Pets: First aid for four-legged friends

Pet first aid supplies

• Gauze
• Nonstick bandages, towels, or strips of clean cloth
• Adhesive tape for bandages: Do not use human adhesive bandages like Band-Aids on pets.
• Milk of magnesia and activated charcoal (to absorb poison) and hydrogen peroxide (3 percent, to induce vomiting): Always contact your veterinarian or local poison control center before inducing vomiting or treating an animal for poison
• “Fever” digital thermometer: Do not insert a thermometer in your pet’s mouth— the temperature must be taken rectally.
• Eye dropper (or large syringe without needle): To give oral treatments or flush wounds
• Muzzle: To cover your pet’s head; in an emergency a rope, necktie, soft cloth, nylon stocking, or small towel may be used. If your pet is vomiting, do not muzzle it!
• Stretcher: To stabilize the injured animal and prevent further injury during transport. In an emergency a door, board, blanket or floor mat may be used.

Source: These lists are abbreviated from the American Veterinary Medical Association and reprinted with permission.


• In general, any products that are harmful for people are also harmful for pets. Examples include cleaning products, rodent poisons and antifreeze. But you also need to be aware of common food items that may be harmful to your pet, including chocolate, onions, and grapes and raisins.
• If your pet’s skin or eyes are exposed to a toxic product (such as many cleaning products), check the product label for the instructions for people exposed to the product. If the label says to wash skin with soap and water, do the same for your pet. If it tells you to flush the skin or eyes with water, do this for your pet as soon as possible (if you can do it safely), and call a veterinarian immediately.
• If you know your pet has consumed something that may be harmful, or if the animal is having seizures, losing consciousness, is unconscious or is having difficulty breathing, call your vet, emergency vet clinic or the Animal Poison Control Center immediately. There is a fee for the consultation.
• If possible, have the following information available: Species, breed, age, sex, weight and number of animals involved; symptoms; substance, amount the animal was exposed to, and how long it’s been since your pet ate it or was exposed to it.
• Have the product container/packaging available for reference.
• Collect any material your pet may have vomited or chewed, and place it in a plastic bag to take with you to the vet.


• Muzzle your pet.
• Lay your pet on a flat surface for support.
• Use a stretcher to transport pet to vet; if possible, secure the pet to the stretcher, even just using a blanket. Don’t wrap tightly around the chest.
• You can attempt to set the fracture with a homemade splint, but remember that a badly-placed splint may cause more harm than good.

BLEEDING (external)

• Muzzle your pet.
• Press a gauze pad over the wound, and keep pressure over the wound with your hand until the blood starts clotting. This will often take several minutes. Instead of checking it every few seconds, hold pressure on it for a minimum of three minutes.
• If bleeding is severe and on the legs, apply a tourniquet between the wound and the body, and apply a bandage and pressure over the wound. Loosen the tourniquet for 20 seconds every 15-20 minutes. Severe bleeding can quickly be life-threatening — get your animal to a veterinarian immediately.


• Symptoms: bleeding from nose, mouth, rectum, coughing up blood, blood in urine, pale gums, collapse, weak and rapid pulse.
• Keep animal as warm and quiet as possible and take immediately to a vet.


• Symptoms: Difficulty breathing, excessive pawing at the mouth, choking sounds when breathing or coughing, blue-tinged lips/tongue.
• If the pet can still breathe, keep it calm and get to a vet.
• If you see an object in pet’s mouth, gently try to remove it with pliers or tweezers, but be careful not to push the object further down the throat.
• If you can’t remove the object or your pet collapses, place both hands on the side of your pet’s rib cage and apply firm quick pressure, or lay your pet on its side and strike the rib cage firmly with the palm of your hand 3-4 times. Repeat until the object is dislodged or until you arrive at the vet.


• Never leave your pet in the car on warm days. The temperature inside a car can rise very quickly to dangerous levels, even on milder days.
• If you can’t immediately get to vet, move pet to a shaded area and out of direct sunlight.
• Place a cool or cold, wet towel around its neck and head (do not cover your pet’s eyes, nose or mouth).
• Remove the towel, wring it out, and rewet it and rewrap it every few minutes.
• Pour or use a hose to keep water running over the animal’s body (especially the abdomen and between the hind legs), and use your hands to massage its legs and sweep the water away as it absorbs the body heat.
• Transport the pet to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Animal Poison Control Hotline:
888-4ANI-HELP (888-426-4435)

For more pet first aid information: American Veterinary Medical Association


Top photo: First aid at home can help your pet be more comfortable or even survive until you can reach your vet for professional treatment. (courtesy AVMA)