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Basic First Aid

There are many times when we encounter problems with our pets,  and taking the appropriate prompt action could make a difference to whether your dog or cat survives. It is important to always have your vet’s telephone number to hand so that advice can be sought immediately as to the best action to take.

  • Traffic Accidents
  • Seizures
  • Heat Stroke
  • Ingestion of Poisons
  • External Contamination
  • "Play" Accidents
  • Insect Stings
  • Fights/Attacks
  • General Lethargy

Traffic Accidents

Always ensure that you are safe and be aware of any traffic. Approach slowly and be aware that an injured dog or cat may try to bite. If a muzzle or bandage is to hand and there are no obvious breathing concerns then use these to prevent biting.

Fractures and spinal injuries are always a possibility, so try to minimise movement and keep the animal stable. Do not try to do anything with the fracture as it could make things worse.
If a “board” or something rigid can be found then this may be useful, if not improvise a stretcher with a blanket or coat and cover the  pet to try to keep it warm and minimise heat loss.

If there is any evident bleeding then try to stem this with a tight bandage or use whatever is to hand such as clothing.
Alternatively if this is not possible then consider applying pressure to the area in question to reduce hemorrhage, and then seek immediate veterinary attention.

If you think that your pet has stopped breathing then put them in lateral recumbency, use some of their hair to check for air flow at the nostrils. Pull their tongue forwards and check for any obstruction such as blood, and remove as appropriate. Extend the nose and neck forwards, close the mouth and the blow into the nostrils every three seconds whilst feeling for a heart beat on the side of the chest. Gentle chest compressions can be given behind the front legs every second to try to stimulate the heart and breathing.

Even if your pet appears fine post-RTA it is still important to seek veterinary attention as sometimes there can be internal injuries which are not always immediately apparent.

The same applies to bleeding caused by lacerations from glass, tin cans or similar.

If a proper dressing can be applied at home, then do this by using a non-adhesive dressing directly on the wound followed by cotton bandage and/or cotton wool and finally use some micropore or surgical tape to stick the dressing to the fur to stop it slipping.

Always include the foot in the bandaging to prevent swelling, and put cotton wool between the digits to prevent rubbing and then take to the vet at the nearest opportunity.


Leave your pet alone, turn off all lights, televisions or other stimuli, ensure that there is nothing electrical or dangerous near your pet.

Use padding, cushions or similar to prevent any self-trauma and consult your vet immediately.

Heat Stroke

Never leave your pets in a car in hot weather, and be careful not to over-exercise in these conditions. If there are signs of excessive panting and distress then make sure the animal is somewhere cool and ideally in a draught and use damp towels or apply luke-warm water to the coat and offer some water orally, then phone the vet.

Ingestion of Poisons

Call the vet immediately and if known, inform them of the poison that has been eaten. Soda crystals can be used to make your pet sick, but only do this if your vet advises this, as some poisons will cause further damage when vomiting occurs.

Ideally go to your vet immediately so the best treatment can be given.

External Contamination

If your pet’s coat or paws get covered in paint, oil or similar then firstly prevent them licking it by using a buster collar or similar. Clip off the affected areas with electric clippers if possible, and if a small area then consider using warm dilute washing up liquid and bathe gently.
Swarfega can be used if needed, but if in doubt then always consult you vet immediately.

If something spills into your pet’s eyes then flush repeatedly with cool water or alternatively sterile saline if to hand, and ideally do not apply pressure to the eye as this may cause more damage.

"Play" Accidents

Most commonly seen in dogs when chasing balls or sticks. If a ball or stick becomes lodged in your dog’s mouth or throat, try to remove by gently prizing open the mouth if possible, without getting bitten. Seek help from someone else if possible to help hold the mouth open without getting bitten.

If the balls is stuck further back and causing compromise to breathing then try massaging the throat externally, or alternatively push suddenly behind the last rib on the abdomen as this may dislodge the ball. You may find this easier laying your dog on its side if possible.

Insect Stings

Try gently to pull the sting out as low as possible and then bathe the area with water or a bicarbonate of soda solution. If the sting is in the throat or mouth then seek urgent medical attention as swelling may interfere with breathing.


If there are visible puncture wounds to the limbs or extremities then these can be bathed with a sterile salt water solution or saline if available and then call your vet for the next available appointment.

Any other injuries or if your pet appears shocked then seek veterinary advice as a matter of urgency.

General Lethargy

Monitor for eating, drinking, urinating and defaecating and ensure your pet has access to water.  Never be tempted to give human medications such as paracetamol or ibuprofen if you feel your cat or dog has a temperature, as these can be potentially fatal.

Seek veterinary advice if signs persist for more than 12-24 hours, depending on factors such as age and other clinical signs.

There may be other circumstances where good first aid may help save your pets life, but the most important take home message is to always call your vet immediately and seek their advice, so the appropriate action can be taken.