6 Tips to Stop Severe Bleeding in Dogs

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An American bulldog gets a wound wrapped on his leg.

By Arden Moore, a certified pet first aid/CPR instructor with Pet Tech, a hands-on training program. Arden is an author, radio host, and writer for Pets Best, a pet insurance agency for dogs and cats.

Dogs can suffer severe injuries where they start profusely bleeding for a variety of reasons. For instance, your dog may get bitten by another animal, step on broken glass, or get their nail caught and ripped. So you need to know how to act quickly to stop the flowing blood.

April is National Pet First Aid Awareness Month – a good reminder to enroll in a veterinarian-approved pet first aid class. In a pet emergency, minutes count. Knowing what to do – and what not to do – can make the big difference in saving your dog’s life. The purpose of pet first aid is to stabilize and immobilize a pet safely until he can receive proper treatment by a veterinarian.

First, note that there are three types of bleeding:

  • Capillary, characterized by superficial blood oozing, such as from a nick in the tip of the ear or clipping a toenail to close to the quick.
  • Venous, characterized by a slower flow of dark-red blood. This is the oxygen depleted blood going back to the heart.
  • Arterial, characterized by spurting, bright red blood. This is the most serious type of bleeding as a dog who loses more than 30 percent of blood volume in a matter of minutes can develop serious shock.

To keep yourself safe and to administer to your dog who has a serious bleeding wound, follow these six steps:

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1. Muzzle your dog to prevent being bitten; dogs who are frightened or in pain will often act out of instinct- even the nicest dog may bite when scared. Keep a muzzle in your pet first-aid kit and one in your car. You can use nylon leashes or large triangle bandage to wrap around your dog’s muzzle to still allow him to breathe but not to bite.

2. Apply direct pressure on the wound by using sterile gauze pads. If gauze pads are not available, use a clean t-shirt or towel.

3. Place another clean layer of gauze on top and apply pressure if blood saturates the first layer. Never pull back the first layer as the blood may be clotting and you risk disturbing the clot causing it to bleed again.

4. Roll gauze or fabric several times around the wound and secure it with medical tape. Make the wrap snug but not so tight that it cuts off circulation, with the exception of arterial bleeding.  You may need to tourniquet or wrap the bleeding very tightly if the patient is losing blood rapidly with an arterial bleed.

5. Contact the nearest veterinary clinic and alert them how far away you are so that the staff can prepare an exam room for your dog.

6. Monitor your dog for signs of shock during the drive (have someone else drive while you are with your secured dog). Signs of shock include a fast heart rate, weak pulses and pale gums.

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