(888) 426-4435 ~ If you suspect your pet has ingested poison, medication, or other potentially poisonous substance the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for a phone consultation to help guide you as to whether your pet requires immediate treatment. A consultation fee may be required although this phone call may be well worth the money as it may save you a trip to an emergency hospital! Visit www.aspca.org for more information.
(800) 213-6680 ~ Pet Poison Helpline is another valuable resource available for consult if you suspect your pet has ingested a toxic substance. They are also available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If your pet has been microchipped at Animal House within the past year or if you subscribe to HomeAgain Microchips annual plan calls to Pet Poison Hotline are free! A consultation may be required when calling this center also. Please visit www.petpoisonhealthline.com for more information.
Most allergic Reactions seen in animals are due to insect stings, but also may result from foods, vaccines, and other medications. Mild allergic reactions are manifested by moderate pain or itching and localized swelling in the area. First aid for these type of reactions include:
Severe allergic reactions (“anaphylaxis”) may occur within 30 minutes. In these cases, the signs of mild reactions are followed by vomiting, facial swelling, full body hives, trouble breathing & shock. THESE ARE TRUE EMERGENCIES! Transport immediately for veterinary care!
Food allergies occasionally occur and usually cause stomach upset, cramping. diarrhea, or skin problems.
Contact allergies are caused by grasses and weeds, shampoos, topical insecticides or medicines, and cause only local discomfort.
If you suspect a contact allergic reaction:
Inhalant allergies (allergies to pollens and molds) flea allergies, and bronchial asthma are common in small animals. See your veterinarian for assistance in their management.
Burns are categorized as thermal, chemical, or electrical.
For burns that leave the skin intact, wash the area with a gentle stream of cool water or immerse in a cool bath. Then apply a cold compress on the burn to minimize the damage. Do NOT apply oils, creams, or butter to a burn.
For full-thickness Burns (completely through the skin) cover with a dry cloth or towel and transport to a veterinarian immediately.
Always seek veterinary care for a burn. Often the full extent of the burn will not be apparent for several days and they are very prone to infection.
Electrical burns may cause only superficial burns in the mouth, but may also cause convulsions or life-threatening heart and lung conditions up to 24 to 48 hours after the incident. Seek veterinary care immediately if electrocution is suspected.
If no pulse or respiration are detected, CPR may be attempted. CPR is a two-phased procedure consisting of mouth-to-nose respiration and heart massage.
CPR should only be attempted if veterinary care is not immediately available or if you feel that the animal will not survive otherwise.
Attempt CPR only if your veterinarian has demonstrated for you the proper technique.
Visit this site for detailed instruction on CPR in pets
If drowning occurs:
Hold the animal upside-down and squeeze the chest gently but firmly until fluid stops draining.
If there is no pulse or respiration and veterinary care is not immediately available, institute CPR and transport to the nearest veterinarian immediately.
The eyes are very fragile and subject to a variety of maladies. If you suspect an injury or an infection in an eye, seek veterinary care immediately.
Common eye problems include:
Corneal abrasions or ulcers
Foreign bodies between the eye and eyelids or in the eye itself
Glaucoma (increased pressure within the eyeball)
Proptosis of the eyeball is frequently the result of trauma to animals with protruding eyes. The eyeball is actually forced partially out of its socket by the sudden change in pressure. Proptosed eyes must be treated immediately to hope to salvage vision and retain a cosmetically pleasing eye, albeit some cannot be salvaged.
Even a simple injury or infection can get worse fast. Never waste time in having a veterinarian examine an eye problem. Until you can see a veterinarian:
Remove any foreign material such as plant matter that is visible and reachable under the eyelids.
DO NOT remove any objects impaled in the eye-support the object by wrapping a cloth around the base of the object, and keep the head as still as possible.
Flush the eye gently with water or saline solution if you suspect that noxious fluids or small particles have contacted the eye.
Keep discharge from the eye from building up by gently wiping the corner of the eye with a moistened cotton ball.
Prevent the animal from rubbing at the affected eye. Animals frequently cause a minor irritant to become a more serious problem in this manner.
Apply artificial tears if possible. This will keep the eye moist and help to prevent further damage. All other ointments should be administered only if directed by a veterinarian. Steroid-containing eye drops can inhibit healing and in some conditions (ulcers) can make things much worse.
Fractures are cracks or breaks in bones. Suspect a fracture if the animal refuses to put weight on a leg, if a limb is not in a normal position or is dangling limply. Swelling occurs very quickly over a broken bone in any location. Fractures are categorized as open (bone protruding through the skin) or closed. A major goal of First Aid is to prevent a closed fracture from becoming an open fracture. Use extreme caution as fractures are very painful and pets will often bite with manipulation.
If the bone is exposed, cover with a towel to keep it as clean as possible.
Move a limb with a suspected fracture as little as possible. While splinting can be done with many fractured, it is simpler to support the leg with a folded towel or blanket before transporting to a veterinarian.
Sprains and strains are injuries to the muscles, ligaments, or tendons. Sprains, strains, and dislocated joints can all be difficult to tell from a fracture. Only a radiograph (X-ray) done by your veterinarian can evaluate this type of injury accurately.
Cold exposure or hypothermia is most likely to affect animals which lose body temperature quickly. Especially susceptible are puppies, small breeds of dogs, short-haired, older or injured animals.
Frostbite can occur without suffering serious hypothermia. Areas most prone to frostbite are the tail, tips or the ears, and footpads. Normal temperature in dogs and cats is 99-102.5F.
To treat cold exposure cases:
Warm the animal slowly by wrapping in a blanket and placing a hot water bottle or heating pad under the blanket, not directly on the animal.
A hair dryer may be directed toward the victim for passive warming.
Immediately seek vet care.
Frostbitten tissues appear leathery and hair may appear white; handle these fragile tissues gently. The extent of the damage may not be evident for several days.
Animals cannot sweat like people do to effectively dissipate body heat. Instead, they must pant, a mechanism which works well when the outside temperature is below their normal body temperature.
Heatstroke can occur at any temperature and is more common when humidity is high.
Heatstroke causes a reduction of blood circulation which compromises kidney function, swelling of the brain, and a general overheating of body tissues. It has a very high risk for death and requires immediate attention.
Suspect heatstroke if:
Extreme panting and salivation is observed
The animal has an anxious or panicky expression
Collapse follows the above symptoms.
Rectal temperature exceeds 105 degrees F.
The animal has been in an enclosed area with poor air circulation such as an enclosed car or room, has been in direct sunlight without access to fresh water, or has been exercising excessively on a hot day.
The goal of treating heatstroke is to get the animals body temperature down quickly
Call your veterinarian IMMEDIATELY – your pet needs emergency care.
Place wet towels on your pet and blow a fan towards them. Do NOT immerse in water. Seek immediate vet care after initiating cooling.
Check the body temperature with a rectal thermometer every 5 minutes and stop heat reduction measures when it reaches 103 degrees F to avoid overcooling.
Broken toenails are more painful than dangerous. Controlling resultant bleeding with a styptic powder (or in a pinch can use corn starch/flour) is usually all that is necessary.
Broken teeth should be seen by a primary care veterinarian within 24 hours if adequate repair is to be accomplished.
Nosebleeds may be caused by trauma, foreign bodies, bleeding disorders or intranasal tumors. Keep the animal quiet with its nose elevated until the bleeding stops or you can see a veterinarian for evaluation. Note which side/nostril blood is coming from.
Even minor injuries can cause pain for your pet. Remember to protect yourself as well as the patient!
If there is a penetrating wound to the chest associated with difficulty in breathing:
Do NOT remove any objects sticking out of the chest!
Make an airtight seal over the wound and around any foreign object by applying a cloth or plastic sheet and holding or taping (not too tight!) around the chest.
TRANSPORT IMMEDIATELY TO A VETERINARIAN!
Seizures may be generalized where the whole body is affected or partial where only a part of the body is affected. Seizures are the result of abnormal nervous impulses which cause uncontrollable twitching and erratic behavior.
Causes of seizures include:
If you witness a seizure:
Keep the animal away from furniture, stairwells, and sharp objects. Place blankets or cushions around the animal if possible.
Time the length of the seizure episode. Seizures lasting more than 5 minutes may be life-threatening and should be seen by a veterinarian. Two seizures in less than 24 hours is also an emergency.
Do NOT attempt to grasp the tongue. The risk of being severely bitten is greater than the risk of an animal choking.
If the seizure is a short one and the animal recovers quickly, place in a dark, quiet area and offer a moderate amount of food and water.
Always report seizure episodes to your veterinarian who can advise you of the necessary steps to take from there.
Shock is a state of massive physiological reaction to bodily trauma, inflammation or infection usually characterized by marked loss of blood pressure and depression of vital processes.
Signs of shock include:
Dazed attitude or unconsciousness
Low body temperature (dogs and cats average between 101 and 102.5 degrees F).
Rapid shallow respirations. Pale or white gums and tongue.
First aid for shock is as follows:
Control any bleeding.
Transport to a veterinarian immediately. Drugs, oxygen, and intravenous fluids may be necessary to save your pets life.
While many snakes are nonvenomous, rattlesnakes, copperheads, and water moccasins can cause painful tissue reactions, infection, or shock.
Suspect a snakebite if:
Extreme swelling and pain occurs suddenly, especially when it involves an extremity like a nose or a paw.
Fang-marks are found on the surface of such a wound (they may or may not be evident).
If you suspect a snakebite:
Keep the animal warm and quiet
Transport immediately to an emergency veterinarian. Antivenin is readily available in most areas for rattlesnake bites, and is the mainstay of treatment. Pain control and IV fluids are generally recommended.
Do NOT cut the wound and suck out the venom or apply tourniquets. These efforts may cause more harm than good.
Dogs and cats have a very efficient vomiting mechanism. Vomiting may be a sign of a very minor problem or a very serious one. Vomiting may or may not be associated with diarrhea.
Causes of vomiting include:
Sudden changes in diet
Intestinal parasites (worms)
Bacterial or viral infectins
Foreign body ingestion
Kidney failure or other metabolic disorders
Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
When vomiting occurs only once or twice and is not associated with other problems:
Withhold all food for 12 hours.
Offer small amounts of water frequently or let the animal lick an ice cube.
If no vomiting occurs during that 12 hour time period begin feeding boiled chicken, turkey, or hamburger with boiled white rice as small, frequent meals, then gradually switch back to his/her regular food over several days.
If vomiting recurs or your pet is not eating seek vet care.
Signs of serious vomiting include:
Symptoms lasting more than 24 hours.
Vomiting 4 times or more.
Blood is observed in vomitus or stool.
Evidence of pain.
Weakness or collapse.
Bloating of the abdomen (overfull stomachs, particularly in large, deep chested dogs, can twist and kill the animal in a very short time).
Signs of dehydration.
Any vomiting or diarrhea in a puppy or kitten should be considered potentially serious.
Severely bleeding wounds, deep wounds, and sucking wounds to the chest must be dealt with immediately. Arterial bleeding, the most life-threatening kind of bleeding, is characterized by rhythmic spurting. Venous bleeding is a slower dripping or pooling of blood and can still be very serious.
To control bleeding, apply gentle, steady pressure with clean, absorbent material. Apply a tourniquet loosely only as a last resort.
Penetrating or sucking wounds to the chest must be tightly covered to help support adequate respiration. Do NOT remove objects from a chest or abdominal wound, instead, wrap the object at its entry point with plastic wrap to seal the wound and hold or tape in place. Transport immediately to a veterinary facility.
To clean contaminated wounds, flush gently with a stream of cool water or immerse in a cool tub. Cover the wound with a towel or transport to a vet.
Bite wounds always require veterinary care, even for very small puncture wounds.
Lacerations (cuts through the skin) should be closed as soon as possible to maximize healing and minimize infection.
Major wounds should receive veterinary attention immediately. Minor wounds should be examined within 24 hours. Animals are particularly prone to infection and often require antibiotics to facilitate healing.
Conforming 3″ bandage rolls
Large 4″ gauze pads preferably non-stick
Scissors, tweezers, pliers, magnifying glass
Flea comb, tick remover
Disposable iodine wipes
Hydrogen peroxide (3%)
Large plastic oral dispensing syringe
Sterile eye wash
Leash and soft muzzle
Emergency “Thermo” blanket
Pet first-aid book
Make sure that there are no major (pooling/spurting blood) points of bleeding. Control as necessary.
Lay the animal on its right side
Hand placement. Option 1 (small dog/cat) place hand over heart where the elbow touches the chest. Option 2 (large dogs) place hand on the highest point of the ribcage where the elbow touches the chest. Approximately the middle of the rib-cage.
Compress the chest 30 times followed by 2 rescue breaths (3 compressions every 2 seconds).
30% of chest diameter = roughly 1/2″ small dogs
30% of chest diameter = roughly 1″medium dogs
30% of chest diameter = roughly 1.5″ larger dogs
Repeat as necessary
Important: Animals do not have palpable carotid pulses. You can only obtain a femoral pulse in the inguinal crease. The inguinal crease is located in the upper half of the inner thigh. You can feel an indentation between two muscles – do not press too hard! Palpate carefully on a conscious dog.
Airway – Only check airway if you know your pet was choking, after determining non-responsiveness begin chest compressions.
Carefully pull the tongue out of the animal’s mouth. Warning: Even an unresponsive dog may bite by instinct!!
Make sure that the neck is reasonably straight; try to bring the head in-line with the neck. Warning: Do not hyperextend in cases where neck trauma exists.
Attempt 2 rescue breaths by closing the mouth and performing mouth-to-nose ventilations. If they go in with no problems continue to Circulation.
Reposition the neck and try step 3 again
Visibly inspect the airway by looking into the mouth, and down the throat for foreign objects occluding the airway. Unlike human-CPR, rescuers may reach into the airway and remove foreign objects that are visible.
After achieving a patent airway, one must determine whether the animal is breathing, and whether this breathing is effective.
Carefully pull the tongue out of the animal’s mouth. WARNING: even an unresponsive dog may bit by instinct!!
Make sure that the neck is reasonably straight; try to bring the head in-line with the neck. WARNING: Do not hyperextend in cases where neck trauma exists.
Ventilate the animal by closing the mouth, and performing mouth-to-nose ventilations. If they do not go in with ease go to Airway
Ventilate at 2 breaths per 30 chest compressions. If supplemental oxygen is available, and the animal is breathing on its own, use a high-flow blowby. WARNING: Do not attempt to intubate the animal without prior training, and properly sized ET tubes.
Proceed to Circulation while continuing respiratory support as necessary.
A great video to teach you proper pet CPR:
During an emergency it is very important that you remain calm. Animals can sense your unease, but cannot understand what is happening and you cannot verbally tell them. Your body language is very important. Be calm, yet deliberate in your actions. When you determine that you either have corrected the life threatening problem, or are unable to stabilize the animal, you should transport to the nearest emergency veterinary hospital. Notify your emergency clinic that you coming in with a dog in respiratory arrest with a foreign body airway obstruction and/or cardiac arrest.
Give them the following information via phone if possible:
Steps taken (CPR, O2…)
If a foreign body, what the suspected object is
If a poison or medication has been ingested
Mechanisms of injury (hit by car…)
Be sure to write down the phone number of the 24 hour animal hospital nearest you.
This information is provided courtesy of Jessica Heuss, DVM, DACVECC, editor. Based on work by Lori Feldman, DVM and Mary Lamar, DVM.