First Aid for pets

Knowing what to do in an emergency can be the difference between life or death. Our vets have put together this guide for pet owners to help you learn which steps to take should a pet get seriously ill or injured.

Remember: if you’re worried about your pet, call your vet.

First aid guide

Download this page as a handy guide to print and keep

Recognising an emergency

If you are worried, always call your vet for advice.

Your pet definitely needs to see an vet as an emergency if they:

  • aren’t breathing or are having difficulty breathing
  • are unresponsive
  • may have broken bones
  • are having a fit/seizure
  • are having difficulty moving or coordinating movements
  • may have eaten something toxic
  • have collapsed and can’t get up
  • have been vomiting or passing diarrhoea for more than 24 hours.

What to do in an emergency

  • Don’t panic. If your pet is injured, you’ll be more help to them if you can stay calm.
  • Call your vet. Explain what’s happened and let them know that you’re on your way and when you’ll arrive. If it’s an evening or weekend, you might get a message giving you details of your local out-of-hours vet.
  • Don’t try to deal with serious injuries yourself. This could put you and your pet in danger. Animals can lash out when they’re in pain which can injure you and cause more complications for them.
  • Don’t give your pet anything to eat or drink unless your vet tells you to.

Be prepared for emergencies: it could save a pet’s life

  • Keep your vet’s name, address and telephone number stored in your mobile phone, your landline, and kept in an address book or safe place around the home.
  • Keep a pen and paper handy to take down any important instructions from your vet.
  • Call your vet first. You’ll need to let them know there’s an emergency case on the way and follow any instructions you’re given e.g. if emergencies are seen on a different site.
  • Keep a pet first aid kit at home and with you when you’re travelling.

A pet first aid kit

A good pet first aid kit will contain all the things you’ll need to give simple first aid for small injuries at home. Even if you can treat your pet with your first aid kit, you should take them to your vet for a check-up as soon as possible.

Your first aid kit should have:

  • Bandages
  • blunt-ended scissors
  • wound wash
  • cotton wool
  • tweezers
  • tick tweezers
  • wound dressing
  • self-adhesive tape
  • dressings
  • vinyl gloves
  • foil blanket
  • antiseptic wipes.
  • For larger animals, like big dogs, keep a large blanket available to use as a stretcher.

You can stock up on first aid supplies on our online pet store

Traffic Accidents

If your pet is in a traffic accident the best thing to do is keep calm and don’t panic:

  • Get someone to phone the nearest vet.
  • Approach the pet from the front so they can see you.
  • Avoid any sudden movements.
  • Speak gently, using the pet’s name if you know it.

Next, assess the situation:

  • What’s the danger to you and others? Always make sure it’s safe to intervene.
  • Direct the traffic around the accident if you can.

Then you can move the pet away from traffic and get them to a vet:

  • Don’t move the pet if you think they might have damaged their spine – unless your vet tells you to.
  • If the pet can walk, gently coax them to a car and help them get in.
  • If they can’t walk then lift them with one hand under their hind legs and the other around their chest. If they’re too big to carry, use a blanket, coat, rug or firm board as a make-shift stretcher.
  • As you move them, make sure their breathing isn’t obstructed.

CPR for dogs

If a dog stops breathing, remember your ABCs:

A for Airway:

  • Pull the tongue forward.
  • Check there’s nothing in the dog’s throat.

B for Breathing:

  • Look and listen.
  • If the dog isn’t breathing, extend the dog’s neck, close their mouth and blow down the dog’s nose. Use your hand a ‘funnel’ so that you don’t put your mouth directly over the dog’s nose.

C for Circulation:

  • Check for a heartbeat or pulse.
  • If you are sure there is no heartbeat, compress the chest twice per second vigorously enough to achieve obvious chest compression.

Read more about giving CPR to pets.

Heatstroke in pets

Pets can quickly overheat in hot weather. Avoid heatstroke by:

  • Never leaving your pet in a hot car.
  • Making sure they always have access to shelter and shade.
  • Not walking dogs in the hottest part of the day – wait until it’s cooled down.

If you think your pet has heatstroke, treat it as an emergency. You’ll need to gradually lower their body temperature so they can recover.

  • Move your pet into a shady, cool area.
  • Pour small amounts of room-temperature water over their body. Don’t use cold water as this could put your pet into shock.
  • If you can, wrap your pet in wet towels and put them in front of a fan.
  • Let them drink small amounts of cool water.
  • Keep pouring water over them until their breathing starts to settle. Don’t cool them down so much they start to shiver.
  • Once they’ve cooled them down, take them to the vet as an emergency. They’ll need to be checked over.