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How To Safely Rescue A Lost Or Injured Dog

Updated on November 23, 2014
SheilaSchnauzies profile image

SheilaSchnauzies is a Miniature Schnauzer rescuer, writer, crochet designer, gardener, crafter, wife, mom & friend living in Omaha, NE.

A Lost Or Injured Dog Has Found You... Now What?

It was near midnight on a Friday night and a thunderstorm was raging outside our farm in southeast Missouri. Between crashes of thunder, my son and I heard a scratching sound at our front door. Thinking it was one of our frequent possum or raccoon visitors, John went to the door to scare off the intruder. To our shock, when he opened the door, a very wet walking skeleton covered with fur resembling a Bassett Hound stepped into our living room!

This dog was obviously very weak, exhausted, freezing, and emaciated from starvation. On closer inspection, I found that she was also crawling with hundreds of fleas and countless dozens of ticks attached to her. Without some immediate attention, this dog was going to die very soon. Sissy, as we later named her, had been lucky enough to walk into the right house... that of a dog rescue called Sheila's Schnauzies Miniature Schnauzer Rescue & Sanctuary. (If there is a stray dog within 50 miles, it will find me!) We knew what to do and immediately sprang into action to save her life.

Would you know what to do in this situation? After reading the information in this article, you will be prepared to handle dog emergencies like this one and many others in a calm and prepared manner.

"If you want to take the dog back home with you while it is treated by the vet, you are basically accepting the financial responsibility for the treatment of the dog. Discuss all expected treatment plans fully with the vet before it is done and make financial arrangements in advance."

The Supplies You Need On Amazon - My Hand Picks!

If you want to be prepared for a dog rescue situation, these are the most important items you will need to have on hand.

You'll need a muzzle for small and large dogs in the event you encounter an aggressive dog, to protect yourself and other animals in your home.

You need a strong leash that isn't ever going to break. I recommend 4 feet for better control, and leather for durability.

The bandaging tape is self-stick and you can fix virtually anything with it. You can stop bleeding, wrap around a stick for a splint, attach a gauze bandage securely, and lots more. The more you have on hand, the better.

Finally, be prepared to kill fleas and ticks! Frontline will kill them instantly and keep the eggs from hatching. It's a bit more expensive but it actually works and that makes it worth it to me.

Keep A Sturdy Leash In Your Car!

If you can't control Fido, you can't help him. I always keep a couple sturdy leashes in my car trunk for such doggie emergencies.

Sugar Pup Has Her First Outing In The Grass!

Isn't she precious!!
Isn't she precious!!

Whatever You Do, Don't Get Bitten!

Keeping a muzzle handy for strange dogs is a must if you want to do rescue. Ideally you'd have three sizes... but one medium size is good to start with. You can always make an emergency muzzle out of an extra leash, a handkerchief, scarf, or an old t-shirt by creative wrapping on the doggie's face.

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In 3 Weeks, Sissy Presented Us With Seven Beautiful Puppies!

Rescue One Til There Are None!

Kill Those Bugs!

A bottle of Frontline spray is great to keep around for killing those pesky fleas and ticks!

Sissy And Her Pups!

Sissy And Her Pups!
Sissy And Her Pups!

Amazing Dog Rescues On YouTube

Sissy Became A Happy, Healthy Dog!

Sissy Became A Happy, Healthy Dog!
Sissy Became A Happy, Healthy Dog!

Rescue Basics

Here is the basic information you need to be aware of when you are attempting to rescue a dog from a bad situation. This assumes that you are rescuing the animal from a public place - like a street, a park, a lake, a highway - and that no apparent owner is nearby. Every reasonable effort should always be made to find the dog's owner. The best thing to do is to contact your local animal shelter and report that you have found the dog, giving them a description and any collar/tag info available. All shelters and vets should scan the dog for microchips at no charge to see if they have one containing their owner's info.

Do NOT endanger yourself or others in an attempt to rescue a dog! If the situation is too dangerous, call 911.

  • Approach the animal calmly with your lead in hand down at your side, speaking in a low friendly voice. If the dog is wagging his tail and comes to you, awesome! If not, try turning in the opposite direction and walking a few steps to see if the dog will follow you. Don't chase the dog! Offer your hand slowly to the dog to see if he will sniff it, try to bring your hand up from under and scratch his ears. Don't pat the dog on the head. Quickly snap the lead on the collar if there is one. If not, make a loop in the lead and slip it over the dog's head.
  • If the animal has severe bleeding or other apparent injuries that you cannot manage, take it to the nearest veterinary clinic or animal emergency clinic. Tell them the situation, that you have just rescued the dog. If you want to leave the dog with them, ask their policy. They may direct you to a different facility. If you want to take the dog back home with you while it is treated, you are basically accepting the financial responsibility for the treatment of the dog. Discuss all expected treatment plans fully with the vet before it is done and make financial arrangements in advance.
  • Let's talk about Sissy's situation. First priority is removing the parasites from the dog because they are literally sucking her blood and making her anemic. You can check to see if a dog is anemic by looking at their gums. Are they healthy and bright pink, or are they pale pink or white? So Sissy's first priority was a bath followed by flea spray and pulling the ticks by hand, one by one.

    Sissy was dehydrated so water, lots of it, was a priority. She was emaciated at a very severe level, you could feel the bones in her head and butt completely. When a dog is this severely starved, you want to start refeeding very slowly because they can't handle a lot of food at one time. I had dry dog food on hand and I soaked it down pretty thoroughly with warm water, feeding her in frequent but small quantities. She devoured every bite offered and always wanted more!

    After closer inspection, it became apparent that Sissy had produced puppies before since she had enlarged nipples. After about two weeks of refeeding Sissy, she wasn't gaining enough weight fast enough and her nipples appeared to be getting larger, so I took her in to the vet. Yup, sure enough, Sissy was pregnant! So now we had a real challenge of getting puppies to survive in a starved mother. The vet gave the all-clear to feed her all she would eat, and eat she did! She ate us out of house and home for another few weeks. Although she looked healthier, she never really gained much weight. She delivered seven beautiful, perfectly healthy puppies and nursed them all successfully to healthy puppyhood until they were weaned. Once free of the puppies' demands, Sissy finally gained all the weight she needed to and became the gorgeous purebred Bassett Hound we knew she had in her.

  • If you want to rescue a dog from a critical situation - for example, it is lost and wandering but you don't want to take it home – there is help available! Here is where you need to be a little careful. Many public animal shelters are what we call "kill shelters." They will hold animals for a period of time, then euthanize them. You don't want this fate for your rescue dog!
  • There are hundreds, if not thousands, of public and private rescue organizations in the United States and worldwide who are willing to help. The best way to find them, in my opinion, is to go to the Internet. The easiest place to start is to go to and search for a dog type similar to the one you have rescued. Let's say you have rescued a Poodle. Go to Petfinder and search for a Poodle in your zip code area. All of the rescue Poodles in your area will show up. How does that help you? Click on one of the Poodles. The rescue who has the Poodle will be listed with contact information right there on the dog's listing. And voila! There's your help. Contact the listed rescue and if for some reason they can't help you, they will tell you who can.

A Word About Vets & Financial Responsibility

If you take a lost dog to a vet for care, you are assuming financial responsibility for the bills unless the vet agrees to assume the responsibility.

I admit, little Brownie was my favorite! I hated to see him go!
I admit, little Brownie was my favorite! I hated to see him go!

Sissy (and her 7 pups!) were my hardest rescue in terms of time and hard work. But the reward of seeing Sissy and each beautiful puppy getting a loving forever home in the end made it all worth it!

All photos and illustrations on this lens are by SheilaSchnauzies except as otherwise indicated.

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    • poldepc lm profile image

      poldepc lm 4 years ago

      thanks for sharing...great work...

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 4 years ago from Colorado

      Bravo! As an animal rescue volunteer, it is heartwarming to read of this rescue. Beautifully handled. We've had a few dogs arrive at the shelter this winter who were later found to be pregnant. It's so hard when the mother is starving right before birth. They come in so skinny and can't seem to put on much weight until the pups are weaned. All of their nutrition is going to the babies (and they have no reserve of fat to draw upon).

    • MissKeenReviewer profile image

      MissKeenReviewer 4 years ago

      This is a fscinating story-great lens. I am passionate about rescuing animals and hope one day I won't see any strays on the streets. Thanks for sharing and God bless you!