First Aid for Your Pet

If your pet is ever injured, your quick action can make a lifesaving difference. Of course, first aid is only the first step; the goal is to get your pet to a veterinarian as quickly as possible. Putting the phone number of your veterinarian and the nearest veterinary emergency center in speed dial on your phone can save crucial minutes.

Obviously, we can only give very general guidelines here. In an emergency, you will need to use your own good judgment and seek your veterinarian’s advice.

When your pet is injured, the first order of business is to move your pet away from any immediate danger while ensuring your own safety. Then call your veterinarian or emergency clinic. Letting the clinic know that you are on the way and what to expect enables them to be ready for your pet.

Protecting Yourself

Even the gentlest pet can bite or scratch their favorite person when the animal is injured or frightened. Muzzling your dog is the safest way to ensure that your dog cannot bite and will be able to get needed help quickly. You can create a muzzle with a strip of cloth, necktie, or nylon stocking. Wrap it around the nose and under the chin and then tie it behind the ears. Do not muzzle a dog that is vomiting. Once the dog has been moved, you can loosen or remove the muzzle.

Cats and small pets are best handled by wrapping them in a towel or placing a towel over their head temporarily. Be sure that your pet is able to breathe.

Transporting an Injured Animal

If an animal has sustained trauma, such as a car accident, you can help prevent further injury by minimizing movement of an animal’s body. Gently lay your pet on a flat surface for support. A board or similar flat surface or a rug or blanket held taught by two people, can function as a makeshift stretcher.

A carrier may be workable for a smaller animal. Taking the top off to put the pet inside and then replacing the top can minimize movement for the injured animal.

Fractures or Dislocations

If your pet is holding a limb in an unnatural way, this may indicate a fracture. During transport to the clinic, try to move or handle the animal as little as possible. Don’t try to apply a splint since it will most often only inflict greater pain.

Bleeding Wounds

If a wound is bleeding profusely, apply firm pressure to the area with a clean cotton cloth to slow the bleeding. Do not use a tourniquet. If it bleeds through the fabric, apply more cloth over the pad rather than removing it. Meanwhile, arrange transport to your veterinarian. If you are alone, you can tie the compress in place. It should be snug, but not cut off circulation. Waste no time getting your pet to the veterinarian. A wound does not need to be large to become infected so it is best to seek care even if the wound stops bleeding quickly.

An animal that is bleeding from their nose, mouth, or rectum may be bleeding internally. Pale gums, weakness and collapse are other symptoms of internal bleeding. Keep the animal warm and rush to a veterinarian.

Shock. Shock can accompany injuries. An animal in shock will be weak, have pale gums and rapid breathing. Keep the animal warm and get to a vet clinic right away.

Poisoning. Products that are harmful for people to consume are also harmful for pets, but sometimes pets can also be sensitive to other substances. Symptoms of poisoning may include weakness, vomiting, convulsions, difficulty breathing, or loss of consciousness. Telephone your veterinarian immediately, or if you know what your pet has consumed, you can call the Animal Poison Control Center hotline (888-426-4435) that is available around the clock, 365 days a year (there is a fee for the consultation). Treatment depends on the substance, so keep the product label at hand.

Collect any material your pet may have vomited or chewed in a plastic sealable bag, this may help your veterinarian determine what was consumed. If poisoning is detected soon enough it may be possible for your veterinarian to eliminate the poison before serious harm occurs.

If your pet’s skin or eyes are exposed to a toxic product, check the label for the instructions for human exposure and follow those instructions. Call your veterinarian immediately as further treatment may be needed.


Move the pet away from furniture or anything that could harm them during the seizure. You can use a blanket for padding, but do not restrain the pet during the seizure. Time the seizure; they usually do not exceed three minutes. Afterwards, keep the animal calm and call your veterinarian immediately.


If your pet is having difficulty breathing, pawing at the mouth, blue lips or tongue, you need to act quickly. Be aware that your pet may be frightened and more likely to bite. If your pet can still breathe, get them to a veterinarian as quickly as possible.

If your pet cannot breathe, look into their mouth to see if the object is visible in the throat and can be removed with your fingers, tweezers, or pliers. Take care not to push it farther down the throat. If it is lodged too deeply or if the pet collapses, 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 using the palm of your hand, strike the side of the rib cage firmly three or four times. If you can force air up from the lungs, you may be able to expel the object. Keep trying until the object is dislodged or you arrive at the veterinarian’s office.


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