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Transporting an injured dog

Knowing how to get emergency help

It's important for dog owners to make a plan ahead of time for emergency situations. In the event of injury or sudden illness, you'll want to get your dog to a veterinarian or animal hospital safely and quickly. In addition, there may be first aid procedures that you'll need to be ready to perform. Preparing now may help save your dog's life later.

Call a vet

If you suspect an injury or illness requires emergency treatment, the first step is to call your veterinarian immediately. The veterinarian's office can advise you on first aid treatments, and your call will help the office prepare for your pet's arrival. Remember: getting your dog under a veterinarian's care is your first priority.

Be prepared

Know your veterinarian's emergency phone number and the number of the closest 24-hour emergency animal hospital. Work with your veterinarian ahead of time to determine emergency contacts, and keep these numbers in your first aid kit and wallet or purse. Plan out the best routes from your house.

In the event of possible poisoning, you'll want to have American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) Poison Control Center phone number handy: (888) 426-4435.

Prepare an emergency/first-aid kit in advance. Your veterinarian may advise you to take treatment steps prior to arriving at the hospital and it's good to be prepared with supplies. Include items such as:

  • Gauze
  • Thermometer
  • Muzzle
  • Three percent hydrogen peroxide solution (to induce vomiting, only if directed to do so by your veterinarian)
  • Turkey baster (to administer hydrogen peroxide)
  • Saline solution
  • Tweezers
  • Disposable latex gloves
  • Towels or clean cloths
  • Blanket
  • Medical tape
  • Padded straps for securing a large dog to a stretcher
  • Your dog's medical and vaccination records

Stay calm

In the event of an emergency, try to remain cool and collected. You'll perform better, and if you panic, your dog may sense it and get more upset. Try to keep your pet quiet. Struggling may cause further injury.

Approach your dog with caution. Even the friendliest dog may bite when frightened and injured. It's best to have a muzzle in your first aid kit. But take the muzzle off as soon as you're sure the dog won't bite; an injured or sick dog may vomit, and you want to prevent choking.

To avoid getting bitten, you can also place a towel or pillow under your dog's head in a way that protects your hands or place a towel or blanket over your dog's head.

Your overall goal is to handle your dog as little as possible to prevent further injury. Lay your dog on his side if possible (note that your pet may prefer to remain upright in the case of a chest injury). Cover the dog with a blanket. Keep the head in natural alignment with the body. If the dog is vomiting, position the head slightly lower than the heart to prevent choking.

If possible, get someone to drive you to the veterinarian, so that you can attend to your injured pet on the way. Drive carefully - unsafe driving increases the chances of accidents and further delays.

Makeshift stretcher

Especially if you think your dog has a spinal, pelvic or neck injury, use a large, flat surface, such as a board or a door, as a stretcher to keep him stable during transport. Use towels or padded straps to tie your dog to the board for stability.

Moving a small dog

If your dog is small, it may be easiest to carry it - if you can do so without risking further injury. Hold the front and rear legs to prevent struggling. Another option: use the dog's travel carrier, a box or similar container.

Moving a large dog

If you don't have access to a board or another object to use as a solid stretcher, place your dog on a blanket. Lift one end and get another person to lift the other end. Your dog may thrash about as you lift it. Use caution when using this method and try to keep your dog as still as possible.

Initial treatment

  • If your dog's injury bleeds profusely or continues bleeding longer than five minutes, apply clean gauze or a bandage with pressure to slow the bloodflow.
  • If your dog has a broken leg, you can wrap a towel loosely around the leg to keep it stable, but don't try to splint it or force the bone back into position.
  • If your dog is unconscious, you can pinch the lips shut and breathe into the nose to force air into the lungs.
  • If you suspect your dog is choking on a foreign object, and it can't breathe, you can try to sweep the object from the dog's throat with your fingers or tweezers, using caution to avoid getting bitten. If the object doesn't come out, you can consider using a modified version of the Heimlich maneuver. For more information on choking, see

For more information

To learn more about preparing for a pet emergency, contact your veterinarian. You also may want to contact your local chapter of the American Red Cross; many chapters offer classes in first aid for pets.


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