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First aid for pets

When an emergency happens, panic quickly sets in. Learn how to administer first aid to your pet so you’ll prepared should the unthinkable happen.

Dog with leg injury


Whether your dog got cut by a thorn while exploring in the forest or your cat got into a fight, bleeding can become an emergency if not controlled. If your pet is wounded, apply clean gauze and pressure with your hand for several minutes until the bleeding stops. Check that the bleeding has stopped only every few minutes so that the blood has a chance to clot. If possible, have another person hold your animal to stop them from moving while you apply pressure. For a superficial wound, clean the area with a saline solution or mild antibacterial soap. Apply an antibiotic ointment, and cover the area with gauze. Tape the gauze in place, and apply an adhesive bandage over the gauze, securely enough that it will stay on but not so tightly that it cuts off circulation. Monitor your pet to ensure they don’t remove the bandage and lick the wound; if the wound is located on the paw or leg, a sock can be taped in place to prevent this. For a deeper wound, apply pressure to control the bleeding, and take your pet to the vet immediately.

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Broken bones

Broken bones typically occur because of some type of impact, such as a car accident. The goal here is to stabilize your pet so you can transport them to the vet for emergency care. If the wound is open, place clean gauze over the area, and do not apply antiseptic or attempt to clean it. If the wound is closed, you can splint the bone with a rolled-up newspaper or magazine, but only if this doesn’t cause your pet pain. For both kinds of breaks, wrap the area with a clean towel to help stabilize the bone. Lift your pet into your vehicle, and cover them with a blanket to help protect against shock. If the breakage occurred to your pet’s back, place them on a stiff board before lifting them, and do not allow them to move.


A burn can either be first degree, second degree, or third degree. A first-degree burn, which means the skin is intact, can be treated at home provided you contact your vet. If your pet sustains a more serious second- or third-degree burn, cover the wound with a dressing, and transport them to the vet immediately. For a first-degree burn, cool and flush the area with a stream of cold water as quickly as possible. Apply an ice pack to the area for 20 minutes, making sure there is a barrier between the ice and the burn. After icing the area, apply a clean bandage to the wound.


Pawing at the mouth and respiratory distress are signs of a choking pet. If your pet is gagging or coughing, they are not choking but attempting to dislodge the object themselves. If your pet is choking, grasp their upper jaw with one hand, tilting the nose toward the sky. If you are able to see an object and can reach it, pull it out. If not, perform the Heimlich manoeuvre. For a large dog, wrap your arms around their body, making a fist in the middle of the body, just below the ribs. For a smaller dog or cat, simply place your fist in this location; a very small dog or cat might need only two fingers. Forcefully thrust your fist or fingers inward and upward to help generate air to force the object free. If the object is not expelled from the mouth, look in the mouth again to see if you can locate and remove it. If four Heimlich manoeuvres do not dislodge the object, use the side of your hand to deliver a sharp blow between the animal’s shoulder blades. As always, contact your vet immediately if your pet stops breathing or has a weak pulse.


Perform CPR if your pet is not breathing. To begin, lay your dog or cat on their side, and check their mouth for a swallowed object that could be impeding their breathing. Move your pet’s chin to straighten their throat. Keeping their mouth closed, and breathe into your pet’s nose; their chest will rise when you’re doing it correctly. To administer chest compressions, place one hand over the other on your dog’s chest. Keep your arms extended as you compress their chest to about one quarter the size. Aim for 80 compressions per minute. If another person is available, give breaths and chest compressions at the same time. If you are on your own, give one breath followed by five chest compressions.

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