First aid tips for pet owners
Do you know what you would do if your dog ate some chocolate? What if your cat had a seizure? What if your pet was overheating on a hot summer day, or fell down the stairs and started limping?
Knowing some basic first aid information and being prepared for emergencies can help you avoid the feelings of panic that may accompany these situations. First aid care is not a substitute for veterinary care, but it may save your pet’s life until you can get them veterinary care. In case of an emergency, call your veterinarian or local veterinary emergency hospital so they can be ready when you arrive.
When traveling with your pet, consider bringing a simpler, travel-sized version of the pet first aid kit you keep at home, and have the phone numbers of your veterinarian, the national animal poison control hotline (888-426-4235), and a 24-hour emergency veterinary hospital in the area where you will be visiting.
When traveling without your pet, be sure to consider who's in charge while you're away and what they'll need to keep your pet safe and healthy.
For your safety
An injury may not only cause your pet pain, but also fear and confusion. These things can make even the gentlest of pets unpredictable or even dangerous. To protect you both:
- Avoid any attempt to hug an injured pet.
- Keep your face away from your pet’s mouth.
- Apply a muzzle if your pet threatens to bite.
- Whenever possible, ask other people to help you move your pet.
Remember: Any first aid administered to your pet should be followed by immediate veterinary care. First aid care is not a substitute for veterinary care, but it may save your pet's life until it receives veterinary treatment.
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Keep first aid information on hand, whether at home or in the clinic.
Also in Spanish: Primeros Auxilios para Mascotas
If your pet is poisoned or exposed to toxins
If your pet is injured, bleeding, or bitten
If your pet has heatstroke or goes into shock
If your pet is having a seizure
If your pet is choking
If your pet is not breathing
If your pet has no heartbeat
First aid kit for pets
Keep a kit of basic first aid supplies for the pets in your household. Many items in a family first aid kit can be used for pets, too. Your veterinarian may recommend additional items for your kit based on your pet’s medical condition.
- Important phone numbers (veterinarian, emergency hospital, poison control, animal control, nonemergency police)
- A copy of your pet’s medical record, including any medications your pet is receiving
- Digital thermometer to take your pet’s temperature
- Muzzle to prevent bites (DO NOT muzzle your pet if they are vomiting.)
- Spare leash and collar
- Gauze roll for wrapping wounds or muzzling an injured animal
- Clean towels for restraining cats, cleaning, or padding
- Nonstick bandages or strips of clean cloth to control bleeding or protect wounds
- Self-adhering, nonstick tape for bandages
- Adhesive tape for securing bandages
- Scissors with blunt ends for safely cutting bandage materials
- Disposable gloves to protect your hands
- Small flashlight for examining eyes, wounds, etc.
- Tweezers to remove small foreign objects
- Eye dropper (or large syringe without needle) to give oral treatments or flush wounds
- Sterile lubricating jelly to protect wounds/eyes
- Activated charcoal to absorb poison (Use only if instructed to do so by your veterinarian or a poison control center.)
- 3% hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting (Always contact your veterinarian or poison control center before inducing vomiting. Do not give more than one dose unless otherwise instructed by your veterinarian. Do not use hydrogen peroxide on wounds.)
- Saline solution for cleansing wounds or flushing eyes (Saline solution sold for use with contact lenses works well for most purposes.)
- Pet First Aid (American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA)/Healthy Pet)
- Basic First Aid for Your Pet (The University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine)
- First Aid for Pets (American Red Cross)
- First Aid and Emergency Care (VeterinaryPartner.com)