Pet First Aid

Adapted from

by Tammy Redlin, KBTF of Canada Director of Health and Genetics

If your pet becomes injured it can be very stressful, especially if you have to treat and transport your pet to medical care. The following is a basic
first aid list to help in these situations. Always keep a pet first aid kit stocked and with you, especially if camping or travelling. If you need
to perform any first aid you should have your pet seen by your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Insect Bites& Stings

A bite or sting from an insect or spider can cause swelling, redness, and itching. Some animals can have an allergic reaction that may cause hives,
facial swelling, vomiting, & difficulty breathing.

What to Do:

  • If the stinger can be found, scrape it out with a credit card or other stiff material. Alternatively, use tweezers by grasping the stinger, which
    is located below the venom sac. If the sting just happened, don’t put pressure on the venom sac, as that would inject more of the venom into
    the pet.
  • Apply cool compresses to the area.
  • To help neutralize some of the acidic venom, apply a paste mixture of baking soda and water to the sting area.
  • Your pet should be examined immediately by a veterinarian if there is facial swelling, or breathing difficulty.


Any injury can cause bleeding either internal or external. External bleeding from cuts or nail injuries is usually obvious but internal bleeding is
not usually obvious until your dog becomes ill from blood loss. If bleeding is severe or continuous it is life threatening, the pet may lose enough
blood to cause shock with a loss as little as 2 teaspoons per pound of body weight. High heart rate and low blood pressure can occur with blood
loss. Any bleeding that is visible is external. Internal bleeding occurs inside the body and will not be seen. Blood can collect in the abdomen
or chest. Some external signs of internal bleeding include:


  • The pet is pale (check the gums).
  • The pet is cool on the legs, ears, or tail.
  • The pet is coughing up blood.
  • The pet is unusually subdued.
  • Rapid heart rate and breathing.

What to Do:

Options for controlling bleeding include applying direct pressure, elevating the injured area, or applying a tourniquet. Direct pressure is the preferred

When applying direct pressure firmly press a gauze or towel over the bleeding area. Do not disturb the compress (no peeking!) as clots should
be allowed to form. If the wound continues to bleed through add more towels or gauze on top of the bleeding injury. You can also apply pressure
and wrap the wounded area. If a severely bleeding wound is on the foot or leg, gently elevate the leg so that the wound is above the level of the
heart. Direct pressure and elevation is very effective to stop bleeding.

 Use of a tourniquet is potentially dangerous and it should be used only for
severe, life-threatening bleeding (blood spurting or pumping from a wound) in a limb that is not expected to be saved. Only to be used in life
threatening situations!!

Broken toenails can bleed profusely. Styptic powder or cornstarch can be used in these situations. If the nail is partially broken and unstable
it is very painful, wrap it against the foot or leg to stabilize it. The pressure will help with bleeding as well. These nails need to be cut off,
sometimes with a local freezing by your vet.


Burns can be caused by heat, flame, chemicals or electricity. Always protect yourself (i.e. make sure electricity has been turned off) then treat your
pet. For burns from flame or electricity immediately apply cool water compresses with a clean cloth to the affected area. Change them frequently
to keep the injured area cool and damp. This should be continued for at least 30 mins. Do not apply any ointments or butter.

Chemical burns need to be treated based on the chemical your pet has come in contact with. Keep your poison control number in your pet first aid
kit. Prompt removal of the chemical agent and rapid veterinary medical attention can help minimize the injury and speed healing. Immediate care
of chemical burns include flushing the area or eye with tepid water (saline is best) for at least 15 minutes or if the chemical is dry, brush it
away carefully.

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)

The purpose of CPR is to provide sufficient blood flow and oxygen to the brain and vital organs to support life until more advanced medical therapy
can be started.

Step 1:

  • Make sure your pet is actually unconscious.
  • Talk to the pet first.
  • Gently touch and attempt to awaken the pet.

Step 2:

  • Extend the head and neck and pull the tongue forward.

Step 3:

  • Look for effective breathing, if no breathing is obvious in 10 seconds, begin rescue breathing.

Step 4: Rescue breathing

  • Cover pets nose with your mouth and forcefully blow breath into the lungs until you see chest rise.
  • Give 3 to 5 full breaths, after several breaths are given stop and recheck for breathing and heartbeat, if none found continue to provide 12- 20
    breaths per minute

 Step 5: CPR – If no pulse is detectable, begin chest compression

  • Compress the chest wall with one or both hands, depending on the size of the dog and the size of the rescuer (whatever works best for you).
  • If the dog is on her side, place your hand(s) on the side of the chest wall where it is widest. If she is on her back, place your hand(s) on the
  • Depress the rib cage 1.5 to 4 inches, depending on the dog’s size. Do this 80 to 120 times per minute.

    If possible, give breaths during the compressions.
  • If it is not possible, give two breaths after every 12 compressions.


If the Pet is Unconscious

Open your pet’s mouth and do a finger sweep by placing your finger along the inside of the mouth, sliding it down toward the center of the throat
over the base of the tongue, and gently “sweeping” toward the center to remove any foreign material.

Attempt to give breaths as per rescue breathing. If the breaths do not go in then put your pet on their back, place hands on the abdomen near the
bottom of the ribcage and gently but firmly push toward the spine.

If the Pet is Conscious

Stay calm and try to keep the pet calm. If the pet is overheated, cool them and transport them to the nearest veterinarian.

Perform a finger sweep only if it will not excite the pet.

Do not perform a finger sweep if you believe your pet will bite you.

Eye Injuries

If you notice your pet squinting or protecting an eye, an abnormal appearance of the eyeball, redness, or the eyelid is unable to close or open
veterinary attention is needed as soon as possible to avoid permanent damage to sight.

  • If an eye has been dislocated from the socket or the lids cannot close over the eyeball, keep the eyeball moist with contact lens wetting solution,
    K-Y jelly, water, or moist compresses.
  • If an irritating chemical or other product accidentally gets into the eye, flush it with running water, contact lens saline or homemade saline
    solution squeezed from a compress or a sponge for a minimum of 15 minutes. (Saline: dissolve 2 teaspoons of table salt in 1 quart of water)

Hyperthermia (Heat Stroke)

Hyperthermia may be a life-threatening condition and requires immediate treatment. Heatstroke generally occurs in hot summer weather when dogs
are left with inadequate ventilation in hot vehicles, if an animal is left outdoors without adequate shade, exercised in hot weather. When
left in a car on a relatively cool (70?F) day; a recent study from Stanford University Medical Center found the temperature within a vehicle
may increase by an average of 40 degrees Fahrenheit within one hour regardless of outside temperature.

The pet will appear distressed, pant excessively and become restless. As the hyperthermia progresses, the pet may drool large amounts of saliva
from the nose and/or mouth and become unsteady on their feet.

What to Do:

  • Remove your pet from the environment where the hyperthermia occurred.
  • Move your pet to shaded and cool environment, and direct a fan on her.
  • Begin to cool the body by placing cool (not icy cold), wet towels over the back of the neck, in the armpits, and in the groin region. You may
    also wet the ear flaps and paws with cool water. Directing a fan on these wetted areas will help to speed evaporative cooling. Transport
    to the closest veterinary facility immediately.

Penetrating Injuries

Impalement and penetrating injuries involve a foreign body stuck in an animal, usually in a body cavity like the abdomen or chest, or deep wounds
where the skin is broken (dog fights). A veterinarian should be seen as soon as possible. Impalement injuries can lead to serious internal

What to Do:

  • Attempt to immobilize both the foreign body and the pet. Severe and continuing damage is done whenever the foreign body is allowed to flail
    about the inside of the pet.
  • If the foreign body is in the chest, or there is damage to the chest, listen for sounds of air sucking or whistling around the wound. If it
    appears that there is an open wound in the chest, cover the wound (and the foreign body, if necessary) with plastic wrap. Before you place
    the plastic wrap, apply petroleum jelly, sterile lubricant or antibiotic ointment to help seal the wound.
  • If the foreign body can easily be cut, shorten it, leaving only 3 to 6 inches sticking out.
  • Never try to remove the foreign body.

Here is KBT Kiara with her bandage on after an injury to her paw. The bandage provides both pressure to stop bleeding and protection from possible contaminants that might cause infections.


What to Do:

  • Protect the pet from injuring herself during or after the seizure. Keep her from falling from a height and especially keep away from water.
  • Remove other pets from the area as some pets become aggressive after a seizure.
  • Record the time the seizure begins and ends.

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