K9 Rx: First Aid For Your Canine Companion

K9 Rx: First Aid For Your Canine Companion

Animals get injured. Hunting dogs, camp dogs, trail dogs, or dogs that you simply take to the park are all threatened by the same dangers as we humans. Walking on hot asphalt, stepping on a piece of glass, chasing a sharp-clawed animal, or wandering into a sticker bush are only a few examples of potential injuries dogs are susceptible to on a daily basis.

For dogs, these threats are much more pronounced because of their innate nature as a predatory animal, their lack of protective gear, and not fully understanding the scope of the situation they are in. If your dog goes with you on your adventures or if he just happens to be with you at the wrong place at the wrong time when catastrophe strikes, you’ll want to be prepared for his safety and well-being too.

Some of this is preventative by providing your dog with the correct equipment depending on the environment you both are in. However, accidents happen, and you have to deal with the consequences. Your dog depends on you.


You wouldn’t think about leaving home without a first-aid kit for yourself so don’t plan on traveling into the woods without some specialized gear for your pet. There are some common first-aid considerations between humans and canines as well as some specialized kits for injuries specific to dogs. Many of the skills you will learn to administer first-aid to a human can translate to treatment of a dog.

The best course of action after your dog has been injured is to get him immediately to a veterinarian. Since this isn’t always possible because you may be stuck miles from civilization (or there might not be a civilization), you’ll have to take matters into your own hands.


We have boots on our feet and can forget about the terrain we walk on. The only protection that our dogs have from the trail is the thick pads they have built up at the base of their feet. Dogs that have spent the majority of their life inside have softer, more vulnerable pads than dogs that stay outdoors.

Treatment: When a pad cuts, there will be blood and it is natural for your dog to lick it. You should clean it out as best as you can and prevent further injury. Broken or ripped off nails also occur when they catch on cracks in rocks. Use some anti-bacterial ointment on the wound and wrap it with a bandage. Keep your dog from licking the wound or tugging at the bandage and invest in some dog boots.


Dogs investigate things by smelling, licking, and tasting them, which means all sorts of things will end up in your dog’s mouth. Like humans, dogs sometimes take bites that are too big and they begin to choke.

If your pet is choking but he can still breathe, try to keep him calm. He will eventually work out the obstruction as long as air is getting into his lungs.

Keep him upright and walking. If your pet’s gums or tongue are turning blue and he’s in obvious distress, it means he has a complete airway blockage and needs help in the next couple of minutes or he will die.

Treatment: Place your hand over the top of his muzzle and lift it up to open the mouth and to extend his airway. For an object that is visible, you can either reach in there with your hand and grab it or (on smaller dogs or for an object out of reach) use thin pliers to pull it out. Be vigilant not to accidentally push the object farther down his throat.

If that doesn’t work, lay your dog on his side (he will probably already be laying down), place your hands at the very end of his rib cage (not on his rib cage) and push down and slightly forward (towards his head), applying pressure in quick, firm strokes. Similar to the Heimlich maneuver, the force of your strokes may force the object out.


Some dogs inevitably will pursue smaller animals as they encounter them in the woods. Up trees and down holes, it doesn’t matter where the animal tries to hide, instinct kicks in and our dogs chase headfirst after them. When they encounter a porcupine, they are left with the reminder of the animal’s defenses in the worst way: a snout full of quills.

Treatment: It is important to remove the quills quickly so they don’t become broken or cause further damage, like an infection. This is a painful process and your dog may struggle, so it is a good idea to restrain him as best as you can.

With a pair of pliers (never your fingers), grasp the quill as close to the skin as possible and pull straight out in the direction the quill entered. Disinfect the wound(s) and consider getting the dog a rabies vaccination.


You may take your dog out in the middle of hunting season and even if you take the appropriate steps to dress him/her in a blaze orange vest, accidents happen. Negligent hunters will shoot at sound rather than identifying what caused it first.

As shooters, we may be familiar with the trauma kits carried during range time and we may have an understanding of how to medically-manage our own injuries. How do we take care of our dog if he/she survives getting shot?

Treatment: All cuts, punctures and bites have the potential to become infected, so caring for them immediately is essential to the survival of your dog. If he is bleeding profusely, cover the area with sterile gauze or a clean towel and apply direct pressure until a clot forms. Stopping the bleeding is of the utmost importance. If/when the wound stops bleeding, remove any dirt and debris and clean the area thoroughly. Apply clean gauze and wrap a bandage around it to keep the area clean and prevent the dog from licking it.


Should a human be bitten by a snake, the advice is to move the patient to a medical facility while keeping them calm. Dogs are susceptible to bites and stings as they are curious creatures. Some dogs have survived being hit by snakes where snakes have “dry hit” them while others have not lived more than a few hours.

Treatment: Unfortunately, there isn’t very much you can do to treat a venomous snake bite on a dog except for wrapping something constricting around the limb just above the bite mark (a strip of cloth or a belt) and making your way to professional care. Do not try to suck out the poison or make incisions in the skin.


Sometimes the curiosity of dogs gets the better of them and they ingest something they shouldn’t. For example, a lot of dogs will drink puddles of antifreeze because it has a sweet taste from the toxin ethylene glycol, which also makes it lethal. However, some poisons, azaleas, rhododendrons, chocolate, avocados, flea and tick products, household cleaners, etc., your dog may drink or eat can be treated.

Treatment: Never induce vomiting until you discover what he has been poisoned by. Many toxins are corrosive, and vomiting may damage the esophagus or cause choking. If the poison isn’t corrosive, give your dog a dose of one milliliter (or 1/5 teaspoon) of three percent hydrogen peroxide per pound of dog weight. (Do not use ipecac or other human medicines). Use an eyedropper to administer the hydrogen peroxide directly into your dog’s mouth. If your pet does not vomit within five minutes, repeat the dose one more time.


Perhaps something more dire will occur to your dog, such as a building collapsing on him or him being hit by a car, that will cause a great deal of damage, like broken bones and injured internal organs. Sadly, there will be situations where there will be nothing you can do but make your dog comfortable and wait for the inevitable.

Treatment: If you are near a vet’s clinic, strap your dog on a flat board to prevent him from any movement. Don’t put pressure on his chest as he may be suffering from internal injuries and it will hamper his breathing. If you suspect the dog has a head injury, keep his head elevated slightly above the body. Cover him with a blanket to help treat for shock. Don’t splint any broken bones, but do stop the bleeding if they are compound fractures.


Lightweight Doggie Survival Kit

You may elect to purchase a dog pack for your pup but what do you put in it? Think about the weight you can comfortably carry in terms of percentage of body weight. For most grown adults, this is between 10 to 20 percent without much discomfort. Keep the percentage low for your pet (no more than 10 percent) and remember this will result in additional output.

A 10-minute loaded hike is estimated to be the equivalent of a 30-minute unweighted hike. You will need to pack additional food for them. Here are some suggested items to consider. These items can be carried in lightweight form and will be essential to the well-being of your dog.

  • 25-foot looped paracord with carabiner or snap link for use as camp leash
  • Silver Grippers Tweezers or Tick Key for removing ticks already embedded
  • Whistle and polymer mirror for emergency signaling should you lose your gear
  • Pen and paper for writing distress note which can be placed back in pack
  • Light sticks or small LED light to help identify your pet at night in camp
  • Collapsible soft-sided dog bowl/dish for water breaks in camp
  • Polymer brush for grooming during down time
  • Frozen bottles of water to cool down the dog’s body as it treks (it becomes a water source when it melts)


First Aid Kits Aren’t Just for Humans Anymore

Until recently, there weren’t medical kits specifically geared for dogs. If your dog was injured, you had to rely on regular first aid equipment to do the job, never mind that there are specific injuries dog can sustain that require specialized tools. Adventure Medical Kits offers several kits in their new Adventure Dog series, each one aimed at treating a wide variety of injuries.

With dual-purpose in mind, the Me & My Dog Medical Kit is for both you and your dog, providing a host of gear that can treat injuries to humans as well as dogs. Weighing only 1.47 pounds, this kit contains all of the first-aid essentials you would expect in a fully-loaded first-aid kit. Specifically for the dog is a leash, hydrogen peroxide (to induce vomiting), moleskin, saline wound wash, and some antihistamine.

Also, it comes equipped with an emergency blanket to treat shock and hypothermia, a cold pack to reduce swelling and treat heat-related illnesses, and a triangular bandage that could be used as an impromptu muzzle to use while he’s being treated. To wrap injuries without having the bandage adhesive stick to your dog’s fur, it comes with an elastic bandage. A 10cc irrigation syringe will clean out wounds to help prevent infection, while the tick removal tool will keep his skin and paws insect free (it can also be used for removing burrs and splinters).

The whole kit fits into a 7.5 x 3.5 x 5.3-inch pouch, while the gear itself is split into two waterproof bags to keep it fresh and clean.

Me & My Dog Contents:

Wound Care / Cuts

  • 5 – Easy Access Bandages, 1 x 3 inch fabric
  • 2 – Easy Access Bandages, Knuckle fabric
  • 3 – Butterfly Closure Fabric Adhesive Bandage
  • 2 – Sterile Gauze Dressing, 3 x 3 inches, Pkg./2
  • 2 – Sterile Non-Adherent Dressing, 2 x 3 inches
  • 1 – Conforming Gauze Bandage, 2 inches
  • 1 – Tape, 1 inch x 10 Yards
  • 1 – Elastic Bandage Self-Adhering, 2 inches
  • 1 – Irrigation Syringe, 10cc. with 18 Gauge Tip
  • 1 – Saline Wound & Eye Wash
  • 1 – Nitrile Glove, (Pair)
  • 3 – Triple Antibiotic Ointment
  • 6 – Antiseptic Wipe
  • 1 – Moleskin, Pre-Cut & Shaped (14 pieces)
  • 2 – Alcohol Swab

Sprain / Strain

  • 1 – Triangular Bandage
  • 1 – Instant Cold Compress
  • 3 – Safety Pin

Medical Instruction / Instruments

  • 1 – Wilderness & Travel Medicine (book)
  • 1 – Pet First Aid Manual
  • 1 – EMT Shears 4 inches
  • 1 – Splinter Picker / Tick Remover Forceps
  • 1 – Leash, 5 inch Nylon
  • 1 – Hydrogen Peroxide 3%, 1 oz.
  • 1 – Survive Outdoors Longer Emergency Blanket


  • 2 – Aspirin (325 mg.)
  • 2 – Antihistamine (Diphenhydramine 25 mg.)


Trail Dog

This kit is for dogs only and is tailored to the kinds of injuries dogs most sustain on a daily basis, which are injuries primarily to the paws. It comes with an assortment of dressings and bandages, wound washes, antiseptic wipes, and alcohol swabs.

Like other kits, the elastic bandage won’t stick to a dog’s fur, and it includes a triangular bandage to use a muzzle, if necessary. The first aid manual is helpful in treating specific wounds. It weighs just 0.75 pound and its dimensions are 7.5 x 1.5 x 5.3 inches.

Trail Dog Contents:

Wound Care

  • 2 – Sterile Gauze Dressing, 3” x 3”, Pkg./2
  • 2 – Sterile Non-Adherent Dressing, 2” x 3”
  • 1 – Conforming Gauze Bandage, 2”
  • 1 – Irrigation Syringe, 10cc. with 18 Gauge Tip
  • 1 – Saline Wound & Eye Wash
  • 1 – Elastic Bandage Self-Adhering, 2”
  • 3 – Triple Antibiotic Ointment
  • 6 – Antiseptic Wipe
  • 2 – Alcohol Swab Sprain / Strain
  • 1 – Triangular Bandage

Medical Instruction / Instruments

  • 1 – Pet First-Aid Manual
  • 1 – Splinter Picker / Tick Remover Forceps
  • 1 – Hydrogen Peroxide 3%, 1 oz.


  • 2 – Antihistamine (Diphenhydramine 25 mg.), Pkg./1



This small pouch of medical supplies is compact enough to fit into your pocket or day pack but complete enough to be able to treat a wide variety of wounds with its anti-bacterial ointment, dressings, bandages (that won’t stick to his fur), antiseptic wipes, splinter/tick remover, and antihistamine. It weighs under 1/5 of a pound and measures a scant 6.75 x 1.5 x 6.5 inches. The pack is waterproof and re-sealable.

Wound Care

  • 2 – Sterile Non-Adherent Dressing, 2” x 3”
  • 1 – Conforming Gauze Bandage, 2”
  • 2 – Antibacterial Hand Wipe
  • 1 – Elastic Bandage Self-Adhering, 1”
  • 1 – Triple Antibiotic Ointment
  • 2 – Antiseptic Wipe Sprain / Strain
  • 1 – Triangular Bandage (See Instructions For use As Muzzle

Medical Instruction / Instruments

  • 1 – Pet First Aid Manual
  • 1 – Splinter Picker / Tick Remover Forceps Medication
  • 2 – Antihistamine (Diphenhydramine 25 mg.), Pkg./1


Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the September 2015 print issue of American Survival Guide.

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