As a pet owner, nothing is scarier than seeing your beloved furry friend become unwell. Whilst seeking veterinary care is essential, there are also preventative first aid tips every pet owner should know to keep their furry family member safe. This blog offers up tips on how to deal with common first-aid emergencies, such as bleeding, choking, CPR, seizures, and burns.
Preparing For Emergencies
Before we give our top tips on how to deal with emergencies, we have to start with step one… Preparation!
In order to be prepared for an emergency, be sure to keep a copy of your vet’s number (or a close-by emergency clinic) on your phone, and put together a pet’s first aid kit to use at home and when travelling.
Pet First Aid Kits
Pet first aid kits can be very useful in the event of an accident. Although first aid should never be used as a substitute for veterinary care, it can help your pet feel more comfortable and act as a preventative measure until treatment is available.
So what should you include in a pet’s first aid kit?
Bandages - such as Vetwrap or a non-adhesive bandage.
Wound wash or saline
Tick tweezers or tick hooks
Dressing Pads such as allevyn
Foil blanket and/or blanket
A spare lead such as a slip lead
When your pet is unwell or injured, it can be difficult not to panic. However, it is important to stay calm, assess the situation, call your veterinarian and administer first aid if necessary.
A helpful acronym to remember the acronym is Dr ABCs:
Danger – Is the area safe for you to go over?
Response – Does your pet respond to their name or touch?
Airway – Is their airway clear?
Breathing – Are they breathing?
Circulation – Can you feel a pulse or heartbeat?
Send – For help!
CPR (Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation) is a technique that can be used if your pet’s heart stops beating.
CPR can save lives, however, it’s important to only use when necessary, such as when your pet is unconscious, otherwise healthy, and not breathing.
To perform CPR, place your cat or dog on their side, on a firm, flat surface. For dogs, the right-hand side works better, unless the breed is flat-chested (such as an English Bulldog), in this case, place your dog on its back.
After this, place your hand(s) over their heart.
For cats and small dogs (under 5kg), wrap your strongest hand around their chest with your thumb on top and your fingers underneath. Use your other hand to support them.
For small to medium dogs (between 5-10kg), sit directly behind them and place one hand over their heart.
For large dogs (over 10kg), again sit directly behind them and place both hands interlocked, over the widest part of their chest.
Once in position, give 30 chest compressions at a rate of two per second. Compressions should be no deeper than one-third to half of the chest. For cats and small dogs (under 5kg), squeeze only your thumb and fingers to compress. For all other dogs, keep your arms straight and use your body to compress.
After the 30 chest compressions, give two breaths. These should be done by extending the dog’s/cat’s neck so that their nose is in line with their back, firmly closing their mouth, and blowing directly into their nostrils.
Repeat 30 compressions followed by 2 breaths for 2 minutes, checking for a heartbeat throughout.
If you notice your pet choking, the most important thing is remaining calm and keeping your pet calm. If you can, look in your pet's mouth and use tweezers to remove anything blocking it.
If your pet is conscious, avoid putting your fingers in your pet’s mouth as this could make them panic. If unconscious, open their mouth and gently ‘sweep’ the area with your finger, removing any lodged object. If you can’t move the object, lay them on its side and push quickly and firmly on the side of your pet’s rib cage (the force of this should be dependent on the size of the pet).
Call your veterinarian immediately if your pet is choking. Even if you manage to dislodge the object, a follow-up appointment will be needed.
If your pet has external bleeding, press a clean, thick gauze pad over the wound. Remain pressure on the wound until the blood begins to clot (this should take several minutes).
If you feel you need to bandage the foot or leg, a lint-free dressing or wound pad should be placed over the wound before bandaging the leg loosely and seek veterinary attention within 24 hours. Bandaging the leg too tightly can cause more damage than the wound and any bandage that has not been advised by a veterinarian should be removed within 24 hours.
If bleeding is severe contact a veterinarian immediately.
It can be hard to spot internal bleeding. Symptoms to look out for include: bleeding from the nose, mouth, and rectum, coughing up blood, blood in urine, pale gums, collapse, and a weak and rapid pulse.
If you suspect your pet has internal bleeding, keep them warm and transport them immediately to a veterinarian.
If your pet has a seizure (fit), firstly do not panic as touching or noise can stimulate your pet and prolong the seizure. Darken the room if you can and switch off the tv to make the area quiet, move any objects that they may hurt themselves on, however, avoid restraining them as you can prolong the seizure or be accidentally bitten by your pet.
It is normal for your pet to urinate or poo during the seizure, they may collapse and their limbs shake or have a paddling movement. They will be disoriented when they come around so it is important to keep them calm and quiet.
If possible, time and film the seizure on your phone as this will help the vet in assessment.
After the seizure has ended, keep your pet warm, remain calm and contact your veterinarian for advice, do not take your pet to the vet without calling them first as they may want to leave a recovery period before examining your pet to reduce the chance of a further seizure.
If your pet has a seizure that lasts longer than 5 minutes or repeated seizures (1 after the other) you must contact your veterinarian straight away as this is classed as an emergency.
If your pet has a chemical burn, wash it off with copious amounts of water immediately. If your pet has a hot water burn, run cool water over the area for 15 minutes. If your pet has a burn caused by oil do not wash this off with water as this will cause the oil to congeal and continue to cause damage to the skin, gently wipe away as much as you can before washing with cool soapy water and rinsing with cool water for 15 minutes.
Avoid applying any creams or ointments to burn and instead opt for cool water.
Avoid using ice or iced water as this could be painful.
When applying cool water, try to keep to the area of the burn rather than the whole body. Make sure you don’t make your pet too cold and cover them with a blanket if necessary. If the wound is large, if possible, loosely place cling film around the area to keep it clean and sterile on route to the vet. Do not place cotton wool onto the area as this leaves small fibres in the wound.
Always call your veterinarian if your pet gets burnt (no matter the size). Burns are very painful, due to the fur you often cannot see the extent of the burn and your pet may need pain relief. Burns left untreated can lead to infections and need specialist dressings.
As aforementioned, first aid administered personally should always be followed up immediately with direct advice from your vet. Tips shared in the article, merely act as a placement until your pet can receive veterinary treatment.
For more information on caring for your pet, check out our other blogs here.