4 Pet First Aid Essentials to Know Before an Emergency

Editor’s note: This Care2 favorite was originally posted on March 30, 2015. Enjoy!

If your pet suddenly experienced a medical emergency or needed some quick medical care, would you know how to handle the situation? Here are some basics that will help all pet guardians prepare to help animals in trouble:

1. Have the Right Supplies Ready


It’s imperative to have certain necessities immediately on hand in case your animal friend suddenly needs your help. Create an animal first aid kit that contains these items:

  • Emergency contact information: Always keep handy the phone numbers for your veterinarian, a nearby emergency after-hours veterinarian and the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center: 1-888-426-4435 — note that there is a fee associated with this call. You don’t want to be scrambling to find these numbers when you need them.
  • Muzzle: Injured dogs often bite. Make sure you have an easy slip-on muzzle available. If you don’t have one, you can substitute strips of cloth, a necktie, a dish towel, a knee sock or any number of other soft fabric items. You may need to restrain a cat in a towel or pillow case, but be sure its nose is free to breathe. Never muzzle a vomiting animal, of course.
  • Bandages and Gauze: You’ll need the non-stick kind, not the adhesive bandages you use on yourself when you cut your finger. Try to find the self-cling kind at a pet supply store. If you don’t have any, you can use strips cut from towels or other fabrics.
  • Poison response supplies: Activated charcoal, hydrogen peroxide (3 percent) or milk of magnesia might mean the difference between life and death if your pet swallows a poisonous substance. Always contact a veterinarian for guidance before attempting to administer a treatment for poison or inducing vomiting.
  • Digital thermometer: Buy a pet thermometer. A regular human thermometer won’t do, because animal temperatures run higher than ours. A dog’s normal temperature ranges from 100.5 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit, for example. Remember to take a temperature rectally, not by mouth. Lubricate with petroleum jelly first.

Also keep on hand things like antiseptic wipes, disposable non-latex gloves, adhesive tape, a foil emergency blanket, tweezers, blunt-end scissors, ice packs, a leash, a pet carrier, an eye dropper, a plastic non-needle syringe for administering oral medication and towels. Know where your pet’s medical records are.

2. Know How to Safely Handle an Injured Animal


First, remain calm. Breathe and think clearly. If you are frantic, your pet will know that and become more fearful himself. If your dog is in a lot of pain and not vomiting, muzzle him. Yes, he’s your buddy, but pain and fear may make him snap at you nevertheless. If he’s been injured in a fight or another aggressive setting, he may still be amped up. Don’t put your face close to your injured pet and don’t hug him or her — it might hurt.

Don’t move an injured pet before checking him or her to determine what sort of injury he may have sustained. You may need to splint a broken bone or stanch some bleeding before you can transport him to your veterinarian’s office.

3. Learn These Basic Procedures Before Emergency Strikes


If you can, take a course from a knowledgeable organization, like the Red Cross, to learn about how to help your pet in an emergency. Learn how to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, on your dog or cat. Understand how to treat electrical shock or to care for injuries to the eye, feet and ears. Take note of how to react in urgent care situations. When seconds count, you don’t want to be fumbling around, unsure of what to do.

4. Let Technology Assist You


Your smartphone can be your best ally in a pet medical emergency. Download the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control mobile app or the Red Cross Pet First Aid app. Both offer substantial information that might mean the difference between life and death in an emergency.

Just as you should have plans in place for your family in the event of a fire or natural disaster, you need to pre-plan for a medical emergency for your furry family members. It’s the obligation of every pet guardian to know what to do at a moment’s notice when your companion animal is in trouble. Are you ready?

Photo Credit: Mat Wall/Flickr


Jonathon C
Jonathon C4 months ago

so important

Carl R
Carl R4 months ago


Paulo R
Paulo R4 months ago


Paulo R
Paulo R4 months ago


Elaine W
Elaine W4 months ago

Very useful information.

Jane H
Jane Howard4 months ago

Informative article thank you.

Callie R
Callie R4 months ago


Brandy S
Brandy S4 months ago


Laura R
Laura R4 months ago

Thank you.

One Heart inc
One Heart inc4 months ago