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Canine First Aid: Severe Bleeding

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Dog paws

As part of TP Blog's series on canine first aid, today we shall look at what you can do if your dog injures himself and is bleeding severely. Your main focus, when dealing with serious wounds, is stabilising your dog and preventing shock from setting in whilst you get him to your vet for treatment.

Due to a dogs anatomy, you will probably be aware that some areas will tend to bleed more profusely than others despite the wound often being a lot less serious. Tongues and tails are the worst culprits. They have a very good blood supply and can look especially dramatic as blood from the tongue mixes with saliva making the overall quantity look greater, and tails have a tendency to wag, thereby spreading any blood across the hindquarters of the dog – and anywhere in the immediate vicinity!

Arterial or Venous Blood?
There are two main types of bleeding from major wounds – blood coming from veins and blood from arteries.

If the blood coming from your dog is bright red and spurting, this is arterial blood. Venous blood will be darker and oozing.

As you may already be aware, arterial bleeding is far more serious and life-threatening. It is therefore even more urgent for you to act quickly and get your dog professional care asap. Wounds bleeding from an artery require greater pressure to limit blood loss and potentially a tourniquet – a very tight bandage tied above the wound on a limb or tail designed to limit or cut off blood flow entirely.

As with all injured animals, always be cautious and muzzle your dog if he has suffered a significant injury. The calmest, friendliest dog can act unpredictably and aggressively when in pain.

Spaniel with bleeding tail

Signs of Shock

  • Pale/White gums
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Rapid breathing
  • Lethargy - unwillingness or inability to move

Bleeding Body, Limbs or Tail
Check the wound for any foreign objects, remove if possible. If time allows, rinse the wound with clean water or antiseptic liquid/wipes. (Be aware that applying antiseptic may sting so may cause an uncharacteristic response from your dog).
If you have an appropriate canine first aid kit, firmly place a non-adhesive wound dressing over the wound and apply pressure to stem the bleeding. Use self-adhesive bandage to tightly hold the dressing in place.
If you do not have any appropriate sterile dressings, use common sense to utilise what you have to hand; whether it be a clean towel or an item of clothing to help control the bleeding.
Depending on the severity of the wound, head straight to your vet or phone to make an appointment. If possible, phone your veterinary practice to warn them of your arrival if the wound is potentially life-threatening.

If dressing a wound on a leg or tail, do not tourniquet unless absolutely necessary (ie severe arterial bleeding, as discussed above). Tourniqueting will stop any blood flowing past, potentially causing the loss of that limb if left in place for too long.

Tired dog

Bleeding Ears
These do not usually require veterinary attention unless severely torn and requiring stitches. Be prepared for blood splatters though - a sore ear will irritate the dog, causing him to shake his head, thus spreading blood very effectively to anywhere in the vicinity.
If it is a small nick or tear that you feel doesn't require a visit to the vet, it can either be left to heal on its own or you can place a clean dressing either side of the ear and then hold the ear, folding it over the dog's head until the bleeding stops.

Internal Bleeding
If your dog has suffered an impact and doesn't appear to have any obvious injuries yet is showing signs of shock, this could indicate an internal injury. This can be incredibly serious and requires emergency veterinary attention.
Place your dog on his side with his head and neck extended - in the car as you are heading straight to the vet. Gently pull your dog's tongue forward to ensure the airway is open. Place any soft materials that you have to hand, such as a folded towel, blanket or cushion under the hind legs to elevate them slightly, encouraging blood flow to the vital organs. It is not necessary to keep your dog warm; this can, in fact, lead to additional blood loss as the blood vessels dilate and blood pressure drops further. Head straight to your veterinary practice, ringing ahead if possible to warn of your arrival or to ensure you are attending the correct practice if it is out-of-hours.

Related Articles:
Canine First Aid: What To Have In Your Kit
Canine First Aid: Ticks
Why Dogs Shouldn't Play Fetch With Sticks
Dog Bites: Warning Signs And How To Recognise Them

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