Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to pet first aid. Accidents happen as a part of life. You may not be able to control the situation, but you can control your response with pet first aid. Your pet is counting on you to keep them safe. With a few instructions and tips, your pet can come out the other end.
The pet first aid guide below will give you more confidence as a pet owner to handle scary situations. Remember that first aid is a means of saving your pet’s life before rushing them to the vet.
Cats usually choke on linear objects, such as thread, string, ribbon, cords and rubber bands. Because they love to chew, dogs can choke on rawhide, bones, toys, rubber balls, sticks, stones, socks, underwear and panty hose.
Please note that if you find a string (thread, tinsel, etc.) in your cat’s mouth, the temptation is to pull it out. Unless it slides out like a wet spaghetti noodle, DO NOT pull it. It is likely stuck somewhere inside and pulling will only make things a lot worse.
You can perform the Heimlich maneuver on pets if you notice:
- Pawing at the mouth
- Excessive drooling
- Inability to breathe
Objects that have been lodged in their throat for a while may cause
- Stinky breath
- Loss of appetite
Before performing the Heimlich maneuver, try to reach into their mouth to clear the obstruction. Put a hand in front of their snout to check if they are able to breathe. You can also place your hands on their sides to check.
Check for obstructions
Blow two big breaths into their mouth to register how blocked the airway is, or close their mouth and blow into their nose. Their chest should rise if there isn’t an obstruction.
Sweep their mouth
Pull their jaw open and use your index finger to sweep the back of the throat. This may clear the blockage.
Hold them upside down and shake
If the blockage persists, you can hold a small dog or any size cat upside down by the thighs in front of you. Shake them five times to let gravity dislodge the object.
If you have a big dog, put them in a wheelbarrow position by holding their thighs, front paws on the ground. Shake them five times to let gravity dislodge the object.
Use the Heimlich maneuver
- Find the natural gap after the ribs.
- Make a fist with your dominant hand.
- Put the thumb part of your fist under the gap.
- Use the other hand to reinforce the fist.
- Push upward, toward the chest, three or four times.
How to manage bowel obstructions
Dogs are one of the most naturally curious animals. A partial or total blockage in the intestines can result from them chewing on everything they can while exploring. Teething puppies are especially at risk for internal injuries.
When a blockage occurs, solids and liquids cannot pass through the gastrointestinal tract. The blockage could restrict blood flow, possibly damaging the bowels. Toxins may also be absorbed at this time.
Ingestion of carpet fibers, rope and string can cause the intestines to bunch up. Please do not yank any strings out of your pet’s mouth or rectum.
Signs of a bowel obstruction
- Loss of appetite
- Continual vomiting
- Stomach pain
If left untreated, pets with bowel obstruction will experience extreme discomfort due to fluid buildup and/or a ruptured intestine. Take your dog to the vet immediately and do not let them eat anything else or drink water in case they have emergency surgery.
How to manage fractures
Having a run-in with a car, fighting another animal or suffering a sporting injury are the most common ways fractures occur. There are two primary types of fractures: incomplete and complete.
An incomplete fracture is like a bend or crack in the structure of the bone. There is not a complete break. A complete fracture is when the bone breaks into separate pieces.
Signs of a fracture:
- Severe lameness
- Holding the affecting limb
- Abnormal movement
How to administer first aid after a fracture
- Muzzle your pet. They may snap and bite out of pain.
- Place them on a flat surface for support.
- Use any flat and firm surface as a stretcher. You can also wrap your pet in a rug or blanket for the trip to the vet.
- Do not fashion a split yourself. It may do more harm than good.
How to manage external bleeding
Bleeding can be scary. A broken nail or ear abrasion can make a terrible mess but is not serious. Internal bleeding, especially from the chest or abdomen, can result in loss of life.
What you can’t see is serious. You must minimize blood loss until you arrive at the veterinarian’s office. The greatest risk is your pet going into shock.
How to manage bleeding paws
Surface bleeding can be scary. Wrap the affected food in gauze or a tea towel. Constant pressure must be applied. Blood flow should slow and stop within 10 minutes.
Apply a styptic pencil, silver nitrate stick or cauterizing powder to the nail. In a pinch, baking powder or flour would work. The injured foot should be wrapped in a towel as you make your way to the vet.
Look for foreign objects, including metal or glass shards, lodged in the foot pad. Check to see if the object can be removed with tweezers. Running the hurt paw under the hose may help loosen particles. Do not dig in the injury. A vet can remove the debris under sedation.
How to manage bleeding on the legs
A lacerated major vein or artery can result in significant bleeding. Wrap the wound in a clean towel and apply stable pressure. Raise the foot above the heart. If the towel is soaked in blood, simply place another towel atop it without releasing the firm pressure.
Flush out minor wounds with clean water. Remove foreign bodies if within reach. Cover with gauze or a towel.
How to manage bleeding from the torso
Taping is a must because it might be impossible to hold a towel with sufficient pressure against the torso. Use three or four strips of tape to circle the entire chest or abdomen. Don’t tape so tightly it’s hard for your fur baby to breathe.
Pay attention if there is a sucking noise when your pet breathes, which may mean the lungs are compromised. Do not remove any lodged objects. Wrap your pet in a towel without disturbing the debris.
How to manage bleeding from the ears
Ears have a multitude of blood vessels and bleed easily.
- Wrap both sides of the ear flap in gauze or a tea towel.
- Fold the affected ear over their head.
- Hold the affected ear firmly in place and wrap the gauze or towel in tape over the ear and under the neck.
- Check that you can place two fingers between the dog’s neck and the bandage to ensure sufficient breathing room.
- Take them to the vet.
How to manage heatstroke
Do not leave your pets in direct sunlight or in a car during warmer months. Temperatures can soar within a matter of minutes, even on balmy days. If heat stroke does occur, take your pet to the vet as soon as possible.
If you cannot immediately get your pet to the vet:
- Move them to a shaded area.
- Place a cooling towel around their neck and head.
- Rewet the towel every few minutes.
- Find a hose and keep water running over your pet’s stomach and between their hind legs.
- Take your pet to the vet.
First aid for bites
Fights can be a scary experience for you and your pet. They may be panting afterward from adrenalin and pain. If their breathing continues to be noisy and labored, they may have a more serious injury. You may have to search for wounds if your pet has long hair. If this is not possible, feel for damp patches. Swelling can indicate a deeper wound. Blood may spray or pour out. Double check the eyes, neck and chest.