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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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Head Entrapment

First Aid Condition

First aid health condition




Condition Overview

Cats and kittens have small, round heads that easily slip back out of nooks and crannies as they investigate them. However, dogs and especially puppies, can get their heads stuck in the oddest places because a change in position can make the head too big for the opening.


A pet who is unable to remove their head from an object.


Dogs may stick their heads through chair slats, stairway banisters, wire fences, or even inside glass jars to attempt to eat the contents.


The pet will obviously be unsuccessfully attempting to remove his head from the position.


Head entrapment isn't a medical emergency unless your pet is having trouble breathing, but dogs can become hysterical and hurt themselves trying to escape. It can become a Chinese finger puzzle where the harder you pull, the tighter the trap becomes. In most cases, you will be able to rescue the pup yourself, and first aid can soothe any scraped skin or hurt feelings.

  1. Calm him down - First, calm the dog so that he will stop struggling. Position yourself behind him and gently push his body nearer to the object he is trapped in so that he is no longer strangling himself as he tries to back up. If possible, it's a good idea to have one person stay on the tail side of the pup to control that end while you work from the front to free him.
  2. Protect yourself - If your pet isn't having trouble breathing, its a good idea to muzzle him or otherwise keep him from biting. The person at his head will need to grasp the nose to guide him out of the trap, and the pet may snap out of fear or discomfort.

    For a long-nosed dog, use a long strip of soft cloth, like a leg from panty hose or a standard flat leash. Make a loop around his muzzle and tie a single knot on top of his nose. Then bring the ends under his chin and tie another single knot on top of his nose. Then bring the ends under his chin and tie another single knot. Finally bring the ends behind his ears and tie them in a knot or bow. For short faced breeds like pugs, you can fit a pillowcase over their heads to give them something else to use their teeth on.
  3. Use a lubricant to help slide him out - While the dog is relaxed and not pulling against the trap, use a lubricant like K-Y or petroleum jelly to grease the fur of his neck and especially the crest of his skull (this is the thickest part of the head and usually what holds up the rescue). This will also keep the fence rail or other object from scraping skin as the dogs head comes free.

    While one person holds the back end, the second person should gently grasp the dog's muzzle and turn the head sideways. Dogs skulls are usually more flat from top to bottom and broadest from side to side, so turning the head a bit often helps it slide out with no problem.
If your pet's head is stuck in a glass jar - First, grease the neck of the jar and your pet's fur with K-Y or petroleum jelly. Then wrap the glass in a towel for a good grip and gently pull. Try to extend your pet's head so it is in a straight line with his neck (a typical sniffing position). Usually, the jar isn't stuck passed the ears and will easily slip off. Try only one or two ties to remove the jar. if it doesn't work quickly because it is too tightly stuck or your pet is too agitated, get to the animal hospital so that your pet can be sedated and the jar can be removed more easily.

If you do try to remove a stubborn jar, have a second person hold your dog so that he can't move around. If you can, put some kind of padding, like tissues or a small towel, inside the jar to protect the dogs face and eyes. Then, wearing heavy gloves, use a heavy, blunt object to gently break the glass at the large end of the jar. If the jar breaks but leaves a ring of glass around your pet's neck, you will need to break it to remove it the rest of the way. you should protect yourself by wearing cloth gloves and glasses - sunglasses will work is you have nothing else.

First, cover your dog's eyes to protect them. You can use plastic wrap (Saran Wrap) to cover his muzzle and eyes at the same time - it sticks to itself but will be easy to remove afterward because it won't stick to the fur. Have your helper calm and steady your dog so that he sits very still while you work with the broken jar.

Insert some padding like a folded cloth between the top of the dog's neck and the glass to keep him from getting cut. Then slip something solid, like a metal spoon, between the padding and the glass. Finally, use the heavy metal handle of a table knife or a metal soup ladle to hit the glass sharply right on top of where the spoon is resting. It may take 2 or 3 sharp cracks, but hitting the glass between the 2 pieces of metal should shatter it away from the dogs neck. Again, if this doesn't work after 1 or 2 tries, go to the vet for help.


Keep potential traps out of reach of your curious pets.


Cuts or scrapes should be cleaned with soap and water. you can use an antiseptic liquid soap like Betadine Skin Cleanser.

If there are cuts, you can use an antibiotic ointment 4 times a day to prevent infection and help speed healing. Continue applying the ointment for a week, or until the cuts and scrapes have healed or formed scabs.

Show Sources & Contributors +


The First Aid Companion for Dogs And Cats

Publisher: Rodale Inc, 2001

Website: http://www.rodalebooks.com/

Authors: Amy D. Shojai, Shane Bateman DVM

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