Things You Need To Know About Pet First Aid

things to know about pet first aid

It is not uncommon for pet owners to find themselves in a situation where they need to administer first aid to their furry friends. Whether it's an accident or just the result of old age, pets are prone to injuries and illnesses that require medical attention. While some emergencies are more severe than others, there are plenty of things you can do before you call the vet to help bolster your pet's health! In this article, we discuss ways you can help treat your injured pet and also list items that you should have in your pet first aid kit.



Pets are frequently burned by hot liquids or items. If a limb is injured as a result of being burned, pets may whimper or limp if they feel pain and discomfort. The skin can be red but intact (first-degree), with only a partial or total loss of multiple layers of skin caused by the severity. Below we discuss what you should do if your pet gets burned.


What to do if your pet gets burned:

  1. Do not apply any creams or ointments to the burn.
  2. Cool the burn down with a mild stream of cold water in the shower for less-serious burns from scalding liquid, hot objects, or electrocution (disconnect the electricity before approaching the animal).
  3. Cover the burn with a non-stick bandage and call your veterinarian for the next steps. A cold compress with a clean, wet, and chilly washcloth for no more than 10 minutes is suggested after rinsing (do not use ice). Cover the burn with a non-stick bandage and contact your veterinarian. Professional assistance may be required depending on how severe the injury is.


For second and third-degree burns, a veterinarian should be contacted immediately. The pet can go into shock, and blistering is likely to develop, leading to the death of body tissue in the affected area.

For chemical burns, flush with water for at least 15 minutes. Remove any clothing or jewelry with chemical residue and get medical help immediately.

hurt dog paw

Limb injuries and fractures

If your pet's limb is injured, they may be limping and whining. A muscle or tendon problem, a fracture, or dislocation are all possible causes. This is an excellent indication that something is wrong if your pet has any indicators of discomfort following an accident. Here is what you should do if your pet experiences a fracture.


What to do if your pet fractures its limb:

  1. If required, place a muzzle on your pet. If you try to do this and your dog refuses to let you, don't push it any further because apprehensive dogs can bite when wearing muzzles.
  2. If you're able to do so without causing more pain, gently move the limb into a normal position. If it can't be moved or if movement causes more pain, don't try to reposition it and get veterinary advice as soon as possible.
  3. Secure the fracture with a splint. You can make a simple one out of stiff cardboard, material like an ACE bandage, or even use sticks found outside. Make sure the splint is snug but not too tight you should be able to easily fit two fingers between the material and your pet's skin.
  4. Keep your pet calm and comfortable until you can get them veterinary treatment. This may include using a crate or bedding down on a flat surface where they won't move around too much.
  5. Wrap your pet in a blanket or a towel to keep them warm. Get your pet into your car and to a doctor using a stretcher (flat board or blanket).



Choking is common with pets and can be caused by various things, such as swallowing bones or other objects. You might hear your dog gasping for breath and coughing in an effort to clear its airway passage. Here is what you should do if this happens.


What to do if your pet is choking:

  1. If your pet lets you approach their mouth without causing any harm, open it carefully. Having another person assist in restraining the animal while examining its mouth is helpful.
  2. Check inside the mouth and gently remove whatever it is. Don't push it any further down the throat if you can't get rid of it safely. If you're unable to remove the item safely, you must choose either a dislodging technique or taking your pet to a nearby veterinarian or emergency veterinary hospital right away.
  3. If you're attempting to remove a foreign body from a tiny dog or cat, put their back against your chest and hold them upright. Place one hand below the sternum and the other on top of it near the stomach. Five times in and up toward the head to force air out of the lungs by sweeping their jaws.
  4. If you're attempting to dislodge an object from a big dog, stand behind them and wrap your arms around their waist. Place one hand in a closed fist below the sternum, with your thumb against the abdomen, and place your other hand on top of it. Thrust five times up and forward to force air out of their lungs.
  5. Repeat the process as many times as necessary until the item is free or while on your way to a veterinarian.


Not breathing

If your pet is not breathing, you need to start CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). CPR is a combination of chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Below we discuss how to do chest compressions on pets and perform rescue breathing.

dog chest compressionsCredit: Yeji Kim


How to do chest compressions on a dog:

  • Place one hand over the other and interlace fingers under your dog's rib cage. Make sure you place your hands close enough that so they cover about half of its body between two ribs; this will allow compression of heart against lung without breaking a bone or pressing organs underneath the abdomen.
  • Push hard and fast with compressions at the rate of 100-120 compressions per minute, making sure to push down deep enough with each thrust; effective compressions force blood to rise two inches in the jugular vein.


How to do chest compressions on a cat:

  • Place your hand over the cat's chest, in the area of the heart. Compress down on the chest at a rate of 100-120 compressions per minute. Make sure to compress deep enough with each thrust that you feel the rib cage rebound up under your hand.


How to perform rescue breathing:

  • Close your pet's mouth (hold it closed with your hand) and breathe into its nose until you see the animal's chest expand. Continue rescue breathing every 4 or 5 seconds once the chest has expanded.



Ingestion of harmful items

Pets tend to swallow harmful things such as bones, sharp objects, and poisonous substances. Here is what you should do in case of such an emergency.


What to do if your pet swallows a harmful item:

  • If you suspect your pet has ingested a poisonous substance, contact the Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435. Have as much information about the substance available as possible when you call. Symptoms of poisoning can vary depending on what was ingested, so having an idea of how much and when will help with diagnosis.


External bleeding

dog bleeding

External bleeding in pets can be caused by something as simple as a scratch or more severe issues like trauma. Below we discuss how to stop bleeding in an injured animal.


What to do if your pet is bleeding externally:

  • Muzzle your pet.
  • Apply a clean, thick gauze pad to the injury and keep pressure on it with your hand until the blood starts clotting. The clot may take some time to be strong enough to stop the bleeding. Instead of checking it every few seconds to see if it has clotted, maintain pressure for at least 3 minutes before checking it.
  • Apply a tourniquet (a rubber band or gauze) between the injury and the body if bleeding is severe and on the legs. Apply a bandage and pressure over the wound. Every 15-20 minutes, loosen the tourniquet for 20 seconds. If bleeding is severe, seek a veterinarian immediately.


Internal bleeding

If your pet is bleeding internally, it's a good idea to seek immediate veterinary care. Although internal bleeding can be hard to spot, here are a few symptoms that can help you know if your pet is experiencing this:

  • Nose bleeds.
  • Bleeding from the mouth and rectum.
  • Blood in the urine.
  • Coughing up blood.
  • Weak and rapid pulse.

10 things you need in your pet's first aid kit

pet first aid kit

A pet first aid kit is another way to be prepared for an emergency. Having the appropriate tools on hand might make things go more smoothly when dealing with an emergency. Here are some items we recommend you have in your cat or dog first aid kit:

  • A leash.
  • Some gauze pads.
  • A syringe without a needle. 
  • Adhesive medical tape. 
  • A pair of tweezers.
  • A digital thermometer.
  • Some rubber gloves.
  • A stretcher.
  • A muzzle.
  • Activated charcoal. 
  • Hydrogen peroxide (3%) to induce vomiting.
  • Emergency Phone Numbers: Animal poison control centers (888-4ANI-HELP) and emergency veterinary clinics in your area. If there is a nearby animal ambulance service, add their phone number as well. It's difficult to move huge animals that are hurt, so having assistance may be just what you need.


A pet first aid kit is a great way for you to be prepared for an emergency. Having the appropriate tools on hand might make things go smoother in a time of crisis. It can also save your pet's life.

Final thoughts

Pets are more vulnerable to emergencies than we humans. A lot of people don't think about first aid for animals, but it can be so helpful in an accident or even a medical emergency. It's always good to be prepared and ready! If you have any helpful first aid care tips that can help save a pet's life, let us know in the comments section below.

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.