Apr 14

The Importance of Basic Dog First Aid Knowledge for Dog Owners

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As a dog owner, understanding basic first aid is crucial for ensuring the safety and wellbeing of your furry friend.

Accidents can happen anywhere and at any time, and being prepared can make a significant difference in managing a situation effectively until professional help is available. 

Here’s a guide to why first aid knowledge is important, what to include in your pet first aid kit, and some basic techniques like how to take your dog’s pulse.

Why Every Dog Owner Should Know First Aid

1. Immediate Response: First aid knowledge enables you to provide immediate care during an emergency. This can prevent the situation from worsening and provide temporary relief to your dog.

2. Enhancing Safety: Understanding how to handle a hurt or scared dog safely can protect both the owner and the animal from further injuries.

3. Preparation for Emergencies: Having the skills and confidence to address minor injuries at home can save you a trip to the vet and help you act more decisively if a severe emergency occurs.

Legal Considerations

In the UK, the law is specific about how you can treat animals. Under the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966, only licensed vets who are registered on the veterinary surgeon's register can carry out the following procedures:

  • Surgical operations
  • Perform diagnostic tests
  • Give advice on diagnoses
  • Prescribe medication
  • Administer medication

This means that you can’t give your dog any animal human medication, unless it’s prescribed by a veterinarian, which includes seemingly harmless over-the-counter medications such as antihistamines. 

Additionally, while you can administer first aid to your dog or another person’s dog in an emergency, more advanced treatments or diagnoses must be left to veterinary professionals.

Essential Items for Your Dog’s First Aid Kit

To be prepared for any situation, your pet first aid kit should include:
- Gauze pads and bandages: To cover wounds or control bleeding.
- Adhesive tape: For securing gauzes and bandages without sticking to fur.
- Antiseptic wipes and creams: To clean and protect wounds from infection.
- Digital thermometer: To check your dog’s temperature. 
- Tweezers: For removing foreign objects such as splinters.
- Tick remover tool: Different tools require different removal techniques so be sure to familiarise yourself with how your tool works.
- Saline solution: To clean out wounds or eyes.
- Scissors with blunt ends: To cut fur or bandages safely.
- Disposable gloves: To maintain cleanliness and prevent contamination.
- A blanket: To keep your dog warm and secure, or to use as a stretcher if necessary.
- A list of emergency contact numbers: Include your vet, the nearest emergency vet clinic, and the Animal Poison Line.

How to Check Your Dog’s Vital Signs

Knowing your dog’s normal pulse and breathing rate can help you assess their condition in an emergency.


Place your hand on the inside of the front left leg, near where the leg meets the body. You should feel your dog's pulse. Count the number of beats in 15 seconds and multiply by four to find the beats per minute. A normal rate is between 60 and 140 beats per minute, depending on the size of the dog.


Observe your dog’s chest movements to count the breaths. Count how many times the chest rises in 15 seconds and multiply by four to get the breaths per minute. Normal rates are typically between 10 and 30 breaths per minute, but may vary depending on the size of the dog and current activities.
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Checking your dog’s vital signs is easiest to do when they are laying on their side, which is why I have taught my dogs to do this on cue!

Details of how I teach this are in my online Training Library, along with 80+ other training resources. You can have access to all of them for just £9/month, with new training added every month!
While these tips can help in an emergency, they are not a substitute for professional veterinary care. Always contact a vet if you’re unsure about the severity of your dog’s condition or need advice on how to handle any health issues. 

Being prepared with basic first aid knowledge and a well-stocked first aid kit is the best way to ensure you can take swift, effective action in a time of need. As a responsible dog owner, your readiness can make all the difference.
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