We all hope that nothing bad ever happens to our beloved pets. Unfortunately, there are circumstances that we can’t control, and these unforeseen circumstances could lead to an emergency situation. For this reason, all pet owners should know basic first aid skills and have a pet-specific first aid kit.
Creating a Pet First Aid Kit
Building a first aid kit for your pet is essential to being prepared for a pet emergency. Here is a list of things you should include in your pet first aid kit:
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Bandage material
- Bandage tape
- Sterile gauze pads
- Cotton balls
- Dosing syringe
- Antibacterial soap
- Rubbing alcohol
- Instant ice pack
- Water-based lubricant
- Vaccination and medical records
- Phone numbers for an animal poison control center, your veterinarian, a 24-hour emergency veterinarian, the local animal shelter, and the local police department
With these items, you should be able to help your pet with almost any emergency situation that could arise. Keep in mind that emergency medical care should be sought out after first aid is given in most instances.
First Aid Tips for Pet Owners
You want to be able to help your pet should they get injured or ill. While you can’t handle everything yourself, you should be prepared for a few specific instances that are critical for your pet. Here are just a few first aid tips for pet owners:
External Bleeding: If your pet is bleeding heavily, you will need to take immediate action. Dogs and cats generally lose blood very quickly, so if you see heavy bleeding, you need to apply pressure to the wound. Get a gauze pad out of your pet first aid kit and hold pressure over the wound until the blood starts clotting. It can take several minutes for the bleeding to stop. Hold pressure for at least three minutes before checking for clotting.
For severe bleeding on the legs, you can apply a tourniquet to prevent bleeding. Every 15 to 20 minutes, you will need to loosen the tourniquet for 20 seconds. Be sure that you take your pet to a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Seizures: Seizures can be scary, but they are a little easier to deal with if you are well-prepared. First, you should try to move any objects (including furniture) that could injure your pet during the seizure. Time the seizure. Most seizures last between two and three minutes. Once the seizure is over, keep your pet warm and as quiet as possible. Contact your veterinarian for the next steps.
Choking: When your pet has something blocking their airway, you need to act fast to help them. First, if your pet can still breathe, try to keep them calm, and get to a veterinarian immediately. However, if your pet is unable to get enough air, you can try to remove whatever is blocking the airway with a pair of tweezers. It is very important that you don’t push the object further into your pet’s throat, however. Don’t spend a lot of time trying to retrieve the object. If you can’t get it, try to perform the Heimlich on your pet.
To do the Heimlich Maneuver on an animal, you will want to place your hands on the side of your pet’s ribcage. Then, apply firm, quick pressure. It may be easier to do this with your pet lying down on its side. Push three to four times. Continue to attempt this until you expel the object, or you make it to a veterinarian’s office.
Heatstroke: Heatstroke is very serious in pets. If you believe that your pet is experiencing heatstroke, get to a veterinarian right away. If you can’t immediately get to a veterinarian, move your pet to an area out of direct sunlight and apply a cool or cold, wet towel around its neck and head without covert eh eyes, nose, or mouth. Rewet the towel every few minutes. You can also use running water to cool your pet. Focus on running the water over your pet’s abdomen and between the hind legs. Sweep away the water as it absorbs body heat.
No Breathing: If you discover that your pet has stopped breathing, you need to try to stay calm. Then, you should see if your pet is conscious. If there is someone else with you, have them call a veterinarian while you clear your pet’s airway by pulling the tongue out of your pet’s mouth until it is lying flat. Check your pet’s throat to see if there is something lodged in the airway. If the airway is clear, perform rescue breathing. This is done by holding your pet’s mouth closed and breathing directly into your pet’s nose with your mouth until you see the pet’s chest expand. When the chest expands, you should continue rescue breathing once every four or five seconds.
No Heartbeat: If you find that your pet doesn’t have a heartbeat, perform the steps for rescue breathing and work in chest compressions. To do this, lay your pet on its ride side on a firm surface. Place one hand under your pet’s chest and put the other hand over your pet’s heart, which is located right behind the elbow of the front left leg. Press down about an inch for medium-sized dogs and harder for larger dogs. For small dogs, use less force. For cats, cradle your pet’s chest so that your thumb is on the left side of the ribcage and your fingers are on the right and squeeze gently. Press down 80-120 times for larger animals and 100-150 times for smaller animals.
Alternate between rescue breathing and chest compressions. Do four to five seconds of compressions and stop to perform one rescue breath. Continue until you can find a heartbeat or you have arrived at a veterinarian’s clinic.
You should always get your pet appropriate veterinary care after each of these situations. First aid is no substitute for veterinary care.
To learn more about first aid for pets, you can take a pet first aid class from the American Red Cross.