Vet's Corner: Expert Tips on Pet First Aid

Vet's Corner: Expert Tips on Pet First Aid

As a responsible pet owner, it is crucial to be prepared for emergencies and have a basic understanding of pet first aid. Accidents and injuries can happen to our beloved furry friends, and knowing how to respond quickly and appropriately can make a significant difference in their well-being. In this blog, we will explore essential pet first aid tips and techniques that every pet owner should know.  

Last time, we discussed how we would assess a situation by checking for a heartbeat, breathing and excessive bleeding. We also learnt how to perform CPR on a dog. Lets look at some more examples where first aid may be required. Sometimes there may be a severe allergic reaction going on or a head injury, obvious fractures or difficulty giving birth or a painful eye problem that needs first aid.  


Call your vet for advice if your pet has eaten something it shouldn’t have done for advice. Don’t attempt to make your pet sick yourself as this may not be a safe thing to do depending what it has swallowed. 


Insect stings 

These are painful and might cause an allergic reaction. Some reactions can obstruct the airway and lead to difficulty breathing. Wasp stings can be helped by applying some vinegar, and bee stings by applying some bicarbonate of soda. Cool water can help both or using some ice cubes wrapped in a tea towel. Also call your vet for advice. 



Heavy blood loss can lead to shock or death. Sometimes internal bleeding can occur, for example after road traffic accident, and lead to an animal’s gums becoming pale rather than a normal pink colour. They may also become weaker. Their pulse and breathing may become faster and shallower, and they may feel cold. 

To stop external bleeding until a vet is seen, you can use the pressure of your fingers to press a sterile dressing onto the site. If there is something in the wound such as glass or metal, wait for the vet to remove it safely and try and press around it. You can do this for around five minutes before releasing again to allow blood to flow to the tissues. Pressure bandages can be used on tails or limbs applied with plenty of padding and tied quite tightly, but again need removing after a few minutes to allow blood flow to the local area. Get to your vet as soon as possible, always letting them know by telephone what is happening, so they are prepared. 

Heat Stroke (hyperthermia) 

This often occurs if a dog or cat has been exercised and played with too much in hot weather, particularly if there is no shade or if they are left in a hot car with inadequate ventilation. It can occur in young animals as well as the elderly who are vulnerable if they have a heart or respiratory condition, a thick coat, are overweight or a short-nosed breed. They will pant, their gums and tongue may go brick red or blue, they tend to salivate, become disorientated and then may collapse. This is severe condition that needs to be taken very seriously as it can lead to death so it is essential to avoid over exercising in hot weather. Put them in the recovery position, cool them with cool water over their body and allow drinking little and often. Make an urgent vet appointment. 



This can occur particularly in very small or young animals when the weather is very cold. They may become sleepy, weak and then unconscious. If they are wet from rain or walking in snow, then dry them, use blankets to help warm them and don’t leave them alone. Call the vet urgently. 


Bone fractures 

These often occur after a road accident or by landing awkwardly when jumping or playing roughly with other dogs. The leg will be painful so they will often not walk on it at all and may look an odd shape depending on where the fracture is. It will be very painful.  

Try to keep the animal as still as possible, cover any areas which are bleeding with a sterile dressing and if possible, try and splint the leg with a ruler or some cardboard and bandages until you can get to the vet. If you are not confident with this, then try and lift them so they don’t put weight on the affected leg. Keep them warm to help prevent shock until you can get them to your vet. 


A closed wound such as a bruise can be helped with applying some ice to the area gently and wrapped in a tea towel for a few minutes at a time. 

Open wounds can be cleaned with saline gently until your vet can assess the wound and try and keep them protected from dirt. 


Eye injuries 

Try and stop your pet rubbing the eye - a buster collar cone may be required. Chemicals in the eye can be flushed using tap water and see your vet immediately so call them for an urgent appointment. If you see a foreign object penetrating the eye don’t try and remove it (e.g. a thorn), see your vet immediately. 

Prolapsed eyeball 

This sometimes happens in certain breeds with short noses. Use tap water soaked sterile swabs to keep the eye moist, use a buster collar or cone to stop them rubbing at the eye and see your vet immediately. 

Being knowledgeable about pet first aid can make a significant difference in your pet's survival and recovery during emergencies. Remember, these guidelines are not meant to replace veterinary care but rather to provide immediate assistance until you can reach a veterinarian. Your proactive approach may be the key to saving your beloved companion's life.