Imagine the scene: It's a sunny morning and you're walking the dog. Then in a heartbeat everything changes. Another dog runs at yours, grabs hold of his neck, and bites down hard. You manage to separate the pair, but your dog is bleeding and in pain.
What do you do?
The dog needs veterinary attention, but the vet is some distance away. What first aid should you give?
Here is a 3-step guide to first aid for wounds and cuts.
#1: Assess the Injuries
You need a clear head, so take a deep breath and calm yourself down.
Calmly get hold of your dog and attach a lead (improvise one with a belt or scarf if necessary) so he can't run off. Speak quietly to reassure him whilst you run an eye over the dog to assess the injuries.
Saliva stained fur: Part the fur to look for punctures or cuts hidden by the hair
Cuts and wounds: Make a mental note where these are
Bleeding: Prioritize those wounds that are bleeding heavily. If blood is dripping or pumping from a wound, attend to this first
Look at the dog's gums to check for shock. The gums should be a healthy pink. If they are extremely pale or white, the dog is in shock, Stop the bleeding, wrap him up warm, and get to a vet with all haste.
#2: Stop the Bleeding
Decide which wound is bleeding most heavily and attend to this first.
Pumping or squirting blood: This is an arterial bleed and needs immediate attention. Apply pressure directly over the area, pressing down hard enough that the bleeding stops. Keep the pressure on for several minutes. Release the pressure. If it starts again, reapply pressure
Call for help whilst you keep applying pressure.
If no help is available, improvise a pressure bandage to control the bleeding while you move the dog.
Oozing or dripping blood: Again, apply pressure and hold it in place for several minutes to allow a clot to form. If necessary, improvise a dressing to apply moderate pressure while you move the dog.
Open wounds: If they are not actively bleeding, move onto step 3
#3: Flush Dirty Wounds
For the 'walking wounded' where the dog is injured but not in shock, prompt cleaning of wounds reduces the risk of infection.
The golden rule is to use lots of saline solution to physically wash bacteria and contamination off the wound. Use saline solution from your first aid kit, or contact lens cleaning solution, or make up a saltwater solution (¼ tsp of salt to one pint of previously boiled water).
If you don't have saline and a wound is heavily contaminated, use a dilute solution of chlorhexidine or Savlon to wash the area clean. (There is some controversy about using disinfectants on open wounds as it can damage the exposed tissue, but for very dirty wounds the benefits outweigh the risks).
Get to the Vet
Once you've performed immediate first aid… get to the vet. This is especially important for dog bites. Puncture wounds often inoculate bacteria deep beneath the surface, and require the patient to be sedated so the wound can be adequately explored and cleaned.
Remember, don't panic, keep hold of your dog, and stop the worst of the bleeding. Don't be tempted to give human painkillers to the dog as this can interfere with pain relief the vet wants to administer. And finally, if in doubt keep the dog warm, phone the vet to warn them you are on the way, and then make all haste to the clinic.