Pet First Aid
Before an emergency strikes, be sure you know how your veterinarian handles emergencies or where you should go if you have one. Always seek veterinary care following first-aid attempts.
Approach the pet carefully to avoid getting bitten. Muzzle the animal. Check the wound for contamination or debris. If significant debris is present, clean the wound with large amounts of saline or balanced electrolyte solution. If these are not available, then regular water may be used. Wrap large open wounds to keep them clean. Apply pressure to profusely bleeding wounds. Do not use a tourniquet. Wear gloves when possible. Bite wounds often become infected and need professional care. Call your veterinarian.
Apply firm, direct pressure over the bleeding area until the bleeding stops. Hold the pressure for at least 10 minutes (continually releasing the pressure to check the wound will hamper the clotting). Avoid bandages that cut off circulation. Call your veterinarian immediately.
Check to see if the animal is choking on a foreign object. If an animal is not breathing, place it on a firm surface with its left side up. Check for a heartbeat by listening at the area where the elbow touches the chest. If you hear a heartbeat but not breathing, close the animal’s mouth and breath directly into its nose–not the mouth–until the chest expands. Repeat 12 -15 times per minute. If there is no pulse, apply heart massage at the same time. The heart is located in the lower half of the chest, behind the elbow of the front left leg. Place one hand below the heart to support the chest. Place other hand over the heart and compress gently. To massage the hearts of cats and other tiny pets, compress the chest with the thumb and forefingers of one hand. Apply heart massage 80 – 120 times per minute for larger animals and 100 – 150 per minute for smaller ones. Alternate heart massage with breathing. Please note: Even in the hands of well-trained veterinary health professionals, the success of resuscitation is very low overall. Success may be slightly higher in the cases of drowning or electrical shock. Call your veterinarian immediately.
Symptoms: singed hair, blistering, swelling, redness of skin
Flush the burn immediately with large amounts of cool, running water. Apply an ice pack for 15 – 20 minutes. Do not place an ice pack directly on the skin. Wrap the pack in a light towel or other cover. If the animal has large quantities of dry chemicals on its skin, brush them off. Water may activate some dry chemicals. Call your veterinarian immediately.
Symptoms: difficulty breathing, excessive pawing at the mouth, blue lips and tongue
Be sure to protect yourself as well as the animal, as the pet will likely be frantic and may be more likely to bite. If the pet can still partially breathe, it’s best to keep the animal calm and get to a veterinarian as quickly as possible. Look into the mouth to see if foreign object in throat is visible. If you can, clear the airway by removing the object with pliers or tweezers, being careful not to push it farther down the throat. If it is lodged too deep or if the pet collapses, then place your hands on both sides of the animal’s rib cage and apply firm, quick pressure. Or place the animal on its side and strike the side of the rib cage firmly with the palm of your hand three or four times. Repeat this procedure until the object is dislodged or you arrive at the veterinarian’s office. Call your veterinarian immediately.
Withhold food for 12 – 24 hours, but not water. Sometimes pets that appear to be straining are sore from diarrhea rather than from constipation. Your veterinarian can help you decide which it is and what will help. Trying at-home treatments without knowing the real cause can just make things worse. Call your veterinarian.
Symptoms: Pain, inability to use a limb, or limb at odd angle
Muzzle the pet and look for bleeding. If you can control bleeding without causing more injury, then do so. Watch for signs of shock. Do not try to set the fracture by pulling or tugging on the limb. Transport the pet to the veterinarian immediately, supporting the injured part as best you can.
Symptoms: Rapid or labored breathing, vomiting, high body temperature, collapse
Place the animal in a tub of cool water. Or, gently soak the animal with a garden hose or wrap it in a cool, wet towel. Do not over cool the animal. Stop cooling when rectal temperature reaches 103° Fahrenheit. Call veterinarian immediately.
Symptoms: vomiting, convulsions, diarrhea, salivation, weakness, depression, pain
Record what the pet ingested and how much. Immediately call your veterinarian or poison control center. Do not induce vomiting. In case of toxins or chemicals on the skin from oils, paints, insecticides and other contact irritants, request directions on if and how to wash the toxin off.
The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Hotline is available for animal poison-related emergencies, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If you think your pet may have ingested potentially poisonous substance, call 888.426.4435.
Here’s a list of poisonous plants, foods and household products.
Symptoms: salivation, loss of control of urine or stool, violent muscle twitching, loss of consciousness
Move the pet away from any objects that could be harmful during the seizure. Use a blanket for padding and protection. Do not put yourself at risk by restraining the pet during the seizure. Time the seizure. They usually last only two to three minutes. Afterwards, keep the animal calm and quiet. Call your veterinarian immediately.
Symptoms: irregular breathing, dilated pupils
Shock may occur as a result of a serious injury or fright. Keep the animal gently restrained, quiet, and warm, with the lower body elevated. Call your veterinarian immediately.
Treatment/Action: Withhold food for 12 – 24 hours. Give the pet ice cubes for two hours after vomiting stops, then slowly increase the amount of water and foods given over a 24-hour period. Call your veterinarian.