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Pet First Aid Guide: How to Give Pets First Aid

Accidents can happen despite, us taking extra precautions to protect our pets. In this post, our vets in Central Illinois provide valuable information on what to include in a basic first aid kit for companion animals and how to perform first aid on your cat or dog.

What are the main principles of animal first aid?

The five aims of animal first aid are to stabilize the animal's critical condition.

  1. Preserve life
  2. Prevent suffering
  3. Prevent the situation from deteriorating
  4. Prevent further injury
  5. Promote recovery

Pet first aid is a crucial skill that anyone can perform in an emergency. If you are a pet owner and your pet is in a critical condition, you may be able to manage the situation until you can get them to a vet. Providing first aid can significantly increase the pet's chances of recovery and survival.

Preparing Your Dog or Cat's First Aid Kit

Our vets at Pekin Veterinary Clinic have compiled a list of essential items for your pet's first aid kit. Keep these items in a box or another case and ensure they are easily accessible. In the event of a pet emergency, you will need these items handy until you can get your pet to a veterinarian.

  • Antibiotic ointment 
  • Antiseptic lotion, spray, or powder 
  • Alcohol swabs 
  • Blanket, muzzle, carrier, or leash to secure your pet
  • Blunt-tipped scissors or razors for cutting hair and bandages 
  • Cotton swabs or cotton balls 
  • Copies of medical records
  • Copy of rabies vaccination 
  • Grease-cutting dish soap 
  • Hand sanitizer or wipes 
  • Hydrocortisone cream 3%
  • Instant hot and cold packs 
  • Lubricating jelly 
  • Nonstick and waterproof adhesive tape to secure bandages
  • Penlight or flashlight
  • Rectal thermometer 
  • Splints and tongue-depressors 
  • Sterile gauze pads and bandages
  • Styptic liquid to stop minor bleeding 
  • Tweezers
  • Syringe

Applying Basic Animal First Aid

Below are some basic first-aid tips for dogs and cats that you may need to use before bringing your pet to an emergency vet clinic.

  • To be safe, muzzle your pet. Even the nicest pets can bite when hurt, so it's best to be careful. 
  • Press a clean, thick gauze pad over any cuts or scrapes, and keep your hand on the wound until the blood starts to clot. Keep the pressure on for at least three minutes before checking to see if the blood is indeed clotting.
  • Keep your pet quiet if they are in pain.
  • If you think the pet has broken bones, find a flat surface, like a board or stretcher, on which you can move the pet from place to place. Using a blanket or towel to tie the pet to the surface may also be a good idea.
  • Remember that any first aid you give your pet should be followed by veterinary care immediately. First aid is not the same as veterinary care, but it could save your pet's life until it can see a vet.
  • Pekin Veterinary Clinic offers emergency care and can help pets in most emergencies. Call us to find out how to move an injured animal based on your specific situation. 

How do you give CPR to animals?

It can be frightening to consider the possibility of having to perform CPR on your pet, but it is a situation that can arise. CPR for dogs and cats is essentially the same as for humans. The following instructions are intended to assist you if your pet is unconscious. 

  1. Remove any obstacles. Open the animal's mouth and make sure its air passage is clear. If not, remove the object blocking the airway.
  2. Extend the head and give the dog or cat a few breaths.
    • For large dogs, close the dog's mouth tightly and breathe into the nose. The dog's chest should rise. Give two breaths at a time.
    • You may be able to cover the nose and mouth of small dogs and cats with your mouth. The chest of the animal should rise. Take two deep breaths.
  3. Do chest compressions
    • Large dogs should be positioned on their backs and their chest compressed in the same way that humans do.
    • For small dogs and cats, as well as large dogs with funnel chests like a mastiff or English bulldog, you may need to lay the animal on its side and compress the side of the rib cage. 
    • The rate of chest compressions varies depending on the cat or dog's size. For example, if a pet weighs less than ten pounds, all your force for a chest compression could really hurt them. 
  4. Alter your breaths with compressions. The compression-to-breath ratio should be similar to that of humans - 30:2. (Thirty compressions to two breaths) Repeat until the animal responds or begins to breathe on its own.

Whether or not your pet begins to breathe on its own, you should contact your vet or the nearest emergency vet and bring them in. Any amount of time without oxygen has the potential to cause damage. If your pet was choking on a foreign object or food, you should also still bring them in, as there may be damage to its airway that isn't visible.

What type of emergency health situation requires first aid?

First aid is often necessary in emergency health situations to provide immediate care and stabilize the patient until professional medical help is available.

Here are some common emergency health situations that require first aid:

  • Severe bleeding
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Choking
  • Severe allergy reaction (anaphylaxis)
  • Facture & sprains
  • Poising
  • Heatstroke
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If you have an emergency health situation, please contact our vets at Pekin Veterinary Clinic for advice.

Caring for Pets in Central Illinois

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Contact (309) 346-1375