How to save your pet from deadly situations

Shock

Brought on by serious trauma, blood loss or poisoning, shock can kill your dog. Symptoms include pale or grey gums, a weak pulse and a rapid heartbeat. If you suspect your dog is in shock, get it out of the field and to the nearest vet immediately. Remember: not only does the shock need to be treated, but so, too, does the injury that brought it on. Time is of the essence, especially in severe cases where the dog may need intravenous fluids to survive.

If you can't get to a vet right away and the dog isn't breathing, administer CPR or artificial respiration. Cover your dog with a jacket or blanket to conserve body heat, and keep its head as low as, or lower than, the rest of its body by propping up the hindquarters.

You may need to keep its airways open by clearing secretions from the mouth with your fingers, and by pulling the tip of the tongue beyond the front teeth. If the dog is conscious, give it tepid water mixed with sugar every 30 minutes (never put fluids in the dog's mouth if it's unconscious, convulsing or vomiting).

Hypothermia

As with humans, hypothermia occurs when a dog's body temperature drops dangerously low. Symptoms include uncontrollable shivering, mental dullness, seizures or even coma. Waterfowl dogs are more likely to encounter problems with hypothermia than their upland counterparts, because they spend more time in cold water.

A hypothermic dog needs to be warmed up immediately. If you're near home, the best thing to do is immerse it in a warm bath. Alternatively, get the dog into your vehicle and turn up the heat (if the dog's wet, dry it to avoid further heat loss through evaporation).

Hyperthermia

This is essentially the opposite of hypothermia. Any time a dog's body temperature rises well above normal, it's cause for concern, as brain damage or even death can occur. Dogs in a hyperthermic state will look like they're in shock. They may collapse, have difficulty standing, pass out, vomit or appear spaced out.

If a dog has any of those symptoms, immediately cool it down by getting it into the closest body of water (or by pouring cool water on it if there are no lakes or streams around). Also try to get the dog to drink water in small, but frequent, amounts. Again, even after the dog recovers take it to a vet as soon as possible. You never know.

Poisoning

Hunting dogs may run into toxic plants, poison baits or numerous other toxins while in the field. Even the water they drink while afield can kill; blue-green algae blooms or saltwater can fatally poison dogs, for example, even in small doses. If you suspect your dog has ingested a toxic substance, immediately phone your veterinarian.

In some instances, the vet will suggest you use hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting (but be aware that most dogs suffering from blue-green algae or salt poisoning don't make it to the clinic). If instructed to administer hydrogen peroxide, give one teaspoon per 10 pounds of your dog's body weight. Repeat every 15 to 20 minutes until the dog vomits. Then give it activated charcoal to bind any remaining poison and prevent further absorption into its body.

Revival tactics

Follow these basic steps should your dog need to be resuscitated, keeping in mind that there are some differences in technique depending on the dog's physiology. Consult your vet about what approach works best for your dog.

  • Before performing artificial respiration, make sure the dog's airway is free. Open the mouth, pull out the tongue, and with your finger, feel for and remove any obstructions, including mucus. But be careful: even an unresponsive dog may bite by reflex.

  • Once the airway is clear, extend the dog's head and neck, and hold its snout so that the mouth is tightly closed. Place your mouth over the dog's nose, to form a tight seal, and exhale, watching for chest expansion. If the chest does not expand, check the airway again and repeat. Once the chest expands, remove your mouth to allow the lungs to deflate. Repeat until the dog breathes on its own. For dogs, the respiration rate should be 12 to 20 breaths per minute.

  • If the dog does not have a pulse, you will need to perform CPR. Place the dog right-side down with its spine toward your body. Position your hands on top of each other, with your fingers intertwined and the heel of the bottom palm one-third of the way up the chest from the sternum (from the fourth to sixth ribs). Apply pressure in a firm, steady, downward motion, at a rate of about 100 to 120 compressions per minute. If you are by yourself, you will need to do sets of two breaths and 15 compressions until help arrives. Do not stop for longer than 30 seconds at a stretch, while checking periodically for a pulse.