How to Give First Aid to Your Dog

How to Treat a Dog in Shock

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. Step 1a

Shock is extremely serious; it is the No. 1 killer in accidents. Shock is a reaction to heavy internal or external bleeding or any serious injury that "scares" the body; for example, a large wound or amputation with heavy blood loss. The body tries to compensate for the loss by speeding up the heart rate to keep the blood pressure from falling. At the same time the blood vessels that supply the outside of the body narrow. This is to conserve blood so vital organs of the body can continue to receive their normal blood supply.

However, if there is heavy blood loss or other serious injury, the body overreacts and causes a pooling of blood in the internal organs. This can cause death due to a drop in external blood pressure and possible oxygen starvation of the brain.


The signs of shock include pale or white gums, a rapid faint heartbeat, rapid breathing, or below-normal body temperature (feels cold). If your dog is in shock, use the following tips to provide proper first aid.

Step 1: Examine the dog for shock.

Step 1a: Examine the gums by gently lifting the dog's upper lip so the gum is visible. Pale or white gums indicate the dog is almost certainly in shock and may have serious internal injuries and/or bleeding. If the gums are pink, the dog is probably not in shock.

Step 1b: Determine the dog's heartbeat. Place your fingers firmly on the dog about 2 inches behind the dog's elbow in the center of its chest. Count the number of beats in 10 seconds and multiply by 6. If the dog is in shock its heartbeat may be more than 150 beats per minute.

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. Step 3

Step 2: Place the dog on its side with its head extended.

Step 3: Gently pull out the dog's tongue to keep the airway open.

Step 4: Elevate the dog's hindquarters slightly by placing them on a pillow or folded towels.

Step 5: Stop visible bleeding immediately. If blood is spurting and the wound is on the leg or tail, proceed to Step 6.

Step 5a: Cover the wound with a clean cloth, sterile dressing, or sanitary napkin.

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. Step 4

Step 5b: Place your hand over the dressing and press firmly.

Step 5c: Keep pressure on the dressing to stop bleeding. If blood soaks through the dressing, DO NOT remove it. Apply more dressing and continue to apply pressure until the bleeding stops. If bleeding does not stop within 5 minutes, continue to apply pressure on the wound while transporting the dog to the veterinarian.

Step 5d: Wrap torn rags or other soft material around the dressing and tie or tape it just tightly enough to keep the bandage on. Start below the wound and wrap upward.

Step 6: If bleeding does not stop within 5 minutes, transport the dog immediately to the veterinarian.

Step 7: To conserve body heat, wrap the dog in a blanket or jacket.

A dog's encounter with a skunk is not only smelly, but it can also be dangerous, since skunks are a major carrier of rabies. Turn to the next page to find out what to do if your pet has been sprayed by a skunk.