Sometime over inquisitive pets can find themselves in a spot of trouble and rely on their owners to help them out or even save their lives. While veterinary care is always advised if your pet becomes injured or unwell, pet 1st aid applied by the owner could make a huge difference in the outcome for your pet.
The first responders will need to be able to stabilise the animal, help relieve their pain and transport them safely to veterinarian for further treatment.
It’s a good idea for any pet owner to prepare a pet first aid kit just in case something should happen. A well-equipped kit should include;
- Phone number for your regular veterinary clinic and an emergency veterinary clinic
- Sterile gauze – various sizes
- Bandages in varying widths
- Adhesive tape
- Cotton wool
- Iodine antiseptic or Hydrogen peroxide (3%)
- Scissors and Tweezers
- Elizabethan collar
- Disposable Gloves
Store all of your first aid supplies together in a plastic tub which can also be used to hold water for cooling, drinking and cleaning.
The Australian Red Cross offers Pet First Aid Course and Pre-prepared First aid kits especially designed for pets.
Where to begin with Pet 1st Aid?
In the event that your pet becomes ill or injured an initial ABC assessment is a good place to start. ABC stands for;
- A – Airways – Is there is anything blocking the airway?
- B – Breathing – Is the animal breathing?
- C – Circulation – Can you detect a pulse or heart beat?
If any of these questions are answered with a ‘no’, you should contact a veterinarian immediately.
Keep everyone safe
In the case of an emergency it is vital that you assess the immediate safety for both yourself and the animal. In the instance of a road accident, it is important to get an injured animal off a road immediately to avoid further injury, but you should never put yourself at risk. If you become injured as well, you may be unable to help the animal that you were initially trying to care for.
Animals that have become injured are often under large amounts of stress and require restraining. Small dogs and cats can be secured with a towel or blanket over the head. Clasp the animal firmly around the neck and once it has been restrained wrap the towel around its neck. Try to have the animal’s nose and eyes visible, although some animals will feel more comfortable if their eyes are covered. Once fully restrained the animal can be transported in a box, basket or pet crate, ensuring that they have plenty of ventilation.
Large dogs can be restrained with a lead or a rope and they may possibly also require muzzling. Be aware of any possible fear and aggression that your pet may be experiencing which may cause them to lash out and try to bite you.
A piece of rope, bandage or panty hose can be a great make-shift muzzle. Make a loop with the material and tie a loose knot and then slip this over the dogs jaw. Pull down to tighten and bring the ends behind the dog’s ears and tie to secure firmly. Ensure that it is firm enough that it can’t be pawed off.
Choking occurs when an object is blocking the animal windpipe and it is impossible for them to breath. Common items that cause chocking in pets include food and toys. Use caution when trying to remove the object as a panicked animal is likely to bite. If possible, you can carefully open the animal’s jaws and remove the foreign object using your hands, pliers or tweezers all the time being careful not to push the object further into the throat.
If this method is unsuccessful, place your hands around the animal’s rib cage and apply quick, firm pressure. The idea is to quickly push air out of the lungs to displace the object from behind.
If these options don’t quickly remove the object, don’t delay, and get your pet to a veterinarian immediately.
Pets can experience heatstroke if over exerted on a hot day or if they are left in areas that are too hot. If you suspect that your pet is suffering from heatstroke move them to a cool area and run cool water over the back of their head. You can also place cool, wet towels between the back legs, on the belly and in the arm pits. Continue to keep them cool as you transport them to the veterinary clinic.
For more information on caring for your pets during the summer, have a read of our article;
Summer Days – 9 ways to keep your pets comfortable as the weather heats up
Heat and chemical burns should be treated promptly and flushed under cool, running water for at least 10 minutes before seeking veterinary advice.
In some unfortunate circumstances pets can develop wounds that bleed profusely. It is important to quickly stop the bleeding by applying pressure to the wound. Apply a sterile gauze followed by an absorbent cotton pad secured in place with a firm bandage. If these materials are unavailable use an absorbent cloth and hold firmly in place. Try to avoid removing the absorbent material once it is applied as it will disrupt the clot formation and may cause further bleeding. Transport the animal to the veterinarian keeping them warm and as still as possible.
The reasons for seizures can be many and varied including poisoning, illness, infections and epilepsy. If your pet is suffering from a seizure do not try to move them but move away objects that may hurt them e.g. furniture. Allow the seizure to run its course and do not restrain the animal. Most seizures will last for 2-3 minutes. Once the seizure has stopped, keep your pet as warm and quiet as possible and contact your veterinarian.
Many household products are poisonous to pets and if you suspect that your pet has ingested a poison, contact your local veterinarian or the animal poisons hotline immediately. Some common household poisons include cleaning and garden chemicals, rat and snail bait, chocolate and medications. Follow the veterinarian’s advice carefully as the instructions will differ depending on the substance that was swallowed.
Bites and stings
Pets will react differently depending on what they have been bitten or stung by. If the bite or sting has occurred on a limb, an immobilisation bandage can be applied over the affected area and around the entire limb. Apply it firmly, but not too tightly so that blood flow is not disrupted.
Bee stings can cause an allergic reaction and in rare cases can be lethal. Most pets that are stung by bees are stung on the face or paws and experience localised swelling. The sting can be removed by scraping it sideways with your fingernail or a credit card. Apply a cold compress to reduce the swelling until veterinarian assistance can be sort.
If your pet has been bitten by a snake you should contact a veterinarian immediately as successful treatment can be time sensitive.
Learning the vital skills of pet first aid could make a huge difference in giving your pet the best chance at recovering from their ordeal.