First aid for animals with Michaela Martinů, dog breeder and trainer

How to give first aid to your pet? We often don't find out until something happens. Fortunately, there are more and more courses for complete laypersons. During these specialized seminars or webinars, owners of four-legged friends can find out the basics of first aid and its application in everyday life. Today, we discussed this topic with the trainer and breeder Michaela Martinů.

According to Michaela Martinů, every injury that a dog suffers requires first aid. The question is, whether the owner can manage himself or herself or whether they should seek professional emergency veterinary care. The dog expert advises: "Personally, whenever I'm not sure, I contact a veterinary practice and despite giving the animal basic first aid myself, professional treatment is very important for my peace of mind.”

What are the most common injuries requiring first aid?

That depends on the time of the year. The most common summer problems are overheating, grass awns, allergic reactions to stinging insects or being bitten by a venomous snake, and burnt paws from the asphalt in cities. In winter, animals often get cold or suffer from an inflammation of the stomach, or have their paws damaged from the salt on the roads.

What should the owner do in such cases? Let's focus on the summer ones.

An overheated dog must be cooled down as soon as possible and provided with liquids and fresh air. It is however very important not to let the dog drink too much water. The owner should divide the water into portions, otherwise the animal could be in danger of torsion. It is also possible to administer caffeine by dissolving a small amount of instant coffee in water.

How to soothe a reaction to an insect bite?

To treat an insect bite, it should be enough to give your dog a calcium tablet and the antihistamine Zyrtec. It is important to monitor the dog and let him rest in peace and quiet.

You've mentioned a snake bite. Would a layperson be able to deal with such a situation?

First aid for snake bites is more complicated. The severity of the situation depends on several factors, which are not easy to predict. In this case, urgent professional veterinary treatment is necessary.

Last example - grass awns. How can I tell that they're the cause of the problem?

If you notice that after running around a field your dog can't stop snorting and there is a pink mucus coming out of his snout, it could be caused by a grass awn. It is necessary to visit a veterinary practice, where the awn will be professionally removed. Grass awns can also be lodged between the toes, which, over time, results in an inflamed fistula. Even in this case you won't be able to cope by yourselves and will be forced to visit a vet.

When should we not hesitate and seek immediate veterinary care?

I believe that this notional line is very thin because some diseases and consequences of injuries can develop or become fully apparent over time.  Instead of looking for information in Facebook groups, I would contact a professional. Having a consultation in vain is better than neglect with serious consequences.

A horror for large-breed-dog owners is stomach torsion but spleen and intestine torsion are also quite common. In such cases, it is necessary to immediately contact a veterinary practice for an urgent operation. The sooner the dog gets into surgery, the higher the probability of his rescue.

What should a layperson have with them to be able to provide their pet with first aid?

Whenever I go for a longer trip, I always take a "dog first aid kit" with me. It should contain:

    • Calcium - to treat allergic reactions. Other than the classic tablets, it also comes in the form of effervescent tablets, which must be dissolved in water.
    • Dithiaden, Zyrtec of Zodan can also be administered in case of an allergic reaction.
    • FortiFlora, activated charcoal or Smecta treat digestive problems.
    • Betadine or a liquid silver wound spray should also be present in the first aid kit.
    • Self-adhesive bandages, patches, an empty syringe (large one without the needle) can also be useful.
    • An inflatable collar in case you need to prevent the dog from scratching himself.

What drugs are better to be left out during the treatment of a pet?

Ibuprofen-type drugs can have fatal consequences for dogs. Dogs should never be given drugs for human use or those not recommended by a vet. All drugs should be kept well out of reach of the pet.

I'd also like to ask how to deal with a bleeding injury, e.g. being bitten by another dog?

First, you must stop the bleeding. If the situation requires, you need to apply a pressure bandage. In this case, the first aid process is no different from first aid for humans. However, you must remember that dogs belong to Carnivora and if you are not dealing with your own dog, I would recommend first preventing the dog from being able to bite you. Because same as with providing first aid to people, it is our safety that comes first. Wounds caused by being bitten by another dog tend to heal slowly. The skin is usually ripped from the subcutaneous tissue forming a pocket and the wounds tend to become inflamed. Therefore it's almost always necessary to clean the wound and contact a vet without delay.  

Is there anything you'd like to add?

To end this interview I'd like to emphasize that my answers are based only on years of experience in breeding and dog training but also thanks to my membership in the Prague Cynology Rescue Brigade, where I attend regular training in providing first aid to dogs as well as to people, but I have no medical or veterinary education, therefore, please, take my answers as from an experienced layperson.

Thank you for the interview and we wish the best of health to all doggies and their owners!

Credit: Ivana Tichá


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