Accidents happen. You can’t predict them, but as a pet parent you can prepare for an emergency with your dog or cat. If you’re prepared you may be able to avert a serious crisis.
How can a pet parent prepare for an injury or illness? There are some basic first aid steps a pet parent can employ until you get your pet to the veterinarian for proper emergency care.
The basic principle of being able to address an emergency situation is to always be prepared. Make a dog and cat first aid kit and have it in an area is easy to get to when you need it. It might make sense to have the pet first aid kit close to the pet carrier – that way if you need to put your dog or cat in a carrier, the first aid kit is nearby.
If you have multiple animals in the household, you may want to have multiple pet first aid kits. Keep first aid kits in the house, in the car and in your emergency go-bag. Check our recent article on pet first aid kits to see what should be in yours.
Basic pet first aid
In all of these situations, you need to be calling your veterinarian or have a friend call so you can let your vet know what’s going on and he can offer advice during the emergency.
Be calm. We know it’s not easy to be calm in the face of an emergency, but your pet will pick up on your anxiety and that will make him more nervous. Take some calming breaths, assess the situation and begin the emergency care. Talk in a calm, soothing voice and this will help your pet relax.
Resist the urge to immediately pick your pet up as you may cause further injury. Try to get a blanket or a backboard under him to move him out of further harm’s way (if he is in the road, for example) so you don’t further injure him.
Be prepared. Even the most docile of cat or dog can bite when he’s hurt or scared. Keep your face away from his mouth. You may even need to restrain him or cover his head with a blanket to try and calm him down so you can fully assess the injury and comfort him. Is your pet bleeding? Is he breathing? Is he crying in pain?
Grab your pet first aid kit and start caring for your pet. If he’s bleeding, grab gauze and apply gentle pressure. If he stepped on a bee or has a burr stuck in his fur or pads of his paw, grab your tweezers and gently remove it. Keep a blanket and even a muzzle in the first aid kit so you’re not trying to find these items in the midst of a crisis.
Call your vet. This should be one of the first calls you make!
Here are pet injury and illness situations you may face and how to address them until you get to the veterinarian.
A broken bone
- You may need to muzzle him to prevent a bite
- Lay your pet on a flat surface
- If you’re transporting him to the veterinarian, move him as little as possible – use a blanket or better yet, a board, to support him
- You may want to stabilize the broken bone with a homemade splint, but keep in mind if you put it on too tightly you may cause more harm than good.
- Keep your pet away from any object that may cause him harm
- Don’t attempt to restrain him
- Time the seizure. They typically last two to three minutes and while that is a frighteningly long time you need to tell the vet how long it lasted
- After the seizure has passed, keep your pet as warm and calm as possible
- Get him to the veterinarian
- You may need to muzzle your pet to prevent a bite
- Press a clean, sterile gauze over the wound
- Gently apply pressure
- It may take several minutes for the blood to clot. Apply pressure until this happens
- If the bleeding is on the legs and is severe, your vet may tell you to apply a tourniquet to slow the bleeding.
- Get your pet immediately to a vet
- If your pet is bleeding from the mouth, nose, rectum, is coughing up blood, has collapsed or has blood in his urine it could be internal bleeding
- Keep your pet warm and calm
- Get him immediately to a veterinarian
- To tell if your pet is choking she will have difficulty breathing and may be pawing at her mouth. Her lips may be blue-tinged.
- A choking pet is more likely to bite because he’s panicking
- If your pet can still breath, immediately take him to the vet
- If possible, look in his mouth to see if you see a foreign object. If you do, gently try to remove it. Be careful that you don’t push the object further into his throat. Don’t spend a lot of time in removal, get to the vets!
- If your pet collapses, place both hands on his rib cage and apply a firm, quick pressure to see if you can dislodge the item. Repeat until you get to the vet’s office or until the object is dislodged
- This is the time of year (summer) when people seem to lose common sense and leave their dog or cat in the car. NEVER leave your pet in a car – regardless of the weather. This is the BEST advice we can offer! The temperature in a car on even a warm and overcast day can quickly rise to dangerous levels. Pets can easily and quickly succumb to heatstroke.
- If your pet suffers heat stroke (and this can happen when you’re on a walk, on the beach or on a picnic) get him to a cool, shaded area.
- Immediately call your veterinarian
- Place a cool or cold wet towel around his neck and head. Do not cover your pet’s eyes or mouth or nose. Re-wet and rewrap the towel every few minutes to cool your dog.
- Use your hands to rub cool water on your dog’s body, especially his belly and between his hind legs.
Please remember, these basic first aid tips are not intended to be a substitute for emergency veterinary care. These tips are intended to help you keep your pet stabilized until you reach the veterinarian’s office.
April is Pet First Aid Month and in celebration of keeping our pets safe, we will be giving away a free Pet First Aid kit to the first 100 people who place orders this month.