Everything You Need To Know About First Aid

April is Pet First Aid Month. When in an emergency, you normally only have moments to react and save your pet’s life. Below, one or Registered Veterinary Technicians Heather Vokey put together a great guide on Pet First Aid! If you have any questions on anything published here please do not hesitate to contact us via telephone at (709)368-7981 or drop by our clinic in Mount Pearl and ask one of the receptionists for some help!

First Aid Kit:

Bandage material
Bootie or plastic bag
Corn syrup
Thermometer and Lubricant
Towels or blanket
Veterinary Information

5 Things to Always Remember:

  • Keep calm!!
  • When calling during an emergency, tell us your name, your pet’s name, and a phone number where you can be reached.
  • Sunrise Animal Hospital has a veterinarian on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. If you ever have any questions about whether something is an emergency, call us at 368-7981 and press 8 for the emergency line.
  • Use caution!!! When animals are sick or injured, they are more likely to act out. Even the nicest dog may bite if in pain or after a seizure.
  • NEVER give an animal any medication without checking with a veterinarian. Many human medications (including Tylenol and Advil) can be harmful and even fatal to dogs and cats. This includes medicated creams such as Polysporin! It costs nothing to call us to check!

You can monitor your pet’s health during an emergency by:

  • Temperature (38-39 ºC for dogs and cats).
  • Heart rate (60-180 for dogs, 120-220 for cats).
  • Respirations should be even and without effort.
  • Mucus membranes (gums) should be moist (not tacky or dry) and pink.
  • Mental state (are they conscious? Can they walk or stand? Are they lifting one foot?).

In any emergency you should:

  • Contact your veterinarian.
  • Contact owner (or animal control if owner is not around).
  • Make sure it is safe for you to approach (traffic, wires, dog fights, etc can be dangerous).
  • Muzzle dog if painful or aggressive (If you do not have a muzzle, a shoe string or Kling bandage can be used instead).
  • A blanket or towel can be used to wrap an animal that seems cold. They can also be used to help move a large dog safely.

Muzzling Your Pet

  • Pets may bite when disoriented, frightened, or in pain. Even if your pet has never shown aggression before, it is important to protect yourself during an emergency.
  • If you do not have a muzzle, a shoe string or piece of Kling gauze can be used.
  • Make a loop with the shoe string or gauze. Gently and carefully slide over dog’s muzzle and pull ends to tighten. Do not tighten too much! Make sure your dog can still breathe!
  • Loop the gauze under the ears and tie at the back of the head.
  • Dogs can still potentially bite through the gauze muzzle, so continue to use caution.
  • For cats, a thick towel or gloves can be used for handling. Hiding a cat’s face can also help calm them when scared.
DIY Emergency Muzzle

Types of emergencies:

  • Allergic Reaction.
  • Bloat.
  • Blocked cat.
  • Burns/Sunburn/Hotspot.
  • Cardiac/Respiratory Arrest.
  • Choking.
  • Heat Stroke.
  • Hit by car.
  • Hypoglycemia.
  • Internal Bleeding.
  • Lacerations/Wounds.
  • Lameness/Fractures.
  • Seizure.
  • Toxicity.

How to identify an allergic reaction and what to do when it happens:

  • Swollen face.
  • Hives (seen on short haired dogs, mostly noticed around groin and other areas with thinner fur).
  • If possible take note of what animal was doing when reaction happened.
  • Often insect bite.
  • Contact veterinarian right away, as swelling can inhibit breathing.
  • Antihistamines and veterinary monitoring are required.


  • Common in large breed dogs with large chests (Great Danes, Standard Poodles, Boxers, etc.).
  • Most often happens when dog is active shortly after eating.
  • Stomach fills with air and turns on itself.
  • Dogs will often appear with a bloated look, painful abdomen.
  • Will look like they are trying to vomit but can’t.
  • Emergency – This can be fatal if not addressed quickly – Likely emergency surgery will be required.

Prevent bloat by:

  • Using specialized bowls to slow feeding.
  • Keeping dog quiet after meals for at least one hour.
  • Prophylactic surgery – veterinarian can tack stomach to abdominal wall when dog is in for neuter or spay.

Blocked cat:

  • Usually male.
  • Cannot urinate.
  • Will usually notice no urine in box for a day or more.
  • May notice cat straining in litter box (may appear constipated).
  • Cat may be hiding and/or yowling in pain.
  • Contact veterinarian right away – can be fatal.
  • Catheterization and hospitalization required to treat.



  • Apply ice water or cool towels to area.
  • Aloe Vera can be applied (do not use any medicated aloe Vera creams).
  • Contact veterinarian.


  • Apply cool wet towels to affected area.
  • Use a pet safe sunscreen.
  • Animals that are white or have short thin coats are most at risk


  • Inflammation of skin.
  • Prevent pet from licking (an e-collar can be used.)
  • Clip fur from affected area (ideal for a veterinarian or veterinary technician to do this).
  • Veterinarian may prescribe medicated creams or antibiotics depending on severity.
Extreme Case Hotspot from PetMD

Respiratory Arrest and Cardiac Arrest:

  • Rescue Breathing.
  • Contact veterinarian.
  • Check to see if unconscious and not breathing.
  • Open mouth to check for blockages – remove any foreign material.
  • If still not breathing, close mouth and breathe directly into nose until you see the chest rising.
  • Continue breathing for pet every 4-5 seconds.


  • If heart stops beating.
  • Lay pet on right side on hard surface.
  • Heart is located just behind the elbow on the left side.
  • Place one hand under pet where heart should be and another hand on top of pet behind elbow.
  • Press down gently to begin chest compressions. (Chest should compress about 1 inch on medium dogs. For larger animals, compressions should be more forceful, and for cats and small dogs use smaller, less forceful compressions.)
  • Compressions should be 80-120 per minute for larger animals and 100-150 for cats and small dogs.
  • Continue until heart begins to beat on its own or you arrive at a veterinary hospital.


  • Pet may make choking sounds, paw at mouth, or gums and tongue may appear blue.
  • Use caution as pet may panic and bite.
  • If you can see into mouth and can remove object, do so carefully with tweezers.
  • If animal can still breathe and is remaining conscious, leave object and get to a veterinarian.
  • If animal looses consciousness, begin rescue breathing and chest compressions to push object out of airway.

Heat Stroke:

  • NEVER LEAVE YOUR PET ALONE IN A CAR ON A WARM OR HOT DAY (Even with windows cracked)
  • Remove animal from direct sunlight (place in cool shade if possible).
  • Apply cold wet towels to neck.
  • Apply alcohol to ear flaps, armpits, groin and paw pads.
  • Bring to veterinarian immediately.

Hit By Car:

  • Stay calm.
  • Make sure that you can approach the animal safely (no traffic).
  • Approach carefully. Animal may bite if they are in pain, frightened, or disoriented. Muzzle pet if conscious.
  • Use a blanket, towel or jacket to cover animal. If it is a large dog, place in large blanket or on a board to lift (use like a stretcher).
  • Contact veterinarian.
  • If bleeding, apply pressure to area.
  • If not breathing or heart not beating, begin rescue breathing/CPR.
  • If owner is not present, contact city or town animal control before bringing into veterinary hospital.


  • Low blood sugar
  • Diabetics, puppies, kittens and toy breed dogs are most at risk.
  • Puppies, kittens and toy breeds who are vomiting/diarrhea or not eating can become hypoglycemic.
  • Diabetics who are given higher doses of insulin than required or not eating and given insulin.
  • Will appear lethargic, unbalanced, can loose consciousness.
  • If glucometer available, check glucose.
  • Apply corn syrup (~1-2 mL) along gums or rectally if unconscious.
  • Contact veterinarian immediately.

Internal Bleeding:

  • Usually happens with trauma (hit by car, etc), toxicity (ex rat poison), or bleeding disorder.
  • Could see any of the following: bruising, pale gums, bleeding from nose, mouth, rectum, blood in urine, coughing up blood, collapse, increased heart rate or black tarry bowel movements.
  • Get to veterinarian immediately, this is an emergency!
Anemia Example from PetPlace

Lacerations and External bleeding

  • Apply pressure to wound if bleeding with a gauze pad.
  • Muzzle animal if painful.
  • Keep constant pressure for at least 3 minutes before removing to check.
  • If bleeding does not stop, seek veterinary help.
  • If cannot get to a vet immediately, bandage with gauze or Telfa pad, Kling and VetWrap or similar materials. Do not bandage too tightly, and do not leave bandage on for more than a few hours.
  • Lacerations need to be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible to determine if sutures are needed and so that a proper bandage can be applied.
  • Keep pet from chewing or scratching at any wounds (can use an e-collar, bandages, plastic booties, t-shirt, etc.).


  • Limping, toe touching or non-weight bearing (lifting paw off the ground).
  • Usually after trauma (slipping, falling, etc.).
  • Keep animal quiet and calm to prevent further damage, put in crate if possible.
  • Radiographs (X-rays) may be required to check for any broken bones.
  • Not usually an immediate emergency, however needs to be examined and given pain medication.


  • Stay calm!.
  • Do not try to restrain pet.
  • Make sure pet cannot hurt themselves (keep away from stairs, furniture, off beds).
  • If possible record episode to show veterinarian and time the seizure (should not last more than 2-3 minutes).
  • Contact veterinarian once seizure has stopped.
  • After seizure, animal will likely be disoriented and could become aggressive. Use caution.
  • Can be caused by illness, epilepsy or toxicity.

Can be a variety of things from household cleaners, rat poison, plants, non-veterinary dewormers, human foods, antifreeze, medications etc. Contact veterinarian immediately to see if product is toxic to your pet. The sooner that they can get to a vet, the better. Should be able to tell vet how much was consumed and how long ago. If possible, bring packaging with you to the vet.

DO NOT INDUCE VOMITING WITHOUT INSTRUCTIONS FROM A VETERINARIAN! Some products may cause more harm if vomited! Many toxins can cause vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, bleeding, loss of consciousness, or death.
Veterinarians need to know exactly what your pet consumed. The more information you can provide us with, the more we can do to help your pet.

Some common toxins include:

  • Cleaning produces.
  • Alcohol.
  • Tobacco, Nicotine products and other drugs.
  • Prescription drugs, Ibuprofen (Advil), Acetaminophen (Tylenol), and cold medicines.
  • Batteries.
  • Inhalers.
  • Antifreeze (Including windshield wash and ice melting products).
  • Lilies and other plants.
  • Grapes and raisins.
  • Chocolate.
  • Garlic and onions (including onion and garlic powder).
  • Xylitol (found in sugar-free gum).
  • Peach, plum and cherry pits as well as apple cores.
  • Coffee.
  • Some mushrooms.
  • Moldy foods.
  • Avocado and macadamia nuts.
  • Raw eggs and dairy products.
  • Pyrethrin (found in over the counter dog dewormers, this product can be fatal in cats!)

When in doubt, call your veterinarian!!!

Update January 2016:

St. John’s Ambulance now offers Pet First Aid! Check out their website for more information and to register for a First Aid Course!

Written by Sunrise Animal Hospital