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Basic Pet First Aid Tips

Posted by Caroline Aro on 01/30/2024

PLEASE NOTE: These are just some basic tips and information on common pet injuries and emergencies. ALWAYS consult with your veterinarian for professional medical advice and treatment.

Yellow lab with a red first aid kit in its mouth.
Photo courtesy of PK-Images, Getty Images.

We all love our pets and want to ensure their health and happiness… But what happens if Mittens took a tumble or if Rover gets into the Halloween chocolate? While no pet parent ever wants to experience a medical emergency, it’s important to be prepared. There are so many potential pet emergencies – ingesting toxic foods, seizures, heat stroke, bite wounds… There’s no way to be 100% prepared for every possible “what if” but here are some tips on how to handle some more common situations.

First – any type of first aid that you give your pet should be followed by an immediate vet visit. These first aid tips are not a substitute for professional veterinary care but they might just save your pet’s life in the interim. Always consult with your vet for any questions or concerns regarding your pet’s wellbeing.

In Case of Emergency

For your safety and that of your pet’s, try to remain as calm as possible in case of emergency. Most animals who are injured or ill are going to feel panicked, disoriented and confused – be careful to give your pet space to avoid any further overwhelm and ask for help whenever you need to move your pet.

It’s important to have a First Aid Kit in your house for yourself and your family – including your pets! Some basic items you can include in your pet’s own first aid kit include:

  • Important contact information (veterinarian, local pet ER, animal control, poison control etc.)
  • A copy of your pet’s medical records
  • Digital thermometer
  • Extra supplies (collar, leash, collapsible bowls, bottled water etc.)
  • Basic first aid supplies (gauze, clean towels, nonstick bandages, medical tape, disposable gloves, tweezers, styptic powder…)
You can also ask your vet for more recommendations on what to keep in this kit.


Try to assess the situation to the best of your ability in order to determine next steps. Ensure there are no further hazards or dangers to you and your pet.

It is recommended to muzzle your pet (DO NOT MUZZLE IF THEY ARE VOMITING) – you can use a soft muzzle or even medical gauze (have your veterinarian demonstrate exactly how to properly do this).

Try to keep your pet warm (unless they are experiencing heat stroke) and quiet while minimizing movement as much as possible, especially if there is trauma like a broken bone or head injury.

Basic How-tos and Treatments

Please remember that veterinary care is still needed and that each situation is unique, but this is a good basic guide for home care until you’re able to get to the vet.


Remember that your pet is likely panicking and may bite, so be sure to use caution. First, call your vet or animal ER for advice. Carefully open your pet’s mouth to see if there is any obvious blockage or a foreign object. If you do see something and if you are able, carefully remove it. If you are concerned of pushing the object further into the throat or being bitten, avoid this.

If you are unable to get the item or if your pet collapses, lay them on their side with the head and neck extended. You can use both hands to apply firm, quick pressure to their ribcage, about 3 – 4 times. This will hopefully create sharp bursts of air to dislodge the object.

Follow up with a veterinarian immediately.

Not Breathing

If your pet stops breathing, call your vet or animal ER while you asses further and provide first aid. Check to see if your pet is conscious and if they have a heartbeat.

Carefully open your pet’s mouth, grasp their tongue and gently pull it forward so the tip is outside of the mouth to open their airway. If there is nothing blocking the throat/airway, you can attempt rescue breathing: Hold your pet’s mouth closed with your hand, breathe directly into their nose until you see their chest expand. Once this occurs, provide 10 breaths per minute until they begin breathing on their own or until you arrive at the vet.


Seizures can be scary to witness but these series of convulsions and spasms typically last less than two minutes. If it lasts longer than five minutes or several seizures occur one after another, get your pet to the vet immediately.

You can protect your pet from injuring themselves further during these convulsions but do not attempt to stop the seizure. Once the seizure has stopped, they likely will be disoriented so do your best to provide reassurance by speaking calmly and gently petting it.

Your dog will need veterinary care and consultation to determine the cause of the seizures – if the seizures aren’t prolonged, call your vet and get booked in for an appointment.

Fractured or Broken Bones

Fractures and broken bones will require immediate veterinary attention. Be extremely careful when moving your pet; they are likely to be in immense pain and may bite if they’re scared or hurting.

Call your vet for further advice, but you will want to check your pet for any other injuries. If their gums are pale, this can indicate they have lost blood or may be in shock.

Avoid touching the injured area and do not allow them to walk or move around too much. Call your vet for a possible emergency visit.


If you suspect that your pet may have ingested anything they weren’t supposed to, call your vet right away. It’s important to be educated on common household cleaners, plants, foods, medications etc. that can be toxic to your pet and to keep them out of reach. DO NOT INDUCE VOMITING UNLESS YOUR VET SPECIFICALLY DIRECTS YOU TO DO SO. Seek veterinary care immediately to reduce the absorption of any toxins and be sure to bring the suspected toxin with you, with any packaging it may come with.

Heat Stroke

If you notice excessive panting, lethargy or distress in your pet during humid or hot weather, pay attention! Cool your pet as soon as possible by putting them in a tub of cool water or hose down. You can also apply cold, wet towels to the body and legs. DO NOT use ice or ice water – this could drop the body temperature quickly and the shock could cause additional complications.

Take your pet to the vet immediately for care and to ensure there are no other problems.

Open Wounds/Bleeding

This can definitely be overwhelming to see, so as always, do your best to remain calm. The goal is going to be to control the blood loss. Wrap the wound in gauze or a clean towel and apply firm, constant pressure. If possible, raise the body part above the level of the heart.

While you are caring for your pet, call your vet for further advice and to determine whether or not your pet needs to be brought in for professional attention.

None of us want to experience any of these scenarios but it’s vital to remain educated and prepared. Always consult your veterinarian for medical/first aid care and concerns!

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