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10 Essential First Aid Tips for your Westie

Every dog owner needs to know the basic steps to take if something goes wrong.

As a Registered Veterinary Nurse who’s worked a lot in out of hours emergency clinics, I feel very strongly that dog owners should all have good first aid knowledge. Here are 10 tips that will help your dog if something goes wrong.

Complete a first aid course, preferably run by a vet or veterinary nurse. (Registered Veterinary Nurse, Rachel Bean, offers workshops in over 20 locations –

Knowledge is power and practise makes perfect!  You’ll gain both on a good course, and believe me, you need to practise because trying to help your dog when you’re worried sick and your dog is scared isn’t easy.

Always carry a good basic first aid kit with you which contains things like something to clean a wound (contact lens saline is excellent for this, if you can find a small container, and it’s also useful for rinsing eyes, of course), a sterile dressing and something to attach it with.  Cohesive bandage is good for this, but you can improvise with something like a sock, if you’re really stuck. A tick remover is super useful. Practise, practise, practise.  Make a fun game of bandaging a paw, or an ear.  Associate the slight discomfort of a bandage with super yummy treats.  That way, if an accident happens, your dog won’t be nearly so frightened, because you are doing something familiar, even ‘though there is now pain added to the “game”.  It will also mean that you have the skills off pat and will be able to be practical in spite of worrying about what’s happened.  It honestly makes a big difference. Common things happen all the time!  Make sure you are certain what to do when common problems arise.  Heat stroke, torn claws, cuts, grass seeds in toes or ears, ticks, things in eyes, seizures (these are terrifying when you don’t know what’s happening, and pretty frightening, even when you do!)Make sure you know about your vet’s out of hours arrangements.  You wouldn’t believe the number of people who turn up at their usual veterinary practice with an injured pet only to find no one there, because the emergency service is provided elsewhere.  And make sure your usual vet and the emergency practices’ numbers are in your phone (and you have your phone with you!).

Think about how you will carry your injured dog.  If you’re reading this as a Westie owner, this shouldn’t be too much of a physical challenge, but if you have a bigger dog, you really do need to have a plan!  These are fabulous (and play at carrying your dog around in it at home, too, so they’re used to it).

If you have a breed prone to certain problems, for example, prick ears (perfect for grass seeds to drop into) or very thin skin (which gets injured very easily) then focus on what to do when those things happen. Remember that VERY few things are life-threatening emergencies.  Hopefully, this will keep you calm most of the time.  Cuts where blood is squirting out under pressure are one genuine emergency (apply pressure directly to the wound and DO NOT let go, no matter what, and immediately get to a veterinary practice).

Eye injuries can look trivial, but can be very, very serious (and as we know ourselves, anything in the eye is massively painful, even if not at all serious!).  These should always be checked by a vet.  Abdominal swelling, or a dog looking as if trying to vomit, but not being able to, needs immediate veterinary attention (this mostly occurs in very deep chested dogs, but that doesn’t mean it never happens in other shapes of dog).  Repeated seizures close together need a conversation with a veterinary professional and will usually need veterinary intervention.

If someone else cares for your dog, make sure that they have a current first aid certificate.  It’s terrifying that there are lots of people offering “professional” care (and often charging a lot of money!) who have NO formal qualifications at all.  First aid is the very, very most essential qualification. The most vital piece of advice I can give is to remain calm.  No matter what the injury or accident or illness, if you can remain calm, it will support your dog and allow you to respond in a helpful manner.  Morag Sutherland works for the Raw Feeding Veterinary Society of which Westies & Besties Magazine is an affiliate member. For more information, visit:

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