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Basic Pet First Aid in Pet Emergencies

Basic Pet First Aid in Pet Emergencies

Basic Pet First Aid in Pet Emergencies

It’s important to educate yourself as best you can when it comes to pet first aid. Knowing what to do for your pet as first aid care can make the difference.

So, what types of things should you familiarize yourself with? Poisoning, heatstroke, burns, seizures and bleeding – and while there are way more medical problems that your pet could experience, these are a good starting point to keep in mind.

Toxins and what to avoid

Animal poisoning is very common, but it remains to be a confusing emergency for pet owners. Generally, anything that is harmful to people will be harmful to your pet such as cleaning products, antifreeze and rodent poisons.

But there are also many things that humans can consume which pets cannot. This includes things like candy and toothpaste which contain xylitol – this can cause liver failure if consumed by your pet.

Another common toxin is alcohol which is a more obvious culprit. Alcohol has the same impact on animals’ livers and brains as people, but it just takes a little for the effects to happen the same.

The smaller your pet, the less amount of alcohol it will take to cause vomiting, diarrhea, breathing problems, comas and even death. Some other things to be aware of are garlic, onions, avocados, caffeine products, grapes, dairy products, chocolate and medicines.

Pet First Aid: What to do

If your pet is exposed to something toxic such as a cleaning product, read the instructions on how to deal with the exposure. For example, if the label says to wash your hands with soap and water, do this to your pet’s skin.

If it instructs you to flush your eyes with water, do this for your pet. If your pet has eaten something harmful, they might start experiencing seizures, breathing difficulties and could become unconscious.

It’s important to act quickly and contact your local emergency veterinary clinic or the Animal Poison Control Center which operates 24/7 at 888-426-4435.

To make it easier for someone to help you, try to have the following information on hand:

Your pet’s breed
Age and size
Symptoms they’re having
The substance in question
The amount of the substance your pet was exposed to.

Lastly, if you can, collect anything your pet might have vomited and put it into a sealable bag. This will help the veterinarian determine what type of treatment is necessary to get your pet back to feeling themselves.

Heatstroke in pets

Symptoms of heat stroke in dogs is excessive panting and sometimes drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, incoordination, strange movements and loss of consciousness.

A leading cause for heatstroke in pets is when people leave them in their cars during warm days. Temperatures rise quickly inside of vehicles even if it doesn’t seem too bad outside.

Pets require veterinary care when it comes to heatstroke because it can become deadly very quickly. If you’re unable to get medical attention for your pet, move them to a shaded area, place a cold wet towel around their neck over and over again and pour water over their body while avoiding their face.

Your pet has been burned

If your pet has experienced a burn, you’ll want to try and muzzle your pet before doing anything else. Burns can be excruciatingly painful, and your pet will likely try and bite you if you skip this step.

Use a cool compress or run cold water over the area. If severe, continue using a cold compress until your pet can be seen by a veterinarian.

Seizures and what to expect

If your pet experiences a seizure, do not try to hold or restrain them during it. The best thing you can do is remove any objects or furniture from the area that could hurt them.

Seizures are unexpected and quite scary. However, it’s important to know that they can happen at any age with any breed. While your pet is experiencing a seizure, they likely won’t be aware of their surroundings or behaviour. If you attempt to hold your pet during this, they could seriously injure you.

Instead, just clear their space from any danger and make it as quiet as possible. An important thing you can do while this is happening is take a video to show to your veterinarian.

And while there are tons of reasons why your pet could experience a seizure, the most common reason in dogs is idiopathic epilepsy which means there’s no underlying cause for the seizure.

See Also

Some breeds are susceptible to these seizures because of genetics but luckily, your veterinarian will be able to diagnosis this and your pet can still live a long and happy life once you know how to manage their seizures. Other reasons your pet could experience a seizure include diseases, poisoning, strokes and tumours.


You should have a basic first aid kit at home for your pet which includes sterile bandages, tape, elastic wrapping, bandage scissors, betadine and antibiotic ointment.

If your pet is cut, try to use a muzzle before tending to their wound. Then, apply pressure to the wound to stop the bleeding. Once you stop the bleeding, you can clean the area surrounding the cut with betadine before using clean water to flush out the wound directly.

Once the area is free of dirt or other materials, you can disinfect the wound using a mild wound disinfectant such as diluted betadine or mild chlorhexidine. You want to avoid using hydrogen peroxide to clean the wound because it’s too damaging for the tissue and can actually slow down the healing process.

After you disinfect the wound, you want to apply a temporary bandage using a roll of elastic. Wrap your bandage over the affected area using a square of gauze if needed. If there is hair around your pet’s wound, you will want to clip it, so it doesn’t agitate the wound.

You will want to regularly take off the temporary bandage and clean the area as needed before applying a thin layer of antibiotic ointment to the wound and wrapping it back up.

Consult your veterinarian for more wound specific advice when your pet experiences a cut. Some minor injuries won’t require a veterinarian visit, but some will.

Lastly and perhaps most importantly consider pet insurance, we support the low cost option that PHI Direct offers

Updated: May 17th, 2023 with added PHI Direct Insurance Info
Originally Published: Sept 15, 2021
Republished: Jan 30, 2023

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