A fluffy white dog stands before a lush green field.

Would you know what to do if your dog was choking? Can you think of some human foods that are dangerous to pups? And how far is your local vet? 

No one wants to think about facing an emergency with their pet, but being prepared to offer first aid in their time of need can ultimately save their life. 

Your dog won’t be able to tell you what they need, and in such a time-sensitive moment, there won’t be time to try and learn on the spot. Caring for a pup is also quite different from human first-aid, so something that would make sense for a person may be harmful to your pup. 

Below you can learn about some of the most important information regarding canine first aid, which just may come in handy the next time there is a serious medical situation involving your dog.

What Belongs in a Canine First Aid Kit?

Every pet parent should keep a first aid kit that includes:

  • Gauze
  • Adhesive tape
  • Non-stick bandages
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Antibiotic spray 
  • Cotton balls
  • Thermometer 
  • Labeled pill box
  • Scissors 
  • Tweezers
  • Magnifying glass
  • Syringes 
  • Towel
  • Soft muzzle 

In your pet’s first aid kit, you should also keep a copy of:

  • Their medical records, including most recent vaccines and any medication or allergy information 
  • Contact information for both your local veterinarian and the closest emergency hospital 
  • Phone number for Animal Poison Control 

Most Common Threats to Your Pup

After their curious puppy years have passed, dogs can manage their own safety, for the most part. At the same time, there are a number of common risks to watch out for. Anticipating these risks can help you be ready should the moment come for you to provide prompt first-aid treatment — potentially even saving your dog’s life.


The average home has a variety of choking hazards that can become dangerous to the health of a furry friend. Dogs have smaller airways than humans, which means that more objects around the home can potentially be dangerous. 

Most commonly, dogs will choke on the following hazards: 

  • Pieces of bones (real or synthetic)
  • Small toys
  • Tennis balls
  • Rawhides 
  • Sticks
  • Kids’ toys
  • Strings and plastic 
  • Big chunks of food

If you notice your pup choking but still able to breathe, immediately take them to the nearest vet. Although, in some cases you may not have time to put your dog in the car and rush out to another location for help.

Signs of a serious choking hazard include the tongue or gums turning blue and the dog showing signs of distress. 

The first step a pet parent can try is to use a precise device, such as needle-nose pliers, to remove any foreign objects. 

Put your hand over the top of their muzzle, and lift up to open their mouth. Be sure not to cover their nose. Look for any visible obstructions. If you can see one, use the pliers to quickly and gently remove it from their throat. This step will take fast, concise movements and a calm head as it may further stress the pup and cause them to wiggle around or bite.

If that doesn’t work, you can try a safe version of the Heimlich maneuver for pets. Lay them on their side and feel for the end of their ribcage. Once you find it, push down and slightly forward in a quick, firm motion. Remember that you are aiding a canine and not a human, so less pressure will be necessary. If this step is unsuccessful, rush to the nearest vet. 

Pet CPR may also be necessary after the object is dislodged from the throat if they are still unconscious.     


Dogs manage heat differently than humans. Instead of sweating out the heat, they will pant to regulate their internal temperature. Sometimes, this may not be enough to cool them down, and they can eventually overheat and suffer painfully uncomfortable conditions like heat stroke.  

A dog will show you that they are overheated by:

  • Excessively panting
  • Drooling
  • Fever
  • Excessive thirst
  • Gum discoloration
  • Increased pulse/heart rate
  • Stumbling or weakness
  • Vomiting

Treating heat-related injuries always starts with prevention. All dog breeds and coat types are not built for the same weather, so it is important to understand your dog’s specific needs. For example, a Husky will not thrive in the same weather conditions as a Golden Retriever, and this can affect their health and safety, especially in the summertime.  

Before taking your dog for a walk or out for a day at the park, a pup parent should take steps to ensure that the weather is safe. Most weather apps will offer insights into the air quality for the day. Because dogs have more sensitive airways than humans, they are even more susceptible to strained breathing caused by poor air quality. 

Furthermore, a dog owner should check the ground with their hand to assess if it is too hot for their pet’s paws. If you cannot keep the back of your hand pressed firmly against the concrete for ten seconds, then it is too hot for your dog to be walking on. 


It is impossible to create an exhaustive short-list of all the foods, plants, and household products that are toxic to furry friends, but some of the most common and easily forgotten include:

  • Grapes/raisins 
  • Onion/garlic or dishes prepared with those ingredients 
  • Fruit pits including peach, cherry, and apricot (contains cyanide)
  • Coffee
  • Gum 
  • Xylitol 
  • Yeast dough
  • Lilies
  • Tulips
  • Sago palms

If you suspect that your pet has ingested a toxic substance, there is a special poison control for furry friends. You can reach The ASPCA Poison Control Helpline at (866) 426-4435. 

Generally, a pet parent will be advised against inducing vomiting because it can actually worsen the harm done to your pet. Some toxic substances are corrosive, meaning that they can damage the esophagus or lead to further complications like choking.  

Cuts, Bites, Scratches

If the skin breaks and starts to bleed, there is always the possibility of the open wound getting infected. 

Pets can get themselves into some pretty special places, maneuvering into tight spots that you likely couldn’t reach. Pets are also less aware of the dangers that surround them, such as rusty fencing or sharp obstacles. 

Other animals can also carry harmful bacteria on their paws and in their mouths, so some bites and scratches animal can lead to serious complications. 

If your pet is severely bleeding, you can cover the area with sterile gauze and a clean towel, applying direct pressure until a clot forms. If something is penetrating the wound, do NOT attempt to remove it. Doing so can worsen the bleeding, which could quickly become life-threatening.  

If the area is not bleeding, make a point to clean the area by removing any debris like dirt, leaves, or tree bark then clean the area with warm water. Do not clean the area with hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, unless in an emergency, as those solutions can be too harsh and may damage the tissue. Apply gauze to the area and wrap it in a bandage to prevent the animal from licking the wound.     

Car Accident Trauma

If your dog is hit by a vehicle, lay them flat on a stiff board or another object sturdy enough to transport them. Lightly strap them down to minimize their movements during transport. Avoid putting pressure on their chest with the strap because it can restrict breathing. If you suspect a corresponding head injury, you should have their head supported slightly above their body for transport. 

The goal is to minimize any body movement before transport, including natural sagging that can occur while the animal is being carried. Any flailing or sudden movements can worsen injuries and cause more damage. It is natural for your pet to be scared, so cover them with a blanket during transport to prevent shock. Warmth and attentive care from their owner will go a long way. 

Even if your pet does not seem injured after experiencing car trauma, you should immediately seek a veterinarian assessment. Some animals are very good at hiding pain, and internal injuries may not be as obvious but can still be life-threatening.    

Signs That Your Pup May Be in Distress

In addition to the above situations, keep an eye out for any unexpected emergencies. Remember that you may not be around to see an accident happen, but your dog could still be letting you know.

Clear signs of medical distress in dogs include:

  • Excessive panting
  • Whimpering or vocalization
  • Trembling and shaking
  • Attempting to hide from everyone 
  • Destructive behavior like chewing or scratching 
  • Refusing to eat
  • Drooling or excessive salivation
  • Licking or biting at themselves 
  • Pacing or restlessness
  • Changes in their posture, like cowering or limping 
  • Avoiding eye contact 
  • Bathroom accidents 
  • Changes to sleeping patterns 

The Basics of Pet CPR

A pet requires the same level of supervision as a toddler when around choking hazards. They won’t understand the danger of the small, airway-blocking object in front of them. Many of your dog’s most beloved toys can even be choking hazards. 

A recent survey by the PDSA revealed that about three-quarters of pet parents do not know CPR. Every dog owner should know CPR in case of an emergency, and even though it can be nerve-wracking to think about, the steps are simple and life-saving. 

Follow this safety list before performing CPR on a canine:

  • Check if they are unconscious: Continue speaking to the dog as you approach and assess their condition. If they do not respond, gently rub their side. Dogs are more likely to bite when injured or scared, so be prepared to pull away fast. 
  • Check airways: Pull the dog’s tongue forward to make sure nothing is blocking their airway. Do not conduct CPR on a choking pet until their airways are cleared.
  • Check breathing: If the dog is still breathing, they do NOT need CPR. 

To perform canine CPR:

  1. Lay the dog on the right side of their body on a firm surface (flat-chested breeds should be laid on their back)
  2. Place hand over their heart 
  3. Perform 30 firm (but not too forceful) chest compressions at a rate of 2 per second 
  4. Give two breaths 
  5. Repeat for 2 minutes, then check for a heartbeat 

At-Home Care Should Always Be Followed by a Trip to the Vet

After addressing any immediate threat to your pet, it is critical that you take them to be assessed by a trained veterinarian. 

Managing injuries and medical conditions in pets is completely different than in humans, so having a trained professional provide a medical assessment is the only proper way to know if your pet is recovering smoothly or may need additional care. 

Our pets can’t vocalize their pain in the way that another person can, so leaning on the expertise of a pet care specialist can help you make informed decisions about their health for later down the road. Even if your pet seems better after being initially cared for at home, bringing them to a vet can help the pet parent nurture and treat the root of the problem. 

Greenlin Staff Is Highly Trained

When you bring your dog to Greenlin Pet Resorts for daycare or an overnight stay, you can feel confident that your pup is in trusted hands. 

Every member of our Greenlin staff is trained in canine CPR and first aid, undergoing emergency preparedness training before handling any guest’s needs. We want you and your pup to feel like Greenlin can be their home away from home, and we believe that begins with safety. 

In fact, our award-winning dog sitting, dog boarding, and pet training team can be there to intervene in an emergency when you are not around. If they are left at home alone, instead, there’s always a risk something could happen. Without an owner or trained professional around, there’s no one to administer what could be life-saving care.

Find out more about how we go above and beyond for your pet’s safety at Greenlin Pet Resorts — and all the amazing options we have to keep them trained and entertained — when you reach out to one of our six central Pennsylvania locations. You can also book online, click on the location nearest you for more information: