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Canine 911: Vet offers first aid tips at DogFest

By Staff | May 5, 2017

Chronicle photo by Vanessa McGuigan Heather Sgaggero holds dog, Lily, while Dr. Sandra Smith demonstrates how to do the Heimlich maneuver.

Dr. Sandra Smith, DVM and Heather Sgaggero, Supervisor of Technical Services, both at Spring Mills Veterinary Clinic provided a demonstration and information at Dog Fest that could potentially save a dog’s life. The information provided is not intended as a substitute for veterinary care, but can help save a pet’s life until the pet owner can get to the vet.

The first item Smith addressed was choking.

“The best thing to do is to of course, try to prevent your dog from choking. My least favorite treat That I see dogs choke on is the little flat square biscuits. Try to avoid giving the dog anything flat and square.”

Smith said the Heimlich maneuver can be done on a dog.

“Grab the dog from behind the rib cage and push the stomach strong and fast up towards the mouth-much like you would do for a human,” said Smith. “If they get a ball stuck (in their throat), that’s not going to come out unless we anesthetize the dog and take it out manually.”

For large dogs, Smith said to use two hands and make a fist, again much like aid for a human. For smaller dogs, only one hand might be needed.

For bleeding injuries, Smith said to apply some kind of tourniquet and that shoe laces work very well, but anything else like a sock or ace bandage would be effective.

“There’s only been a few times that I’ve seen an injury that has bled enough to put the animal’s life in danger. Lawn mower injuries are about the worst. Tie it (tourniquet) securely to slow the bleeding down until you get to the vet. Dogs have quite a bit of blood and can lose a fair amount before they get into trouble, so slowing it down is the best-you don’t need to stop it all the way.”

For bleeding toenails, Smith said the best thing to do is to calm the pet and get it to lay down to decrease blood flow to the feet. Flour or cornstarch can be applied in lieu of styptic powder if none is readily available to stop the bleeding. Smith said to keep the down laying down for at least five minutes to help the blood to clot.

Smith emphasized that no over-the-counter pain medicines can be safely given to dogs because even small amounts of aspiring or ibuprophen can damage liver and kidneys. She did say that dogs can take Pepto Bismol, however, for an upset stomach. Follow the child dosing guideline.

A fairly common syndrome is the “Big dog/little dog” syndrome.

“Little dogs love to go up to big dogs and get in their face and bark and threaten,” said Smith. “Often, the big dog will grab hold of the little dog, usually around the chest and begin shaking it. This can be a pretty devastating injury with potential trauma to the brain, lungs and most definitely the skin. The first thing you should do if another dog bites your dog is get rabies information and find out where that dog goes to the vet, if at all possible.”

Smith continued, “The best way to transport your dog is put a blanket on it and scoop it up so that you’re not putting pressure on any one place. You want to secure their mouth because you don’t want to get bitten. Things that you have readily available to do that might be, again, a shoe string or a belt. If not, put a blanket around the dog’s head until you can get them into the car. Creating a stretcher out of a blanket is also a good way to carry a dog to the car if a person can grab each end of the blanket.”

Lastly, if a pet owner suspects that their pet has ingested something poisonous, there are a couple of 24-hour pet poison hotlines to call. One is is ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, 888-426-4435, and the other is The Pet Poison Hotline 855-764-7661. A fee applies at both centers. Try to have the ingredients of the suspected poisons handy so that the representative can provide the most accurate treatment information. Common toxins for dogs are chocolate, rat and mouse poison, human medications, xylitol (found in sugar-free gums and candy), fertilizers, grapes, raisins and macadamia nuts.