contact your veterinarian immediately and bring in a sample of the suspected poison, preferably in its original packaging
  • Abdominal pain, enlarged stomach and unproductive vomiting ar serious signs. Call your veterinarian immediately
  • Gastric Dilation and Volvulus (GDV) is a life threatening disorder most commonly seen in large, deep-chested dogs
  • Immediate veterinary attention is required to save the dogs life
  • Breeds more prone to GDV are large dogs with deep chests such as Great Danes, Saint Bernards, Weimaraners, Irish Setters, Standard Poodles, Basset Hounds, Doberman Pinschers and Old English Sheepdogs.
  • This condition most commonly occurs two to three hours after eating a large meal
  • If belly looks distended or bloated, any vomiting or salivating occurs, the pet is anxious or very uncomfortable, call and get a pet to a veterinary office immediately.
  • Cool burned area with water quickly as possible.
  • Cover burned area with damp towels.
  • If injury is due to chemical substance, rinse with water for 15 minutes.
  • Save packaging of chemical, and bring in to your veterinarian.
  • Contact your veterinarian immediately.
  • Seizures are one of the most frequently seen neurological problems in dogs.
  • Derangement or loss of consciousness.
  • Contractions of all the muscles in the body.
  • Changes in mental awareness from unresponsiveness to hallucinations.
  • Involuntary urination, defecation, or salivation.
  • Behavioral changes, including not recognizing the owner, viciousness, pacing, and running in circles
  • Many causes of seizures.   Epilepsy is the most common cause of seizures in the dog.
  • Other causes include liver disease, kidney failure, poisoning, and brain tumors.
  • Treatment is usually begun only after a pet has more than one seizure a month, clusters of seizures or grand mal seizures.
  • If a seizure is suspected, contact your veterinarian right away.  If seizure does not stop with in a minute or two, seek treatment by a veterinarian immediately.
  • Reaction is an immediate hypersensitivity (allergic) reaction to a foreign substance, especially a foreign protein.
  • Clinical signs are itching, hives, swollen face or muzzle, difficulty breathing including cyanosis (bluish color of the tongue and gums, excessive salivation or drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • An anaphylactic reaction is a medical emergency and immediate treatment is required.
  • Possible causes:  Insect stings, contact allergies, and vaccine injection reactions
  • Bite wounds can be dangerous!
  • Report any bite wound with wildlife to your veterinarian immediately
  • Any bite that punctures through the skin requires veterinary attention
  • The wound can abscessed and become very painful for the pet
  • Signs of eye injuries include:  Swelling, redness, discharge, tearing, pawing at the eye, rubbing the eye or face on the carpet, and/or bulging eye.
  • If foreign body can be seen, try flushing with eye wash/saline solution.
  • Seek veterinary advice immediately
  • Gently pull tongue forward and inspect mouth and throat
  • Be careful not to get bitten
  • If foreign object is spotted, hold the mouth open and attempt to remove it by hand or with tweezers.  Take care not to push the object farther down the dog’s throat
  • If dog is not breathing, start CPR  (see CPR section) and seek veterinary attention immediately.
  • Seek veterinary attention immediately

CPR For Dogs

  1. Lay the dog on his side and remove any obstructions in the airway. Open mouth, pull tongue forward, extend the neck and sweep mouth with finger.

  2. If the airway is clear, extend neck, hold tongue out of mouth and close animal’s jaws over tongue.

  3. Holding jaws closed, breathe into both nostrils for 5-6 breaths. If no response, continue artificial respiration (see below). If there is no pulse, begin cardiac compressions.

  4. Depress the widest part of the chest wall 1.5 -3 inches with one or two hands. Refer to compressions per minute chart for weight specific info.

  5. Continue artificial respiration. Refer to breaths per minute chart for weight specific info.

Weight Compressions Per Minute Breaths Per Minute
Under 5lbs Place hands around rib cage and apply cardiac massage 30+ breaths per minute (one breath every 2 seconds)
5-10lbs 120-140 times per minute 30+ breaths per minute (one breath every 2 seconds)
11-60lbs 80-100 times per minute 16-20 breaths per minute (one breath every 2-3 seconds)
61+ lbs 60 times per minute 12 breaths per minute (1 breath every 5 seconds)

The simplest way to avoid performing first aid on your pet is to prevent accidents and emergencies from occurring in the first place.

  • Keep your dog on a leash and under control at all times when outside the home.

  • Keep all toxins/poisons out of your home.

  • Crate train your dog so he stays out of trouble when you’re not home.

  • Monitor your pet for signs of disease.  If you notice any weight loss, lack of appetite, persistent coughing, pale gums, exercise intolerance or difficulty breathing, contact your veterinarian. The sooner your veterinarian can diagnose the problem, the better prognosis your pet has.

Poisonous Substances

If you think your pet has been exposed to a poisonous substance, contact Animal Poison Control Center immediately at 1-888-426-4435. The following symptoms are caused by exposure to a poisonous substance:

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Abnormal urine (color, aroma/odor, frequency)

  • Salivation

  • Weakness

Here is a list of some common pet toxins:

Toxic FoodsToxic PlantsInhaled PoisonsPoisonous Household Substances
  • Almonds
  • Apricots
  • Avocados
  • Balsam Pears
  • Chocolate- All forms
  • Coffee- All forms
  • Fatty foods
  • Grapes
  • Japanese Plums
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Moldy or spoiled food
  • Mushrooms (if also toxic to humans)
  • Onions and onion powder
  • Pear and peach kernels
  • Raisins
  • Yeast dough
  • Azaleas
  • Dieffenbachia
  • Lillies- all species
  • Rhododendrons
  • Rhubarb
  • Spinach
  • Tomato and potato leaves and stems
  • Tulip and Narcissus bulbs
  • Mistletoe
  • Mushrooms and toadstools (if also toxic to humans)
  • Wild cherry
  • Poinsettias
  • Dumbcane
  • Japanese Yew
  • Oleander
  • English Ivy
  • Carbon Monoxide
  • Smoke
  • Chemical Fumes
  • Alcohol
  • Acetaminophen
  • Antifreeze and other car fluids
  • Bleach
  • Boric Acid
  • Cleaning Products
  • Kerosine
  • Matches
  • Mothballs
  • Nail polish and remover
  • Non & prescription medicines
  • Paint
  • Deodorant
  • De-icing salts
  • Detergents
  • Disinfectants
  • Drain cleaners
  • Flea/Tick products (if used incorrectly)
  • Fertilizers
  • Fly Bait
  • Furniture polish
  • Gasoline
  • Hair colorings
  • Insecticides
  • Pennies post 1982 (due to Zinc)
  • Potpourri, liquid
  • Rat poison, mouse bait
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Shoe polish
  • Sleeping pills
  • Snail or slug bait
  • Turpentine
  • Windshield-wiper fluid
  • Vitamins (human or overdose of pet vitamins)
  • Weed killers
  • Xylitol-sweetened products