Dr. Jon Geller, D.V.M. shares how to provide first aid for dogs on the farm, including care for poisoning, bleeding wounds, fractures, vomiting, diarrhea, and more.
Even if you take every precaution to prevent your dog from injury or illness, there are times when you might need to apply a little first aid for your farm dog. Most serious illnesses should be treated by your veterinarian, but if you live far from your vet’s office, or if you’re waiting for your harried animal doctor to arrive, the following guidelines may help during an emergency. Items marked with an asterisk should always include veterinary care as well as on-the-farm first aid.
Suspected Dog Poisoning
Get your dog to vomit immediately by giving two to three teaspoons of hydrogen peroxide. To avoid possible esophageal damage, caustic substances and abrasive objects should not be vomited back up.
Call National Animal Poison Control at (800) 548-2423.
Dogs and Bleeding Wounds
Clean out the wound as much as possible with warm water or disinfectants such as diluted iodine (Betadine®).
Larger wounds can be hosed off.
Apply a clean pressure bandage and seek veterinary care.
Suspected Fractures for Dogs
Immobilize the limb as much as possible.
Apply a padded, rigid splint to the affected limb (duct tape holds a splint in place well).
Keep your dog from further injuries by providing padding around its head.
Avoid getting bitten by keeping your hands out of your dog’s mouth.
If the seizure is longer than one or two minutes, cool your dog down to prevent overheating and brain damage.
Dog Paralysis and Back Injuries
Immobilize your dog with duct tape and place him on a board to prevent further injury.
Assess the dog’s response to pain by pinching its toes on each foot.
Dogs and Head Trauma
Check pupil position and response to light.
Keep your dog as quiet and still as possible.
Provide supplemental heat if dog is cold.
Dog Vomiting and Diarrhea
If neither illness is severe, oral fluids such as Pedialyte® or Gatorade® may be helpful.
Do not feed your dog for 12 hours after vomiting, then give him or her ice cubes.
Peptobismol® or Kaopectate® (dosed by weight) may help.
Severe or prolonged cases require intravenous fluids.
Introduce dietary fiber such as Metamucil.
Glycerin capsules and enemas may help.
If this is a recurring problem, switch to a higher fiber dog food.
Your dog should be rushed to the nearest veterinarian, regardless of the distance.
Be prepared to perform CPR.
Oxygen and IV fluids may be required.
Dogs and Bee Stings/Insect Bites
Bees and spiders seem to have an affinity for dogs’ mouths.
Give antihistamines, such as Benadryl®, at double the human dose, every six to eight hours.
Dogs and Porcupine Quills
Cut off ends of quills before pulling out.
Sedation may be required (call your vet).
Dogs and Rattlesnake Bites
Antivenom is rarely needed.
Bites on the head are most common.
Serious bites should be treated with steroids, IV fluids, and antibiotics.
Bloated Stomach (GDV, or Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus)
This condition usually occurs in deep-chested dogs and is life-threatening.
If your dog’s stomach is bloated and he is having trouble breathing, rush your dog to a veterinary hospital.
If your dog has difficulty breathing, tap on its abdomen. If you hear a pinging, tympanic sound, you should relieve the pressure. Firmly insert an 18-gauge, 1 1/2-inch needle into the stomach through the body wall. You should hear and smell gas leaving the stomach. If not, remove the needle immediately.
Dogs and Ear Infections
Clean the ears with a dilute mixture of one part water, 2-3 parts vinegar.
Use a bulb syringe or turkey baster to squirt the mixture in and suck it out of the ears.
Massage cartilage at base of ears.
Dogs and Coughing
May indicate underlying heart disease, respiratory infection, or other serious illness.
Mild cases can be treated with over-the-counter medications containing dextromorphan, such as Robitussin DM® dosed carefully by weight according to label instructions.
Dog Skin Infections/Hot Spots
- Clip the haircoat as short as possible.
- Scrub with alcohol or medicated acne pads twice a day.
- Apply antibiotic ointment (such as Bacitracin®) and/or cortisone creme (such as Cortaid®) twice a day.
- A veterinary visit, antibiotics and other prescription medications or shampoo may be required, particularly if repeated
- scratching is causing appreciable wounds on the skin.
For more information from Dr. Geller, read How to Keep a Dog Happy and Healthy on The Homestead and Caring for the Homestead Working Dog.
Originally published as “First Aid on the Farm” October/November 2000 MOTHER EARTH NEWS.