Care for Injured Dogs

Kathleen Roberts
Be ready for any emergency.

Do you know how to care for injured dogs in an emergency? Guest columnist Wendy Nan Rees has some great tips to help you be better prepared for a scary situation.

How to Care for Injured Dogs

What do you do when you have an injured dog? Whether you are rescuing a dog or this is your baby at home, you need to know what to do and how long you have before you really need to get to the emergency room.

Here are some tips to help an injured dog if you have one at home or come across a dog that needs to be rescued. I also have some basic facts you should keep on hand to know about your dog.

Vital Statistics

Take your dog's temperature under normal conditions to get a baseline temperature for comparison, in case he gets sick or becomes injured. A dog's temperature should be between 100.5° to 101.8°. If your dog is above 102°, or below 98.0°, you need to call your vet right away. The thermometer should be almost clean when removed. Abnormalities are indicated by blood, diarrhea or black, tarry stool.When taking your dog's temperature there are two methods to follow. One is in the ear with a special thermometer, and the other is to take the temperature rectally. The second way requires putting some Vaseline or KY Jelly on the end of the thermometer and placing it gently in your dog's rectum. This may require a helper, depending on how large or small your dog is. Be sure you have the thermometer in far enough, but not so far that you cannot get it out.

Have your friend or family member hold your dog's head while you do the rest, all the time talking calmly to your baby telling him "good boy" and holding him under his belly. Leave it in for three minutes, and then take it out to read. This will be the first question your vet may ask, so you will want to know if the dog is running a fever; this could be sign of a more serious medical condition.

Pulse and Heart Rate

Normal Resting Rates:

  • Small dogs: 90 to 120 beats per minute (bpm) 

  • Medium dogs: 70 to 110 bpm 

  • Large dogs: 60 to 90 bpm

The pulse should be strong, regular and easy to locate.

Heart Rate:

  • Puppies (up to one-year old) should be 120 to 160 beats per minute.
  • Adult dogs 30 pounds or less should be at 100 to 160 beats per minute.
  • Adult dogs over 30 pounds should be at 60 to 100 beats per minute.


A normal adult dog should be breathing at 10 to 30 breaths per minute. Use the second hand on your watch to count your dog's breaths (as you do when checking your own pulse). Put your hand on his ribs, and count the rise and fall for 15 seconds. Take that number and multiply it by four. If your dog is panting very hard, be sure that your dog is not in some kind of trouble.

Rabies Facts

Rabies is a serious disease that affects animals and can be transmitted to humans. It is critical to keep your dog safe from rabies, for your own protection and for the safety of other people and animals that come in contact with your dog. It is particularly important to keep rabies vaccines up to date if your dog will possibly encounter wildlife.

  • Keep rabies vaccinations up to date for all dogs.
  • Spay and neuter your dogs to reduce their impulse to wander.
  • Keep your dog indoor as much as possible and keep him under your control (in a fenced yard or on a leash) when outside.
  • Call your local animal control officers to remove stray animals from your neighborhood.
  • Train and socialize your dog to reduce the risk of him biting a person or another dog.

Three Steps to Handling Poisoning

I keep the poison control number by every phone in my home and in both cars (both mine and my husband's) to have it handy just in case. I have it programmed into our cell phones. Each cell phone carrier offers something for each one of us to utilize as a tool for an emergency with our dogs. This is now a must to be added to the first aid kits in our homes and our cars. If you do not have a cell phone, just go online to put the app. on your desktop so it will be easily accessible should you ever have to use 911 for your dog.If your dog is suffering from poisoning, you can save his life by following these three steps.

  • Stay calm. Although it is critical that you come to your pet's aid as quickly as possible, keeping a clear head and responding with level headedness can save your dog's life.
  • Take a moment to quickly collect any remaining poison in a sealable plastic bag. The ASPCA recommends you take 30 to 60 seconds to get any material that your dog may have ingested so a toxicologist or your vet can examine it.
  • Call a poison control center. The ASPCA hotline can be reached at (888) 426-4435. You will have to pay a small consultation fee, but the call can very well save your dog's life.

Small Dogs' Dental Problems

In a small dog, this can become a fast problem quickly so please be sure to keep your eyes open.

If you were to think of the dental problems associated with dogs, you might first think of the large teeth of a Pit Bull, Great Dane or Rottweiler. However, these breeds have it easy compared to small dogs.

Sadly, as our breeding programs encourage ever-smaller "toy" and "teacup" puppies, the dogs' teeth don't keep pace. Many small breeds are troubled by teeth that are too big for their mouths. If your dog is 20 pounds or less, it is particularly important for you to follow a proper oral care routine which includes brushing, chewing on dental dog treats and scheduling regular vet visits to care for your dog's teeth. Always choose dental dog chews that are sized correctly for your small dog. A big dog toy may go unused if your dog can't wrap its mouth around the toy.

Remember even the sweetest doggie, when in trauma, can bite, so please be cautious. And if you need to use the muzzle in your first aid kit, do not feel bad. This is a safety precaution for both of you. It is also true that the Heimlich maneuver will work on a choking dog, and this is something commonly taught in all CPR classes.

More Tips from Wendy

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Care for Injured Dogs