Do you have the necessary knowledge to save your dog's life out in the field? A reader isn't confident he'd know what to do and asks for advice ...

Q:  Until recently I was fairly confident I knew the basics 
of dog first aid, but on hearing 
a friend’s story of how he had to deal with his dog when it got into difficulties recently, I realised 
I wouldn’t have a clue what to do should my dogs have any serious problems. Could you explain what in essence are the first things to 
do in a canine emergency?

Veterinary surgeon Tony Buckwell advises

Knowing what to do in an emergency can save your dog’s life and, just as with humans, is more than simply learning about first aid. My basic advice for dealing with an emergency involving animals is:

  • Ensure the safety of yourself and others. Keep calm and assess the situation before acting.
  • Injured animals are frightened, in pain and may try to bite. If there is a risk, put a muzzle on the dog or wrap tape around the nose and tie behind the ears, unless the dog has difficulty breathing, or put a thick towel over the dog’s head.
  • Apply first aid if you are able to do 
so once you have properly assessed 
the situation and the appropriate action to take.
  • Contact a vet. Keep your vet’s practice name and phone number 
to hand. Always phone first, whatever the situation. There may not always be 
a vet available but staff can suggest what immediate action you can take.
  • Have a pen handy in case another number is given and/or to take note 
of any instructions.
  • Treatment can usually be provided more quickly if the dog is taken to the surgery, rather than if the vet is called out. Drive carefully when taking the patient to the surgery.
  • Never try to give human medicines 
to a dog unless instructed by a vet. 
Some can do more harm than good 
in animals.
  • Do not offer food or drink to the animal in case an anaesthetic is needed.
  • If you get bitten while treating your dog, contact your doctor.