First Aid

Owners that have a basic knowledge of pet first aid are better able to give their pet a fighting chance in an emergency. Basic first aid skills can help keep your pet alive, alleviate pain and suffering and prevent further harm when transporting the animal to the veterinarian or hospital.

Don’t panic! Protect yourself from injury – prepare in advance!

When faced with an injured or severely ill pet, take a moment and assess the situation. Decide if there is danger of further injury to the animal or first aid giver. Ensure that you will not be injured, either by the surroundings or the animal. Determine if the pet needs to be moved immediately. How you approach an injured pet safely is important. Animals may respond to pain and fear instinctively and react with aggression. You cannot assume a docile pet will not bite. Try to remain calm and speak in a soothing voice. Towels may be used to cover the pet’s head to make him feel safer while you transport him. When appropriate or required to avoid bites, handmade muzzles may be used, use a strip of soft cloth, rope, necktie or stocking. Wrap around the nose, under the chin and tie behind the ears – make sure the animal is able to pant) are helpful in avoiding bites. Prepare in advance by familiarizing yourself with the location and phone numbers of emergency animal care facilities.

Have an Animal First Aid Kit on hand

These can be bought, or make your own and include:

  • Pet first aid manual
  • Roll cotton
  • Cotton balls/gauze pads
  • 1″ white tape
  • Elastic bandage wrap
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Antibiotic ointment/wipes
  • Scissors
  • Eyewash/eye ointment
  • Silver nitrate
  • Ear swabs
  • Tweezers
  • Oral syringes
  • Balanced electrolyte fluid
  • Plastic gloves
  • Pet thermometer
  • Instant ice pack
  • Muzzle

**check expiry dates on all medications to ensure efficacy

Basic First Aid Procedures

All of the following situations require immediate veterinary care:


  • Muzzle animal if required
  • Wash your hands thoroughly, if possible
  • With blunt point scissors, gently clip hair from margins of wound
  • Clean the wound with a gentle stream of cold water
  • Apply antibacterial cream or solution
  • Wrap large wounds to keep them clean. Apply pressure to profusely bleeding wounds
  • See your vet as the wound may become infected and require antibiotics

Bleeding (external)

  • Apply firm direct pressure to areas with a thick gauze pad until bleeding stops

Bleeding (internal)

  • Symptoms include bleeding from the nose, mouth, rectum, coughing blood, blood in urine, pale gums, collapse, rapid or weak pulse
  • Keep animal as warm and as quiet as possible


  • Symptoms include weak pulse, shallow breathing, nervousness, dazed appearance
  • Often accompanies severe injury or extreme fright
  • Keep animal restrained, quiet and warm
  • If unconscious, keep head level with the rest of body

Burns (chemical)

  • Muzzle animal
  • Flush burn immediately with large quantities of cold water

Burns (severe)

  • Muzzle animal
  • Apply ice water compresses onto burn area
  • Bring to the veterinarian


  • Signs of choking include pawing at the mouth, gagging, drooling, difficulty breathing
  • Force mouth open, pull tongue forward and inspect mouth and throat
  • If pet is cooperative and the object can be seen, grasp with pliers and remove
  • Small dogs and cats: If the object is lodged hold the animal with its head down and hind quarters elevated and give 3-4 sharp taps to the chest
  • Large dogs: Stand over the dog with arms around the body, just behind the last ribs. Make a fist with other hand and exert a quick, forward and upward thrust. Repeat.
  • Give mouth to nose respiration

Mouth to nose respiration

  • Clear mouth of any foreign object or vomit
  • Clamp animal’s muzzle closed with hands
  • Exhale into animal’s nose at a rate of 12-15 breaths per minute
  • Combine with cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)

  • Lay animal on its side on a flat surface
  • Hold muzzle with one hand and begin mouth to nose respiration
  • Place heel of other hand on the chest wall behind the shoulder to apply cardiac massage
  • Compress chest wall rhythmically at 60-80 times a minute
  • For small dogs and cats, place fingers under the chest wall. Place thumb over the chest and compress chest from both sides


  • Symptoms include pain, limb at an odd angle or inability to use a limb
  • Muzzle pet and look for bleeding, if you can control bleeding without causing further injury do so
  • Do NOT try to set the fracture by pulling or tugging at limb
  • Transport to the veterinarian immediately, supporting the injured part as best you can


  • Symptoms include convulsions, diarrhea, salivation, weakness, depression pain
  • Record what the pet ingested and how much
  • Call your veterinarian or poison control center
  • Do not try to induce vomiting
  • If toxins are on the skin coat, ask for directions on if and how to wash them off


  • Symptoms include rapid or laboured breathing, vomiting, high body temperature, collapse
  • Place animal in a tub of cool water, or gently wrap in a cool wet towel
  • Do not overcool animal. Stop when rectal temperature reaches 103F
  • Call your veterinarian

These situations may not require immediate veterinarian care, but it is best to consult your doctor to be sure:


  • Withhold food for 12-14 hours
  • Then slowly increase the amount of water and foods given over a 24 hour period
  • Call your veterinarian


  • Withhold food for 12-14 hours, but not water
  • At home treatments can make things worse – consult your veterinarian

Be safe, not sorry

Responsible pet owners keep their pets from harm by keeping them close at all times while outdoors, removing dangerous substances from their reach in the home, keeping all medical files and vaccines up-to-date and ensuring pets are clearly identified. It is also beneficial in an emergency situation if your pet is healthy and happy, so make sure they get a nutritional diet, plenty of exercise and of course, lots of love.