Pet First Aid 101

By Dr. Justine Lee, DVM, DACVECC

When it comes to caring for your dog or cat, prevention is the best medicine. So, how do we prevent accidents and emergencies from happening in the first place? Simple steps of prevention like:

  • Keeping your dog on a leash or under strict verbal control (to prevent being hit by a car, etc.)
  • Keeping your cat indoors (to prevent being attacked by the neighborhood dog, etc.)
  • Pet-proofing your house to make sure accidental poisoning doesn’t occur
  • Appropriately crate training of your dog
  • Making sure your pets are appropriately collared (at all times) and microchipped

Most importantly, monitor your dog or cat carefully for signs of illness. Prevent an emergency situation before it occurs: be aware of any changes in your pet’s health or behavior. If your pet exhibits any of the following signs, seek veterinary attention immediately! The sooner your veterinarian can diagnose the problem, the better your pet’s prognosis is (and the less expensive it is!).Border Collie

  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Collapse
  • Persistent coughing
  • Dilated pupils
  • Lethargy/weakness
  • Blue or pale gums
  • Restlessness and panting
  • Unproductive retching
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Abnormal heart rate
  • Pain
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination

Stop. Assess. Act.

If your dog or cat does require first aid, the first thing to do is to stop and remain calm. It’s important that you keep calm so you can properly assess the situation and communicate clearly with your veterinarian, emergency veterinarian, or Pet Poison Helpline®.

  1. Put safety first. Before rushing in to aid an injured pet, take a moment to ensure that it’s safe for you to enter the area.
  2. Check the ABCDs: Airway, Breathing, Circulation, Disability. Clear your pet’s airway, check for breathing and pulse and assess his level of injury.
  3. Administer first aid. Control bleeding, flush burns, immobilize broken limbs, etc.
  4. Get to a veterinary hospital ASAP. Program into your cell phone the numbers of your veterinarian, an emergency veterinarian and Pet Poison Helpline® (800-213-6680). Call the veterinary hospital to alert them that you are on the way, so they can be prepared.

As published on on April 10, 2013.