Our pets are practically part of our family and we want to care for them accordingly. But would you know how to react if your pet experienced a medical emergency? In this post, we’ve compiled some of the most important first-aid tips every pet owner should know. Learn these tips by heart in case your pet ever experiences an emergency.

The Most Important Pet First-Aid Tip: Have Emergency Contacts Easily Accessible

You are your pet’s first line of defense. Part of that is having the appropriate contact information for your regular veterinarian and the nearest emergency veterinarian near you. Even if you can administer first-aid for your pet in the moment, they may still need additional medical attention after the fact. Knowing who to call and where to go in the event of a pet emergency can save precious time when it matters, and can even save your pet’s life.

Pet First Aid Tips You Should Know

Here are the most important first-aid tips every pet owner should know.

Know How to Recognize an Emergency

The best way to recognize if your pet is having a medical emergency is to be deeply familiar with your pet’s behavior, medical history, and body. Take your pet to get regular checkups with your veterinarian so you are aware of any risks or conditions your pet may have. Play and bond with your cat or dog regularly so you are familiar with their normal behavior; this is crucial knowledge to have as our pets can’t communicate with us when they are sick or injured.

Aside from obvious injury, pets can experience emergencies in a variety of ways. Some common signs of a pet experiencing a medical emergency are:

  • difficulty breathing or cannot breathe at all
  • unconscious or unresponsive
  • inability to move or walk
  • seizure
  • drooling excessively 
  • vomiting or diarrhea for more than 24 hours

Know How to Administer CPR to Your Pet

In the event your pet is rendered unconscious without a pulse and is not breathing, you may need to resort to CPR. In most cases, you should lay your pet on its side to give chest compressions. Barrel-chested dogs like the English bulldog can be rolled over onto their backs for chest compressions.

According to the RECOVER research study, pet CPR steps are as follows:

  1. Check for a pulse and for breathing. If your pet has no pulse and is not breathing, begin chest compressions.
  2. Place both hands on your pet’s chest and push hard and fast at a rate of 100-120 compressions per minute, compressing 1/3 to 1/2 the width of your pet’s chest. Make sure your pet’s chest bounces back after the first compression. Perform 30 compressions, then administer rescue breathing. A good rule of thumb is to follow the rhythm of the song, “Staying Alive” while performing these compressions.
  3. Give rescue breaths by closing your pet’s mouth and gently extending its neck to open its airway. Put your mouth over their nose and gently exhale. Keep in mind your pet’s lungs are much smaller than yours–watch for their chest to rise. Give a second rescue breath before moving on to chest compressions again.

Know How to Help a Choking Pet

All too often pets, especially dogs, get into things they shouldn’t. Whether it’s a toy, stick, or something else, there’s always the possibility your pet could end up choking on a foreign object. Knowing how to administer the Heimlich maneuver on a choking animal could help save its life.

If your pet is choking, wrap your arms around their belly and make a fist just below their ribcage. Push firmly in and up in a thrusting motion, about five times. You can perform the Heimlich maneuver while your pet is laying or standing. Carefully check their mouth to see if the object has become dislodged. Keep in mind that your pet is likely to bite out of fear in these scenarios, so check their mouth with caution. Only do a finger sweep or try to remove the object with your fingers if the object has become sufficiently dislodged.

Even if you successfully perform the Heimlich and your pet stops choking, you should contact your veterinarian right away. If your pet was without oxygen for an extended period of time or the object was sharp, hospitalization may be necessary.

Know How to Help an Overheating Pet

Brachycephalic cat and dog breeds can overheat easily due to their shortened or underdeveloped respiratory systems. To prevent your pet from overheating, keep them indoors where it’s cool, especially in the summer months. Try to walk your dog in the early mornings or evenings to avoid the hottest temperatures of the day and avoid strenuous exercise. 

If you suspect your pet is overheating, move them to a cool room with a fan or good airflow. If your pet will allow it, place them on a cool, damp towel and place ice chips in their mouth. Make sure the ice chips are small and do not pose a choking hazard. Call your vet right away to see if further action is necessary. 

Know How to Recognize Pet Poisoning

A number of common items are poisonous to our four-legged friends, including chocolate, grapes, onions, lilies, poinsettias, and more. Though there are steps you can take to keep these objects away from your pet in the home, you can’t always control what they get into when outside. It’s important to recognize signs of poisoning in your pet so you can act fast.

Some common signs of poisoning include seizure or tremors, bloody stool or diarrhea, vomiting, excessive drooling, lethargy, and other behavioral changes. If you think your pet has ingested something poisonous, call the Poison Control Center immediately and contact your emergency vet.

Know How to Treat Cuts and Lacerations

Our pets are very careful about their teeth and claws when they play, but accidents can happen. If your pet receives a cut, learn how to stop the bleeding so you can take them to get the medical help necessary. Some cuts can be deceptively deep or require special treatment to heal properly.

Clean your pet’s wound with water or an antibacterial cleanser for pets and staunch it with gauze or other non-adhesive dressing. Wrap the dressing with bandages and call your veterinarian or visit your emergency vet, depending on the severity of the injury.

Final Thoughts

We hope you never have to use these first aid tips, but knowing what to do in case of an emergency could mean saving your pet’s life. Call Your Visiting Veterinarian to set up regular health checkups and avoid potential issues before they happen!

Jason Parks

Author Jason Parks

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