Contributed by guest writer, Nicole McCray
If you come across a lost, hurt, or noticeably injured dog, it can be unclear to know how to handle the situation. After all, dogs who are injured or in pain might react aggressively or fearful when approached, and you don’t want to aggravate an injury by upsetting the dog.
Signs to look for that tell you the dog is feeling fearful are it flattening its ears, panting loudly, or whimpering, and if you attempt an approach, it may growl or try to attack. Dogs tend to read emotions, and if you are scared, worried, or impatient, the dog knows and is apt to try to get away, which could lead to further injury.
So, how do you proceed? What is the best way to approach and help an injured dog safely and securely? The experts at the Bond Vet clinic of Garden City, NY explained that there are seven helpful steps to follow if you ever come across an injured dog to ensure it receives proper assistance.
1. CHECK YOUR SURROUNDINGS
Carefully take a look around and make sure there is nothing harmful around the dog or yourself. Take some time to survey the space in case of obstacles like traffic, other animals, or dangerous materials.
When you take a few moments to do this, it can also help calm your own fears or worries. You can become more focused to take in what is happening before you try any tactics to approach or assist the injured dog.
2. COAX AND APPROACH
Though it may be instinctive, you do not want to rush upon the injured dog, as any quick movements can create an aggressive or fearful response. If you have any dog treats or something you can feed it, try tossing them away from you initially so that you can coax the dog to come closer to you through the food.
When you approach the dog to help, it is vital to keep your body to the side and not look the dog in the eye. If you play the submissive role with your eyes lowered, the dog will be less threatened or panicked. You don’t want to square your shoulders and come at the dog head-on or catch its eye directly. Doing either of those things is considered threatening to dogs.
3. STAY CALM
It will help if you do your absolute best to stay calm. Speak in a soft, relaxed tone without raising your voice. If you know the dog, say the dog’s name as much as possible to help bring it comfort.
If you notice the dog is acting aggressive or fearful, back off a bit before approaching again and continue to speak calmly. Wait for the dog to stop barking, growling, or whimpering so that you can come to it slowly.
4. EXAMINE THE INJURY
If you can come upon the dog, you’ll need to refrain from trying to hug or hold the dog. It is in our nature to try to comfort a hurt pet, but without knowing the extent of any injury, you could make it worse. Keep your face away from its mouth as well so that it does not nip or bite at you.
Slowly and very gently, examine the dog to the best of your ability. If you feel the animal is becoming agitated or if you can clearly see the injury source, you may avoid a thorough examination. If the injury or wound is obvious, however, you may need to administer first aid.
5. KEEP YOURSELF PROTECTED
If the animal appears to be a lost dog, or if it is seemingly aggressive towards you, it may be wise to approach with a barrier in hand so that you have protection. Once you’re able to assess whether or not the dog is in immediate danger in its current position, you may want to restrain the dog safely so that you can transport it. If you have one or are able to access one, use a leash to slip over its head.
If you don’t have a leash, you can be resourceful with stockings, socks, or even towels to restrain the animal. You can roll and wrap these DIY “leashes” under the dog’s mouth or around the head.
6. CONTACT THE VET OR ER
Before you move the dog, contact a vet clinic or emergency animal hospital. This way, they can guide you through potentially moving the animal, and they will be ready for your arrival with the injured animal. If you’re unsure where the closest vet clinic is, do a quick search on your smartphone or call 411 for assistance to find the one nearest to you for help.
7. STABILIZE AND TRANSPORT
At this point, if you notice that the dog needs stabilization for possible broken bones, try to stabilize them before moving with a splint or a bandage. You can use a simple ruler, pencil, stick, or any straight object to use as a temporary splint to keep the dog from injuring itself further.
When in transport, if you are driving the dog yourself, you must keep the dog to a confined area in your vehicle so that you can reduce any impact or risk of additional injury. A pet carrier would be ideal, but you can use a box or some other open container to keep the dog in one place. If it’s a large dog, consider using a sled, or at the very least, a blanket as a place for the dog to lay in one spot.
Following these steps safely and calmly will decrease any fear or aggression from the dog and avoid any further pain from the injury. They’ll also keep both you and the dog safe to provide proper care.
As always, if any of these steps intimidate you or you don’t feel up to the challenge to help save the dog, you can go right to step 6 and call a vet clinic closest to you. They can either send out someone to help you in providing temporary care and transport for the injured dog, or put you in contact with local institutions that can assist with rescue.