Animal Book Review: Dog First Aid

First Aid books for pets have been slow in surfacing. Long overdue, the American Red Cross has partnered with StayWell to finally release a Dog First Aid book.

I discovered the book project while talking about disaster rescue in Las Vegas, Nevada. In fact, it was the Las Vegas Chapter of the Red Cross who was promoting the book but I heard about it from a radio host at a large pet industry event.

This Dog First Aid book is a very basic guide and is part of a safety series.
Books in the American Red Cross Safety Series include: Dog First Aid, Cat First Aid
Family Caregiving, A Family Guide to First Aid & Emergency Preparedness, and First Aid & Safety of Babies & Children.

Each book comes with an instructional compact disk that contains a few highlighted sections to show some of the techniques dog owners can use to assist their injured canine.

Dog owners learn the ABCs of dog first aid:

  • Airway
  • Breathing
  • Circulation

The Dog First Aid book is broken into seven chapters:

Protect Your Dog’s Health
This is a basic section about maintaining a health dog. It makes suggestions for veterinary wellness exams, diet, exercise, grooming, spaying or neutering, socialization, and identification tags.

Identification tags are something I really try to motivate pet parents to use—even when pets are indoors. So, I was happy they were included in this section along with tattoos and microchips. However, their resources links could have been better for finding a lost pet.

Training is mentioned under socialization but it only mentions training an adult dog. I would have liked to see early puppy preschool encouraged. Also, I’d rather the To Crate of Not to Crate be removed and see just a statement about how important it is to get help with training your pet.

The piece about on traveling with your pet in this section gave some good information on traveling in the car, on the plane, and on a boat. It also mentioned traveling abroad briefly.

Again, I’d like to have seen some good online references as there are more than the ones they listed that exist.

Giving Your Dog Medications
This section discusses giving eye, ear, and topical medication as well as how to pill a dog. Elizabethan collars and risks posed by human food and medicines round out this section.

Be Prepared
Perhaps this is covered in other publications (like my Animal Disaster Preparedness Guide) but I would have liked to have seen the other groups that specialize in animal disaster rescue listed as resources.

As it stands, it urges people to make a dog first aid kit and to prepare for a disaster by offering some tips of what needs to be included in the evacuation kit and what plans to take.

Since the Red Cross deals with disaster I was disappointed this section was a mere 3.75 pages long which illustrates just how much more work needs to be done on encouraging animal disaster preparedness.

How To Know If It’s A Medical Emergency
The basics of this section teach dog owners what is normal for a canine and how to do basic exams to verify what is standard for their pet. It describes taking the body temperature, checking breathing, and monitoring circulation.

It might be better to instruct people how to do a sampling technique instead of monitoring for a full minute (take fifteen seconds and then multiple the amount of breaths by four) but then this is a very basic instruction manual and I bet the consistency of standards works.

Capture techniques are discussed and I liked how the section touched on a variety of options. It also diagrams how to make an emergency muzzle and how to carry different size dogs.

Like the Cat First Aid book it also briefly cover how to prepare for shock and gives dog owners bullet points that highlight just what constitutes emergency conditions.

I would have liked to see a discussion about how to determine when something is wrong with your dog. Early warning signs might urge people to catch something early. Activity level changes, abnormal eating and drinking patterns, dull coat, or weight loss are topics I think might be useful in this work.

Dog vital signs vary with the age and size of the breed and are listed as tips in a sidebar. Dog owners can view normal heart and pulse rates, normal breathing rates, and normal dog temperature–which range from 100 to 102.5 F.

Respond to a Breathing or Heart Emergency
Another super short section, this addresses cardiopulmonary resuscitation, airway, and choking issues. The CPR chart is probably what most people will look at.

The video uses a dog mannequin that is much better than the one used in the cat video. You can get another view in the car accident video.

Last year many fire stations were given air masks for pets and I am wondering how helpful these types of tools would be.

First Aid Reference Guide
This is the main portion of the Dog First Aid guide. The issues are listed alphabetically. I would have liked to see more pet owner type references and thought that constipation and urinary accidents or incontinence might be better cross referenced to each other.

The section is seventy-one pages long and has some surprising entries. The bleeding entry talks about pressure points and the tourniquet technique which I think would be valuable for most pet owners.

Also, the listings include bloat and torsion. Just like Cat First Aid book, each entry lists the problems and details signs and symptoms.

Encounters with skunks and porcupines are included in the listings along with an extensive eye emergencies entry. They mentioned old home remedies instead of Massengill  douche or the Skunk Odor Remover products on the market.

Flipping through the book you can see the first aid topics listed at the top of the page which makes them easy to find.

There is an entry on fading puppy syndrome and an extensive parasite entry. I found some cross referencing in this volume and liked that the venomous bite section included jelly fish but still miss those arachnids!

The big gross out in this section? Just like in Cat First Aid, it was the proptosis (eye out of socket) photo. (Do you think more trauma photos would help you better prepare?)

When it is Time to Say Goodbye
This section should have been dumped or expanded. The one page Euthanasia summary begins:

When your gut starts telling you, “It is time,” talk to your veterinarian about the appropriate next step.

The section ends with a two resources for pet loss.

I believe people need more guidance on this issue. How do they determine when it is time? What are the agencies you call to dispose of the bodies of those hit by cars? How do you locate a pet chaplain or pet funeral home? What choices do you have for cremation?

Pet hospice and other services now exist to help people move through pet loss but it has not hit mainstream yet. Personally, I’d like to see a resource listing that is more comprehensive than now exists on this one page.

Compact Disk
A nice feature is that this book comes with a demonstration video. I think it is on the right track. However, the video contains very cooperative canine animal actors.

So, I wonder how many average pet owners will question their skills when presented with the same challenges and their uncooperative critter or an animal that is reacting to his or her pain.

I didn’t like the subtitles on the video. They are automatic and it would have been nice to shut them off.

Dog First Aid Compact Disk Contents:

  • Introduction
  • What’s Normal for My Dog
  • ABCs & Rescue Breathing
  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation
  • Choking
  • Shock
  • Abrasions, Cuts and Tears, and Pad Wounds
  • Eye Injuries and Ear Injuries
  • Burns
  • Fractures, Broken Back or Neck
  • Car Accidents
  • Poisoning
  • Hypothermia/Frostbite
  • Heat Stroke
  • Electric Shock
  • Closing

Overall I think the Dog First Aid book and CD is a good start to helping canine pet parents get onto the right track. Most people do not know how to address minor issues with their pets nor do they know how to determine when something is serious.

I think it would be a good idea to also include an order form for some of the supplies that might be useful to purchase from the Red Cross. They do include a resource page with the link but a phone number and list would be great for those without access.

The Pet Emergency Disaster Kit was scheduled to be released this year but I have not seen it yet.

So, if you need a guide I’d say buy the Dog First Aid book now.

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