Although you may want to keep your dog at home where he is most comfortable, there are certain situations where you will want to seek professional help. The Emergency Veterinary Clinic of Cincinnati recommends that you take your dog to the vet immediately if you observe any of the following conditions:
Assuming your dog is not experiencing one of the emergencies listed above, you can try some common sense first aid measures to treat your dog at home. No matter what the problem, it is important that you stay calm in order to keep your dog calm. Wash your hands both before and after treating your dog to assure that no infections are passed between the two of you. If you are treating multiple dogs, wash your hands between dogs.
If your dog is bleeding from a minor cut, apply pressure with a clean cloth. Once the bleeding is stopped, apply an anti-bacterial ointment. Watch the area for signs of infection, and continue applying the ointment until the skin heals. If you see signs of infection (redness, warmth, swelling, or excessive pain, you will need to seek the help of a veterinarian.
For strains and sprains, wrap the affected limb in an ace bandage and keep the dog quiet. For most dogs, this will require you to confine the dog to a small area like a crate or even a small bathroom. If the dog is not able to bear weight on the limb after a day or two of rest, it may be worth taking the dog in for an X-ray to make sure nothing is broken.
If your dog is experiencing diarrhea, try giving Pepto-Bismol or Kaopectate to slow down his GI tract. It is also important to temporarily reduce the amount of fat in his diet until his system is under control. The best diet for diarrhea is cooked rice and boiled chicken. You may want to feed your dog several small meals a day, rather than his normal one or two. Your dog will think he has died and gone to heaven!
For itchy ears, a simple cleaning may be enough to relieve your dog's misery. Using cotton balls soaked in rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide, reach as far into the dog's ear canal as possible and swab out the ear. The shape of the ear canal will prevent you from reaching or harming the dog's ear drum. Repeat the process several times until the cotton balls come out clean. If you have to continually clean the ears for several days, you may need to have the dog checked for mites or infection.
One cause of itchy ears can be a yeast infection, caused by excessive moisture in the dog's ear canals. If you bathe your dog at home, make sure you dry his ears as much as possible, particularly if he has heavy ears that hang down and can trap moisture.
If your dog is bitten by an insect or stung by a bee, a simple antihistamine will keep him from getting too miserable. Be aware that this will also make your dog very sleepy, so don't be alarmed if he sleeps more than usual after taking this remedy.
For any type of pain, buffered aspirin is a good first line of defense. Do NOT give your dog acetaminophen (Tylenol), as this can cause liver damage.
Many of the things you need for a dog first aid kit are the same as the things you likely keep on hand for your human family. Buffered aspirin, antihistamine, stomach / diarrhea medications, ace bandages, hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol, and cotton balls can be shared by all members of the family, regardless of whether they have two legs or four.
Some things you might want to have on hand in addition to the above include a muzzle, and a rectal thermometer. Many dogs become agitated when they are hurt. If you probe at the area of the injury, it is very likely your dog will react out of instinct, which may include biting you. Even if your dog is a cupcake normally, it's not worth the risk. Putting a muzzle on him for the few seconds it takes to treat an injury will not harm the dog and will provide adequate protection for you.
A rectal thermometer is vital, as fever is an important indicator of a problem. A temperature above 104 degrees Fahrenheit is cause for concern. If your dog has a minor fever (normal is between 101 and 102), try giving him a buffered aspirin and take his temperature again in one hour. If the fever continues to rise or gets above 104, a vet visit is warranted.
Finally, keep your dog's medical records with your first aid kit. This should include documentation of all shots, as well as information about any medical conditions your dog has and any medications he is taking.
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