Medical Emergency: How To Control Bleeding

(Picture Credit: Getty Images)

(Picture Credit: Getty Images)

Bleeding can be either external or internal. External bleeding is bleeding coming from a skin wound. This wound is obvious, unlike internal bleeding which is difficult to detect and requires the services of a veterinarian. A blood loss of as little as two teaspoons per pound of body weight is enough to cause a dog to go into shock. Every dog owner should know how to control or stop bleeding, even if it’s just long enough to get the dog to the veterinarian.

External Bleeding

Listed below, in order of preference, are some techniques to stop or control external bleeding in dogs.

Direct Pressure

Place a compress of clean cloth or gauze directly over the wound, applying firm but gentle pressure, and allow it to clot. Do not disturb the clots. If blood soaks through the compress, do not remove it. Instead, place a fresh compress on top of the old one and continue to apply pressure. If there are other injuries that need to be addressed, tie the compress in place with bandages or gauze. If there are no compress materials available, a bare hand or finger will work.

Direct, gentle pressure is the method most preferred for stopping external bleeding.


If a wound on the leg or foot is bleeding severely, gently elevate the leg until the wound is above the heart. This allows gravity to reduce blood pressure near the wound which will slow the bleeding. Elevation works best in bigger dogs with long legs because there is a longer distance between the injury and the heart. Elevation should be used in conjunction with direct pressure with compresses for maximum effectiveness.

Pressure on Artery

If bleeding continues after applying direct pressure and elevation, you will need to apply pressure to the artery supplying blood to the injury. If the injury is on the front leg, apply pressure to the brachial artery inside the upper front leg. If the injury is to a back leg, apply pressure to the femoral artery in the groin and if the injury is to the tail, apply pressure to the caudal artery at the base of the tail. Continue applying direct pressure as you transport the dog to the veterinarian.

Pressure Above and Below Wound

Applying pressure above the wound will help control arterial bleeding and pressure below the wound will help control bleeding from the veins. This should be used in conjunction with direct pressure.


A tourniquet is dangerous and should only be used only if the injury is located on the tail or a leg and the dog would otherwise die. A two inch or wider piece of cloth is wrapped around the limb twice and knotted. A short stick or something similar, such as an ink pen, should also be tied into the knot. Use the stick to tighten the tourniquet until the bleeding stops. Tie the stick to hold it in place and write down the time (this is not a time to rely on your memory). Every twenty minutes release the tourniquet for fifteen or twenty seconds before tying it down again.

A tourniquet should be used only as a last-ditch effort as its use will probably result in either a disability or amputation of the affected limb.

Internal Bleeding

Internal bleeding is not as easy to detect as external bleeding, as all of the bleeding is occurring inside the dog’s body and cannot be seen. You need to check for these visible signs of internal bleeding:

  • The dog’s gums or eyelids are pale.
  • The dog’s legs, ears, or tail feels cool.
  • The dog is exceptionally excited or unusually subdued.

If your dog shows any of these signs, he needs to be taken for professional help immediately. Remember, internal bleeding can not be detected from the outside.

Source: Adapted from the Veterinary Information Network