Would you know what to do in an emergency?

This weekend I was very lucky to be able to attend a hands on, in-person “First Aid for Dogs” training course with Rachel Bean RVN in Bedfordshire.
I have been trying to find a suitable course for a couple of years now, but have struggled to find something that was “in-person”, due to Covid restrictions. There seems to be lots of online courses, but I felt this would not be enough for me to feel confident to trust in my skills in the future, as I am very much a hands on learner.

Dog First AidI felt I needed these skills, not just for my own dogs, but for all those animals that I come across every day in my work, especially when out and about on sessions/walking with dogs – you never know what might happen!


Rachel began the course by sharing with us her very impressive CV.  In addition to more than 20 years as a qualified veterinary nurse, Rachel is a Former Dogs Trust Kennel Manager, a trainer and behaviour adviser for several  RSPCA branches, an Expert Witness in court cases, and a volunteer veterinary professional with The Soi Dog Foundation in Thailand – amongst many more roles relating to animal behaviour and welfare.  Rachel is definitely an expert in this field!

Rachel Bean

Rachel brought along her two adorable and very willing models, Wisp (a 12 year old Black Labrador) and Chilli (a beautiful young Fox Red Labrador).

I have completed First Aid training for humans in the past, and the underlying theme for this course was the same…to preserve life until professional treatment can be given.

During our discussion about the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966, it was very interesting to note that whilst anyone may perform First Aid to an animal, providing that it is to preserve life, prevent suffering or prevent the detereoration of the animal’s condition, ONLY the owner of the animal is allowed to TREAT them unless the permission of the appropriate Veterinary Surgeon is given.

I have since taken it upon myself to read a bit more about the Veterinary Surgeon’s Act 1966.  This may be of interest to some of you too.


Rachel’s course covered all the emergency situations that could happen when out on a walk, or at home.

dog walk retreieverWe discussed the many injuries that dogs especially could suffer, like cut pads – we have experienced this during a walk in the woods!

Chocolate labradorWe also covered wounds caused by stick injuries, choking on toys and balls, and insect bites and stings.  My previous German Shepherd had to undergo surgery to remove a toy that she had swallowed some years ago (suffice to say my dogs are no longer left unsupervised with toys!)

border terrier and ball


Some other thoughts that were discussed and I think are things we should all do, is regarding your own veterinary practice.

Do you know their number….or have it on your mobile phone?

Golden retrieverDo you know their opening hours or where their out of hours service is based?

If you have pet insurance, do you have the details in a place you could easily find if needed?

petplanDo you know how much cover you have and if you have third party cover to protect yourself if your dog caused injury to another dog or person?


As the owner of a reactive dog, an issue that always concerns me is the possibility of a dog fight, or an unprovoked attack.

I was particularly interested to hear about a website called www.doglaw.co.uk.  This is a really informative website if you have absolutely any dog related legal questions, either as a dog owner, walker, or any job where you work with dogs.

As expensive as it can be, having pet insurance really feels a must these days, with increasing legal cases and veterinary bills.

It was interesting to learn from Rachel, that if you join The Dogs Trust, they provide 3rd party public liability insurance for your dog- up to £1,000,000 per claim, if your dog causes damage or injures another person, their property or pets.


We discussed the many poisons that it is possible for animals to ingest – especially around the house or on walks.

plants that are toxic to dogs-4The obvious stuff I am sure we have all experienced is our own or friends’ dogs eating chocolate (again…I have paid a visit to the emergency vet for this reason!).  I know I must sound like a careless pet owner, but honestly my dogs are super greedy!  All chocolate is safely hidden away in our house now…but at times like Christmas, Easter and Mothers Day…it can be hard to always remember to put things like this well out the way of greedy dogs.

Other foods that can be very toxic to dogs are onions, raw potatoes, grapes (even just one), raisins and generally consuming too much fat…think of those fat balls we give the birds in Winter, sometimes bits break to the floor – and if your dogs are anything like mine, they will consider this a tasty bonus treat.

Cleaning products present a danger in the house, bleach, white spirit, and anything with lots of chemicals in it – like air fresheners, can cause your dog problems if licked or even inhaled.

Obviously in the garden, we need to be aware of dangerous pesticides like slug pellets and rat poison.  In Winter when walking your dogs be mindful of antifreeze (especially in puddles) and road salt which dogs can ingest by licking their feet after roads have been gritted.

Many plants are poisonous to both dogs and cats….daffodil bulbs, tulips, lillies etc – as well as lots of varieties of houseplants. It is worth familiairising yourself with whats in your house and garden to make sure your pets are kept safe.

toxic to dogs

If the worst happens and your pet does eat something it shouldn’t, phone your vets immediately with all the details of what has been swallowed, quanitities, timings and symptoms etc.  Timing is crucial.

In my own experience, I have had cause to use the Animal PoisonLine  a 24 hour service run by Veterinary Poisons Specialists who can advise you whether it is necessary to see a Vet ….potentially saving you an unecessary large expense (especially if out of hours).  I have personal experience of using this service and cant rate it highly enough…we’ve had nothing but excellent service from the staff there.

Animal posionline


Something we sadly see more and more of as the temperatues climb in Summer months, is dogs suffering with heatstroke, often from being over exercised in the heat, or being left in hot cars.  Obviously Braceaphallic breeds are even more susceptible to overheating because of their reduced ability to cool themselves down.

Crufts 2020 - Lily the Pug - Katrina Wilson Dog PhotographyIn either scenario, when dogs are not able to cool down sufficiently by panting their body termpaerature rises and they will go into shock and eventually organ failure.  Again, time is of the essence.


greyhoundEqually dogs can get too cold…especially after being in water.

K9 Aqua Dock Diving - Dog Photographer Bedfordshire-1-4Dogs that have got very wet or cold and are then left in the back of a car have no way of heating themselves up.  If a dog is left for a long time in the cold, it can experience Hypothermia.

Dog in snow


I was aware of Bloat having sadly had friends lose their dogs to this terrifyingly quick and fatal condition.  Although usually associated with deep chested breeds such as Great Danes, German Shepherds etc, all dogs could experience this.

Katrina Wilson Dog Photographer Bedfordshire UKThe risk can be reduced by ensuring that dogs aren’t exercised too soon after eating, and by ensuring they dont gulp down their food too quickly – consider a slow feeding bowl.


Bandaging is the key to ensuring that your pet doesn’t lose significant amounts of blood between the time of their injury and getting them seen by a vet for treatment.  Things like ears and tails in particular can bleed profusely.  Rachel’s dogs were very used to being bandaged and patiently allowed us to practise our skills.


If your dog has clearly broken a bone, you should avoid touching that area as it will be very painful.  Transport your pet as carefully as you can with minimal movement until veterinary treatment can be sought.

The key things I took away from the course is to carry some basic first aid equipment in your bag whilst dog walking, to remain calm (as much as possible) so that you can deal with the situation as best you can, to be mindful that an injured animal may be disorientated and may bite you, and to have your emergency numbers on your phone ready to call for help if needed, or the phone ahead for the vets.

PitPat lifestyle outdoor -402If you are a pet owner or work with animals in any way, I would highly recommend attending a First Aid course.  Rachel’s is excellent!

Dog First Aid


In addition to all the knowledge we gained on the course, we also held a raffle and raised extra money for Street Paws, a Charity which Rachel is the Trustee for and treats homeless dogs on the streets of Manchester. A very worthwhile charity and a great day for all of us to learn so much from Rachel.


It was a bonus that I won a whole box of delicious cupcakes in the raffle, from the amazing Cor-Blimey Cake Company!

I hope that some of these useful snippets of information serve you well too, and inspire those amongst you who havent done a Canine First Aid course to book one as soon as you can!



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