First aid for pets

Would you know what to do if your pet had an accident? This is not an extensive list of dog and cat first aid but it deals with the most common problems you may come across with your pet. Now, I want to say always be cautious when approaching a pet that is in pain. Even the most lovely pets can act out when they are in pain. This acting out can get you injured as they may bite or scratch you. It is vital that you don’t do anything that is going to put yourself in danger. Remember when you see your veterinarian and vet nurse performing procedures they are trained in restraining techniques and know the signs to look out for from injured pets.

First aid for pets – what to do if your dog/cat has an accident or injury




Make sure that your pet is away from danger but do not attempt to put your hand in their mouth. Ensure that they cannot fall or bump things than can fall on them. Keep the room quiet and calm so that when they come around they are not too startled. If you can (you’ll probably be too worried about them) but if you think of it, grab your phone and taken a video of the episode – this will greatly help your vet. If your pet has had seizures before they may have prescribed some valium to have at home to give either orally once they have come around or rectally to be given whilst they are still seizing.

Most seizures are over within 2-3 minutes but if it continues for longer than this you will need to call your closest veterinary hospital and take your pet immediately to the veterinary clinic to be given medication to stop the seizure. If you pet hasn’t had a seizure before it is essential to call your vet and make an appointment.

For dogs who have been diagnosed with epilepsy keep a diary of how often they are having a seizure. I often ask our clients to give us a call to let us know when their dog has had a seizure, how long it lasted, how quickly their pet came around. This way we can see if we need to adjust the mediations.





The first rule of bleeding is to generally apply pressure (provided your pet will tolerate it). Some areas will bleed a little, others will bleed like crazy. This is my little dog Cassie who was bitten on the ear by Jack in a fight over a chicken neck. Being the ear, it bleed like crazy from a tiny little nick. Once the bleeding has stopped and you can check the area look to see the size of the wound. Anything larger than a few millimetres may require stitches and if the wound was caused by another animal it is very likely that they will need some anti-biotics to prevent an abscess forming.

If you need to bathe the area you can use a teaspoon of salt diluted in a cup of water. NEVER use human antiseptics such as Dettol as they are far too harsh on your pet’s skin. Human skin is more acidic than dog or cat skin so preparations made for humans will often burn or irritate your pet’s skin.

For any serious large lacerations or wounds – apply pressure and get to the closest vet as soon as possible.



Apply pressure to wounds




If you notice that your pet is limping you will need to rest them immediately even if they are still wanting to run, there is generally a good reason they have gone from running around on four legs to running around on three. Some dogs won’t rest even when they are injured so you’ll need to help encourage them to rest.

Limping can be for a number of reasons – injuries to ligaments (e.g. cruciate ligaments), torn nails, lacerations to foot pads, dermatitis between the toes, muscle strain/sprain, flare up of arthritis and the list goes on.

For acute injuries you can also ice the area (however that requires you to know which area is injured and requires ice). Never put ice in direct contact with the skin, as you would for a human make sure that you wrap the icepack in a tea towel or similar. If you pet does not like the ice then do not continue to apply it.


Mana has a sore leg & is getting it iced by her mum.
Mana has a sore leg & is getting it iced by her mum.


Ingesting poison/toxin/medication:


There is nothing that you can do at home. Get on the phone, call your vet and take your pet straight in. Sometimes all they need is to induce vomiting to prevent your pet from becoming very ill. Be sure to take the packaging of the poison/toxin that your pet ingested into the vet with your pet so that the appropriate treatment can be administered.

Note: I know that some vets, vet nurses and vet techs will recommend inducing vomiting at home but I am not one of them. I have seen down side of this which resulted in the ulceration of the oesophagus and mouth of the dog due to inducing vomiting at home. There is a good reason that your dishwashing/washing powder is not for human or animal consumption. Ulceration is not the only concern, your pet may also aspirate (inhale vomit) which could also kill your pet. I would only recommend this for pets who are more than 1 hour away from the vet clinic and cannot get access to the appropriate vomit inducing drugs. With much safer options available I cannot recommend this approach myself.

I have created a list of common household items that are dangerous to our pets - this list is by no means exhaustive but it is a start.


Dog & Cat household dangers



Sand/dirt/grit in the eye:

Flush the eye with copious amounts of saline immediately and then call you vet for an urgent appointment. Your vet will use a stain in your pet’s eye to ensure that there has been no abrasions to the surface of the eye and will likely prescribe appropriate topical eye ointment.


Torn nail:

These are generally very painful – anyone who has torn a nail down too far, bent a nail backwards or torn a nail out would agree I’m sure. If your pet has torn a nail they will often need a nail strip – where the torn part of the nail is removed. You will need to take your pet to the vet to have his done. Prior to taking them in you may apply a temporary bandage to their foot to stabilise the nail. Often it is when it keeps moving that it causes them the most pain. Be sure not to apply the bandage too tightly and only do it if your pet allows you too. If the nail is bleeding use a non-stick dressing directly over the torn nail. Bandages must remain clean & dry, if it is too tight or gets wet you can cause serious damage to your pets foot (tissue death and/or severe infections).


Insect bites:

Some insect bites can cause allergic reactions. The most common of which are beestings. Most dogs will not have an anaphylactic reaction but some breeds can be more prone to swelling affecting their airways. You can give you pet an antihistamine tablet (based on weight as recommended by your vet), but if you pet has any difficulty breathing then you can still give them the anti-histamine but you will need to take them to the vet immediately.


Snake bites:

Unfortunately here in Australia we have a number of nasty snakes that can easily kill your pets. Fortunately for me, in suburban Sydney I haven’t come across many snake bites but I do know that time is of the essence. So, as safely and as fast as you can get your pet to the vet.


This is a lovely non-venous python. So no fear of snake bites with this one.
This is a lovely non-venous python. So no fear of snake bites with this one.



Paralysis ticks:

If you find a paralysis tick on your pet you will need to remove it immediately. If you are not sure if it is paralysis tick or not but you know that it is a tick, remove it and place it in a small sealed container or snap lock bag and take it to your vet to assess. I have listed the symptoms of tick paralysis below – if your pet is showing any of these signs then you will need to take them to their veterinarian immediately. If it is after hours do not wait until morning, go to the after hours vet. For more information on tick paralysis in dogs click here.


7 signs of tick paralysis in dogs 1


Heat stress:


We live in a country of sand and sun and extreme weather. So during the warmer months we have to be aware of heat stress in our pets. Running around chasing the ball in the heat of day can be incredibly dangerous for your pet, being locked in the hot car is a KILLER, having no access to shade and being unable to pant (i.e. muzzled) on a hot day can all lead to heat stress.

You need to cool your pet down as quickly and as effectively as possible. So spraying with a cool hose, giving them a cool bath or covering in cool wet towels. Offering some cool (not cold) water to drink, bringing inside into the air conditioning, placing in front of a fan, allowing them to pant

Never try to cool down with ice.

Any pet that is suffering from heat stress should be examined by a veterinarian. For more information about heat stress in dogs and cats click here to a previous blog post.



5 signs of heat stroke in dogs


5 signs of heat stroke in cats


Breathing difficulties:

If your pet is having breathing difficulties then they will need to be taken immediately to the closest veterinary clinic. Ensure that they are not too hot, keep other animals away from them and allow them to sit/stand in the most comfortable position for them to catch their breath.



If your animal collapses and becomes unconscious ensure that they are laying on their side (not on their back) with their neck extended and their head a little lower than their body. The idea is that any fluid that may be in their airways can drain out and by extending their neck it means that their airway is hopefully not going to be obstructed. Contact your vet and transport them immediately to the closest veterinary clinic.



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