Pet First Aid

We always take for granted the things most dear to us. But when you are either out at the lake, dog-park, or just playing in the backyard with your beloved pet, disaster can strike. An insect sting, a fight with another dog, or heat stroke; knowing what to do in a case of emergency can be a matter of life and death. In an emergency, first aid is not a substitute for veterinary treatment. However, if you are unable to get your pet to a veterinarian, knowing basic first aid could save your pet's life. Always seek veterinary care following first aid attempts.

Don't Panic: Remaining calm in the face of disaster is the best asset you can have when trying to help your pet. A soothing voice and a calm demeanor are the best method for helping your pet stay calm.

Be Prepared: Read pet first aid books and attend educational events designed to provide first aid training. The Red Cross provides excellent CPR and first aid classes. Or call your local veterinary association to check what first aid classes they provide to the public.

Emergencies most likely to be encountered
(according to the American Animal Hospital Association)

Bite Wounds Approach the pet carefully to avoid getting bitten. Muzzle the animal. Clean the wound with large amounts of water and then treat with hydrogen peroxide or another antiseptic. Wrap large open wounds to keep them clean. Apply pressure to profusely bleeding wounds. Saliva has a high concentration of bacteria and bite wounds often become infected and need professional care requiring antibiotics. If the wound does not seem to be healing, contact a veterinarian.
Bleeding Apply firm direct pressure to areas until bleeding stops. Avoid bandages that cut off circulation. For nails, use a coagulant (styptic powder is the best, but cornstarch or white enriched flour will also work). If bleeding persists, transport to a veterinarian.
(pet stops breathing)
Check to see if the animal is choking on a foreign object (see CHOKING). If an object is removed from the throat and the animal still is not breathing, place the animal with its right side down. Close the animal's mouth and exhale directly into the nose, not the mouth, until the chest expands. Cover the nose with a handkerchief or a thin cloth if preferred. Depending on the size of your pet, exhale 6 times per minute for a large dog to 12 times per minute for the smallest dog or cat. Check for a pulse, if there is not one, then, at the same time, apply heart massage with the other hand. The heart is located in the lower half of the chest behind the elbow of the front left leg. Place hand over the heart and compress the chest one to two inches for large animals or one inch for small animals. Give 5 quick compressions if you have an assistant, if alone give 10 to 12 compressions. Use caution, excessive pressure can fracture ribs. Call a veterinarian immediately.
Burns First determine severity. 1st Degree: redness/discoloration, mild swelling, pain. 2nd Degree: red/mottled, blisters, swelling, pain, skin appears wet. 3rd Degree: deep tissue destruction, skin white/charred, no pain. For 1st and 2nd degree burns, flush area immediately with large amounts of cold water, apply ice pack 15 - 20 minutes. If 2nd degree burn, observe for shock (See Shock). For a 3rd degree burn, do not touch or cough over burned area, observe for breathing and shock. In all cases, transport immediately to a veterinarian.
Choking Symptoms are difficulty breathing, excessive pawing at mouth, blue lips and tongue. Look into the mouth to see if foreign object in throat is visible. Clear the airway by moving the object with pliers or tweezers, being careful not to push it farther down the throat. If the object remains lodged, perform the Heimlick Maneuver by placing 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 3 or 4 times. Repeat this procedure until the object is dislodged. Call a veterinarian immediately. (See BREATHING).
Diarrhea Withhold food for 12 - 24 hours. Give ice cubes only. Call Veterinarian.
Foreign Objects Imbedded Porcupine quills: Sharp, hollow shafts. Quills cannot be pulled out without anesthesia. Call Veterinarian. Foxtails: A barbed seed sometimes visible in the eye, nose, mouth, throat or skin causing severe irritation. Foxtails are usually too deep to remove without general anesthetic. Call Veterinarian.
Fractures Muzzle animal and control bleeding (See Muzzle in First Aid Kt). Watch for signs of shock. Do not try to reset the fracture. Transport to vet immediately using a stretcher ( See Stretcher in First Aid Kit). Try to keep animal warm, quiet, and comfortable.
Heat Stroke Symptoms are usually in conjunction with extreme heat exposure and include rapid or difficult breathing, vomiting, high body temperature, collapse, and even death. Lower body temperature slowly by rinsing with cool water or wrapping in a cool wet towel. Take caution not to lower temperature too fast as it could result in hypothermia (low body temperature) or possible shock (See Shock). Call Veterinarian immediately.
Insect Bites Symptoms are the onset of swelling, itching and pain within one hour of bite. Remove stinger and apply cold packs. If isolated from veterinary care, a topical cortisone or an anti-inflammatory ointment can be rubbed on area of bite. A previously prescribed antihistamine to your pet may be given orally. Call veterinarian.
Poisoning Symptoms are vomiting, convulsions, diarrhea, salivation, weakness, depression, pain, collapse, death. Write down what and amount the pet ingested. Call veterinarian and poison control immediately. Do not induce vomiting or treatment without direction from a Veterinarian. In case of poisoning on the skin/coat from oils, paints, chemicals, wash the animal with mild soap and rinse well.
Seizures Symptoms are salivation, disorientation, loss of control of urine or stool, violent muscle twitching, loss of consciousness. Move pet away from any objects that could be harmful. Use a blanket for padding and protection. Do not put yourself at risk by restraining the animal during the seizure. Time the seizure. They usually last only 2-3 minutes. Call Veterinarian. If the animal has multiple or prolonged seizures, transport to veterinarian immediately.
Shock Symptoms are irregular breathing, dilated pupils and white gums. May occur with serious injury or fright. Keep animal gently restrained, quiet, and warm with head elevated. Call veterinarian.
(poisonous and nonpoisonous)
Symptoms are rapid swelling, skin puncture, pain, weakness, and shock. Stop all exercise to prevent spread of venom. Clean area. Many poisons damage nerves or body tissue on contact. Rush to veterinarian.
Vomiting Withhold food for 12-24 hours. To prevent contagion, isolate pet from other pets. If vomiting is severe, dehydration could occur so give ice cubes and call you veterinarian immediately.

The First Aid Kit

Be equipped for an emergency: By owning or carrying a first aid kit with you on your outings, it can only increase the chances of a successful recovery from disaster. Your First Aid kit should include:

  • First Aid Book
  • Adhesive Tape - 1 inch roll
  • Cotton-Tipped Applicators
  • Eyedropper plastic)
  • Furacin Ointment
  • Gauze Pads - 3X3 inch
  • Gauze Pads - 3 inch
  • Hemostat 9 (curved or straight)
  • Instant Cold/Hot Packs
  • Non-stick Sterile Pads
  • Panalog Cream
  • Band - aids
  • Scalpel & Scissors
  • Antiseptic Wipes
  • "Tamed" Iodine (or other antiseptic)
  • Thermometer (plastic)
  • Tweezers or forceps
  • Petroleum Jelly (not carbolated)
  • Clotisol (veterinary blood clotting cream)
  • Tongue Depressors
  • Veterinary Self Stick Wrap
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Muzzle - Use a strip of soft cloth, rope, necktie or nylon stocking. Wrap around the nose, under the chin and tie behind the ears. Care must be taken when handling stressed or injured animals. Even normally docile dogs may bite. Once the muzzle is on, make sure the animal is able to pant. Do not use muzzle in case of vomiting. Cats and small pets may be difficult to muzzle. A towel placed around the head will help control small pets.
  • Stretcher - A door, board, blanket, towel, floor mat, etc. can be used as a stretcher to transport injured or weak animals.
  • Veterinarian phone numbers and emergency veterinarian numbers

Remember, knowing first aid and having a first aid kit should never give you the excuse to not take your pet to your veterinarian. If your precious pet is injured, a certified veterinarian should be notified in case there is anything overlooked by you, a caring and loving pet owner. You should always keep the pet's best interest in mind by keeping up with vaccinations, proper diet and exercise, and of course, plenty of love.



Copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005
Pam Lauritzen & Company, All Rights Reserved
Promoting Education and Higher Standards in the Pet Styling Industry
Last Update: August 23, 2004