Pet first aid

Would you know what to do if your pet was choking, broke a leg or was suffering from heat stroke? At times like these, seconds matter. Knowing what to do (as well as what not to do) can make all the difference in achieving a good outcome for your furry one. I hope this article can help prepare you for the unexpected mishaps that come with the territory of owning a pet.
First, have these numbers by the phone (and in your cell phone) …
Your vet: know if they are available after hours.
24 hour emergency clinic: know how to get there.
Please call the clinic to let them know that you are on the way. This will give them
time to better prepare for the arrival of your pet.
ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center: 1-888-426-4435
There is a $65 consult fee for this service.
Second, have a well stocked first aid kit. Keep it in the car so it is available for both
home and travel. This kit can be used for people or their animals.
Pet First Aid Booklet or DVD: Review every few months so that you are ready!
Muzzle: Do not use if dog is vomiting, unconscious or having trouble breathing.
Slip Lead
Tweezers: to remove foreign objects and/or ticks from skin and paws
Plastic syringe (10-20 cc): administer liquid meds; flush ears or eyes
Digital thermometer / lubricant: normal rectal temp is 100-102.5 degrees
Vinyl Gloves: to protect hands and prevent contamination of wounds
Tourniquet: for severely bleeding wounds on leg
Hemostat: to pull out objects from back of throat
Gauze rolls and pads: 3 and 4 inch
Adhesive Tape 1 inch
Cotton balls
Tongue Depressors
Penlight or Flashlight
Tick Remover
Nail Trimmer
Styptic powder or pencil
Towel: for burns, heat stroke or to stabilize fractures
Vet wrap: a stretchy bandage roll to wrap and stabilize injuries
Hydrogen Peroxide 3%: cleans wounds, induces vomiting
Saline solution: to flush eyes/ears or wounds
Hydrocortisone Cream
Antibiotic ointment: inhibits bacterial growth
Instant Cold Pack: to reduce swelling or painCompact thermal blanket: prevents shock by preserving body heat; also protects car if pet is vomiting or bleeding Household Medications for Dogs
Product Used For… Dosage
Buffered Aspirin Pain 5 mg per lb every 12 hrs
Benadryl Itching and 1 mg per lb every 8 hrs
Insect stings
Dramamine Motion sickness Up to 50 mg every 8 hrs
Hydrogen Peroxide 3% Induce vomitingHow much to give is not an exact science. The goal is to give them enough until they vomit. A few “glugs” of hydrogen peroxide should do the trick.
Pepto Bismol Upset stomach 1tsp per 5 lbs every 6 hrs Diarrhea or 1-2 chewable tabletsLoperamide HCL Diarrhea 2 mg tablets – 1 or 2 tablets Canine Emergencies
Choking: Look into the airway. If you can see the obstructing object, use a hemostat to
pull the object out. Avoid putting your hand in dog’s mouth. You could be bitten and
fingers can sometimes push the object in even further.
If unable to view the object, give your dog 5 abdominal thrusts by locking your hands under the rib cage and vigorously thrusting in and upward toward the chest cavity. Then, look into the airway and retrieve object. Repeat if object not visible.
Fractures: Check for swelling, lameness or deformity of limb. Splint the limb by
wrapping a towel around it and secure in place using vet wrap. Head to the vet for x-rays
and further treatment.
Bleeding Wounds: Put on gloves and use gauze to apply direct pressure to the wound.
Hold firm pressure continuously. No “peeking” every couple minutes. You are trying to
give the body time to form a clot (do for 5-10 minutes at least). If necessary, add more
gauze if initial gauze bandage becomes saturated. Do not remove gauze! You could be
removing the clot that is slowing the bleeding.
If you are alone, you can apply a wad of gauze and secure in place firmly using vet wrap to create a pressure dressing. Then quickly (but safely!) transport to the vet.
If there is an object embedded in the bleeding wound, such as a knife or stick, do not
remove the object! It could be stuck in a blood vessel. Removing it could lead to profuse
bleeding. Let the vet remove it in a controlled setting where surgical equipment is
available. You should only apply gauze and vet wrap to stabilize the object until it can be
removed at the vet facility.
If a dog is hit by a car, your first priority is scene safety! Check for oncoming traffic before you approach the animal. If other people are on the scene, assign one of them the sole task of being alert to traffic hazards. You are of no use to the injured animal if you are lying on the pavement next to them! If possible, use a rigid board or blanket to transport the dog to a vehicle. Try to keep the spine stable (as little movement as possible) and in alignment.
Burns: Apply a cool wet towel or cold pack. Secure with a loose bandage if necessary.
Transport to vet.
Heat Stroke: Apply a towel soaked with cool water over the back of the dog. You may
also apply an ice pack to the neck and groin areas. Transport to vet.
Poisoning: If you suspect your dog has ingested something toxic, do not hesitate to seek
emergency assistance. Sometimes an animal may appear completely normal for several
hours or even days after the incident. Don’t panic. Take 30-60 seconds to safely collect
and have at hand any material involved. Also, collect some of the material your pet may
have vomited or chewed in a sealable plastic bag. Find the ingredient list if possible.
Check for severe vomiting or diarrhea, swollen tongue, burned lips, seizures, lethargy,
Call the ASPCA Poison Control Center (1-888-426-4435). Be ready with the
following information…
The species, breed, age, sex and weight of the animal
The animal’s symptoms
Information regarding the exposure, including the agent (if known), the amount of the
agent ingested and the length of time elapsed since the exposure. Have the product
container/packaging available for reference if possible.
If the agent ingested is a corrosive or petroleum based product, do not induce vomiting!
This will only result in further injury to the esophagus and oral cavity, or possible
aspiration pneumonia. In this situation, there are other procedures to be done. Transport
to the vet or emergency clinic as soon as possible.
If you are advised by your vet or the poison control center to induce vomiting, get the syringe and 3% hydrogen peroxide from your first aid kit. Use a turkey baster or a paper cup to administer. You can even pour it directly from the bottle. Repeat in five minutes if no response, up to three or four times. Most dogs will vomit after 2 to 3 doses. If your dog is very lethargic, unresponsive, having seizures or difficulty breathing, do not
force the peroxide down their throat. If a dog in this condition started to vomit, they could
not protect their airway and the vomit would likely go into their lungs causing even
worse problems! Phone ahead and transport immediately to your vet or emergency clinic.
Eye Injuries: Check for squinting, swollen lid, closed eye, excessive tearing or frequent
rubbing of eye. Flush the eye with saline solution for several minutes. Do not remove
penetrating objects! Stabilize object and transport to vet.
Ear Problems: Check for shaking of the head, tilting the head or pawing at ear. You may
attempt to flush the ear with syringe and saline solution. Do not stick Q-tip into ear! This
may force foreign object further down into ear canal making it harder for vet to retrieve.
Hopefully, this article on pet first aid has provided some useful information for you. Remember, above all, do no harm! If in doubt about how to help your injured pet, use the “scoop and run” philosophy of EMS personnel. Pick up your pet and transport to a vet facility ASAP – doing so in a calm and safe manner, of course! May your beloved pet never suffer the injuries listed in this article, but if they ever do, be ready. Check to see if your local American Red Cross offers a pet first aid course. It could make all the difference for the dogs you love! Submitted by Susan Rogers, R.N.
Last updated in June 2010


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