When it comes to our pets we would do anything to help them, but do you know what to do when they get hurt?
Pet first aid is not just for emergencies. There are many things that you can do to make sure your pet always has the care they need, no matter what life throws at them. With a little preparation and planning, it’s possible to minimise the stress when something does happen.
What if something were to happen whilst you were out walking? What should you do then? What if your pet accidentally eats a poisonous substance or is hit by a car?
The best thing you can do in these situations is to stay calm and be prepared with pet first aid supplies. You should have the following items on hand at all times:
- Emergency contact numbers
- A first aid kit for pets
- An animal identification tag and medication list
- A leash, harness, or carrier (to transport an injured pet)
Know Who Your Pet Emergency Contacts Are
The first step in pet emergency care is to know who you should call. If your pet has been injured, it’s important that they receive immediate medical attention and this can be done by calling your vet or local poison line for advice.
As a responsible pet parent, it’s important to keep emergency contact numbers on hand at all times. The best place to store numbers is on your phone under PET ICE (short for Pet In Case of Emergency) and write them on a card and pop it in your wallet or purse. Put the card in the pocket next to your driver’s license or cash.
Putting these numbers by your household phone will also help ensure that you have access when emergencies arise; however, if there are other family members who live with you, you can also put the numbers somewhere highly visible like on the fridge door.
Be Prepared With a Ready-Packed Bag for Emergencies
In the event that something happens unexpectedly during the day-to-day when out with our pets, we need one of two things: either have all their stuff packed in advance so you’re always prepared; or alternatively be able to get everything fast enough from home.
In case of an emergency, it’s smart to keep a few basic items ready to use at a moment’s notice. For example, you may want your pet’s travel crate and a muzzle to hand as well as a list of any medications your dog takes (especially if there are special instructions for giving them).
Put together or purchase a Pet First Aid Kit and keep it in your car if you travel with your dog.
Pop a few essentials in your dog walking bag. Even if you forget, your dog poop bag can be an effective tool for temporarily wrapping up an injured paw whilst you get your dog home.
What Should Be In My Pet’s First Aid Kit?
The following items should be in your pet’s first aid kit:
- sterile gauze
- antiseptic wipes
- instant ice pack
- tongue depressors
- wound care liquid
- vet wrap
- bandages and tape
- first aid blanket
- tin of food and collapsible bowl
- adhesive strips for closing wounds on the skin surface (but not deep cuts)
- sterile gloves if you are treating an open wound that is bleeding heavily.
- styptic powder (helps stem blood flow from minor injuries)
Know your ABCs of Pet First Aid
Unresponsive pets are one of the worst things a pet owner can experience. Unconsciousness and lack of response to stimuli is terrifying for both you, as their caretaker, but also them – they don’t understand what’s happening!
Just like in human first aid, The ABCs are a good thing to remember when it comes to your pet. The ABC system is identical in that you assess the Airway (A), Breathing (B) and Circulation(C).
The first thing that should be done if your dog or cat becomes unresponsive and unconscious is checking whether they have an obstruction in their throat or airway.
If it turns out there was no blockage then we need to check to see if your pet is still breathing and their heart is still beating.
If your pet’s airway, breathing, or circulation are compromised you’ll need to start pet CPR.
How to restrain and calm an injured dog
If your dog is injured, you may need to restrain them in order for the injury not to worsen. The best way would be with a towel or blanket that you can wrap around their body and then hold it firmly so they cannot move too much while being transported. A necktie or leash can be used as a makeshift muzzle if you need to keep your dog from biting you.
1. If your dog is injured, you should try to keep them calm and still.
2. You can use a towel or blanket to wrap up the dog so they don’t move around too much.
3. Try not to touch the wound if it’s bleeding – instead, apply pressure with a clean cloth.
4. Keep an eye on your dog for signs of shock like panting, drooling, pale gums, and rapid heart rate.
If the injury is on their leg, for example a broken bone or deep cut in that area then it’s best not wrap them up too tightly as this could cause more damage and pain when they move around. Call your emergency vet contact number.
How to restrain and calm an injured cat
1. Keep the cat in a safe place.
2. Put on gloves to avoid being scratched by their claws when they struggle.
3. Wrap the cat in a towel and hold it firmly but gently. You can use the sleeve of your jacket and put the cat in head first so that it is secure.
Signs that your pet is in shock
Panting, drooling and pale gums are all signs of shock. If your pet is showing these symptoms then you should call the emergency vet contact number or take them to a nearby veterinary hospital as soon they can be seen by an experienced veterinarian who will assess their condition further in person before deciding on treatment options for pet first aid.
First Aid Tips for some of the more common injuries sustained by pets
- Choking: perform the Heimlich manoeuvre or back blows.
- Car accident: If your pet has been hit by a car and can’t walk, stabilise its spine with towels and call for help.
- Bites: If your pet has been bitten by another animal, clean the wound thoroughly and seek veterinary attention.
- Seizures: If your pet is having seizures, place it in a safe area to prevent injury to itself or others.
- Bleeding: If your pet is bleeding, apply pressure to the wound with a clean cloth or towel.
- Poisoning: If your pet has been poisoned, call the vet immediately and give them as much information as possible about what happened. If you think your pet may have eaten something poisonous, try to find out what it was and take him/her to the vet right away
- Choking: If your pet is choking on an object that won’t come up (e.g., bone), use a finger to push down on their tongue while pulling upwards on the lower jaw until they cough up whatever’s stuck in their throat.
Treating Burns and scalds on your pet’s skin
1. If your pet has a burn or scald, soak the area in cold water for 10-15 minutes.
2. Apply an antibiotic ointment to the wound and cover it with a bandage.
3. Keep your pet’s wound clean by changing the dressing twice daily and washing it with soap and water .
4. Call your vet if you notice any signs of infection like pus, redness around the wound, or increased pain.
First Aid for Pet Eye Injuries
- If you suspect your pet has an eye injury, Gently wash the injured eye with cool water to remove any dirt or debris.
- Keep the head elevated to prevent swelling of the eye from occurring.
- If there is blood coming out of the eye, cover it with sterile gauze and apply pressure until bleeding stops.
- Seek veterinary attention as soon as possible.
Treating Heatstroke in dogs
1. If your dog has heatstroke get them into a cool environment as soon as possible.
2. Keep the air circulating in order to prevent overheating and keep the room at around 19 degrees Celsius (70 degrees Fahrenheit).
3. Offer ice water or frozen treats to try and lower their body temperature gradually.
4. Place a wet towel on top of their head or neck for additional cooling relief.
What should I do if my dog has been hit by a car?
- If the dog is conscious, check for injuries.
- Place a blanket or towel over the dog if they are in shock from being hit by a car.
- Support the dog’s body to avoid movement and prevent further injury.
- Call your vet and follow their advice.
What to do if your pet is stung by a wasp or bee
- Quickly remove the sting with a credit card. Scrape below the venom sack of a bee to avoid squeezing any more poison out.
- Soak a clean tea towel in cold water and hold it on the affected area to reduce swelling.
- Check for signs of allergic reaction over the next couple of hours: vomiting, rapid breathing or difficulty breathing, weakness or collapsing, pale gums, diarrhoea, excessive swelling around the sting and spreading away from it.
- Call your vet.
Common Injuries Sustained By Dogs
- Neck injuries from collars. Use a harness instead.
- Falling off of high places and hurt themselves, like sofas and beds.
- Bitten or scratched by another animal, which leads to infection and other complications.
- Dewclaw injuries which may or may not bleed.
- Stings from a wasp or bee.
Common Injuries Sustained By Cats
- Cats can get injured by being hit by a car.
- Cats can be hurt when they fall from heights, such as trees or the roof of a house.
- Cats often get their tails caught in doors.
- If you have an outdoor cat that is allowed to roam free, it could become injured if it fights with another animal.
- A cat might get scratched or bitten when playing with other cats.
Common Injuries Sustained by Rabbits and Guinea Pigs
- Cuts and scrapes from cages and sharp objects.
- Injuries by other animals or people, such as when they’re being picked up or handled roughly.
- Overgrown teeth causing cuts to the mouth.
- Fractures and injuries from falls if dropped or they fall off something high, like a table or counter top.