Preparing for a Pet Emergency
We hope you won’t need this information, but we also want that knowledge to be there if you do.
- Have Your Vet’s Contact Info Handy. Whether you save it as a contact in your phone or post it on your refrigerator (or better yet, both), it is important to have your veterinary office’s emergency number handy if and when you need it. This way, you can administer the aid that you can and then call for help.
It is a good idea to have the number for Animal Poison Control on hand too. This is: (888) 426-4435. You can visit https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control for more information.
- Assemble a Pet First Aid Kit. We know what to put in our first aid kits for ourselves and our families. But what about our pets? Many items are the same:
- Non-stick bandages
- Adhesive tape for bandages (*do not use band-aids intended for humans)
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Milk of magnesia
- Eye dropper to flush wounds or administer oral treatments
- Extra leash
- Muzzle (*if your pet is vomiting, do not muzzle him)
**Always call animal poison control and/or your vet before you administer a treatment like milk of magnesia or hydrogen peroxide to absorb poison or induce vomiting.
- Handle Your Pet with Care. As gentle and loving as your pet is, remember that he is injured - and he is scared. This can make your pet unpredictable. Keep your face away from his mouth and do not hug him. We know you want to provide comfort, but right now, the key is providing first aid.
Approach your pet gently and slowly, and, if your pet is not vomiting, muzzle him. If it’s a smaller dog or cat, you may try to restrain him in a wrapped towel (ensuring he can breathe). If your pet has been struck by a vehicle, for example, or has another such injury, do not move him. Call your vet and ask for advice. If given the go-ahead to transport, use a pet carrier if you can. For larger animals, use a board, sled, or blanket as a stretcher.
Throughout, move slowly and gently. While it is not advisable to hug your pet, you can use your voice to comfort him. Keep talking to him in soft, soothing tones. We know it is hard not to panic, but staying calm will help him stay calmer.
- Learn Procedures for Common Issues. Emergencies don’t wait for you to research steps and procedures. While you don’t need to go to veterinary school in your downtime, it is important to know the basics.
- Seizures: Do not physically restrain your pet. Keep him away from objects that may hurt him and time the seizure. After it has stopped, keep him warm and speak to him in calm tones. Call your vet ASAP.
- Poisoning and Toxic Exposure: Everything from food to antifreeze can be deadly to your pet. You should always keep harmful substances out of reach. If your pet is exposed topically and you know what the substance is, check the label. If it advises washing with soap and water, wash your pet’s skin with soap and water (avoiding the mouth, eyes, and noses). If it tells you to flush the skin or eyes with water, do this.
If your pet has ingested something, call Animal Poison Control. You will need to tell them the species, breed, age, sex, and weight of your pet, as well as the subustance you know or suspect he ingested.
- Fractures. First, protect yourself. If your pet is not vomiting, muzzle him. Then, lay him on a flat surface. It is not advisable to attempt to make a homemade splint as this can cause further damage. Instead, call your vet’s emergency number, use a board as a stretcher, and transport him to the office.
- Bleeding. You should muzzle your pet here too. Then, use a clean gauze pad to cover the would and keep pressure on it. The blood will start to clot after a few minutes. Just keep steady pressure for at least 3-5 minutes and then check.
If he’s still bleeding, maintain pressure. If bleeding is severe, call your vet immediately. Use a tourniquet (e.g. an elastic band or gauze) to staunch the bleeding. Make sure to loosen this for 20 seconds every 15 minutes and then retighten. But you should really be at the vet’s office at this point; extensive bleeding can be life-threatening.
Your pet may exhibit signs of internal bleeding. These include bleeding from the mouth, nose, or rectum, coughing up blood, or presence of blood in feces or urine. You may also notice a weak pulse. In this case, call your vet immediately, keep him warm, and transport.
- Heatstroke. This is a very serious condition for pets. Move to a cooler, shaded area and place a cool/cold wet cloth around your pet’s head and neck. Rewet and apply every five minutes. If severe, run a hose or pour water over his body (especially between the hind legs and on the abdomen). Sweep the water away. Call your vet as soon as possible.
- Choking. Stay calm. If your pet is choking but breathing, head to the vet. If he is not breathing, see if you can spot an object in his mouth. If you do, gently remove with tweezers or pliers - but be careful not to push it down into his throat. If you can’t get it easily, stop trying and transport immediately.
If your pet collapses, put your hands on the side of his rib cage and apply quick, firm pressure. You could also try laying him on his side and striking his rib cage with your palm 3-4 times. Keep doing this as you transport your pet to the vet.
- Not Breathing or No Heartbeat. These are terrifying situations. Call your vet immediately. At the same time, open your pet’s airway (gently grasp his tongue and pull it forward). Check for foreign objects in the airway. If you must perform rescue breathing, hold your pet’s mouth closed and breathe into his nose. You should see his chest expand. Do a breath every 4-5 seconds as you transport.
If he has no heartbeat, you may try chest compressions. First check for an open airway. Then, lay your pet on his right side. Locate the heart, which is on the lower half of the chest on the left side. Put one hand over the heart and the other underneath his chest.
Then, if you have a dog, press down on the heart about one inch (harder for larger dogs). For very small dogs or cats, put your hand around his chest, positioning your thumb on the left side and other fingers on the right side. Compress by squeezing the chest.
The pace you should keep is 80-120 compressions per minute for large animals and 100-150 for small animals. If your pet is not breathing, alternate 4-5 seconds of chest compressions with one rescue breath and keep repeating.
Please be aware: As with humans, the survival rate for resuscitation is low.
No matter what first aid steps you take, always follow up with professional veterinary care. Immediate intervention is sometimes necessary to help your pet survive a critical situation. Knowing what to do can save his life. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you need help, day or night.