Basic First Aid
For Dogs & Cats

by Gary Le Mon

Basic first aid for dogs and cats is important because most of us regard our pets as members of the family. When accidents strike, it's only natural for panic to set in.

But if your pet has suffered an accident, you must act quickly and calmly. Knowing the proper ways to address a host of potential incidents could save you from losing the one you love.

Traffic Accidents

Traffic accidents are the most common cause of severe injury to dogs and cats. When the unfortunate occurs, approach the pet with caution as even loving, domestic animals tend to react aggressively when in pain.

Move the pet as little as necessary. If you must move the animal, slide a blanket beneath it. Seek the help of another and hoist the pet gently from the street to a safer area. Check the animal's heartbeat and look for signs of hemorrhaging. Stem severe bleeding by pressing a clean, cloth pad or handkerchief over the fresh wound, constricting blood flow with a temporary bandage. Contact the nearest veterinary surgeon and warn him/her of your arrival.


Clean off any offending substances and immerse the burned body part in cold, fresh running water. Contact a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Heat Stroke

This typically happens when an animal is left alone on a warm day without adequate ventilation. Look for panting, vomiting, frothing at the mouth or, in severe cases, loss of consciousness.

Wipe away any froth and place the animal in lukewarm water, effectively lowering its body temperature. Drive the pet to the veterinarian as soon as possible where it will be treated with more cool water and medications.


Symptoms of poisoning include muscular twitching, bleeding, vomiting, collapse or convulsions. Do not hesitate to call your veterinarian if you suspect that your pet is behaving erratically. If you are sure a poisoning has occurred, bring a sample of the toxic substance to the veterinarian with you. If the pet has recently consumed the poison, induce vomiting by feeding the animal a mixture of mustard and salt in water or by pushing a small piece of sodium carbonate down its throat.

The ASPCA also has a 24/7/365 Animal Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435. They have experts standing by. A $65 charge may apply.

More basic first aid for dogs & cats


It is a common misconception that all dogs swim well. This is not the case. If your pet appears to have drowned, act quickly. Empty the animal's lungs of fluid as soon as you can. Position the pet's head so it is lower than the rest of its body. Open the mouth and press down on the ribs. Repeat several times at 5-second intervals.


Small items such as stick fragments, rubber balls and bones can lodge in a dog's throat. If your pet appears to be choking, take swift action.

Open the animal's mouth and try to view the object. Pump the chest just as you would if it was drowning. This may displace the foreign object. If you are able to free the object enough to allow the animal to partially breath, take the pet to the veterinarian as soon as you can, where the object will be extracted under anesthetic.

We all hope we never have to apply basic first aid for dogs and cats, especially to our own furry companions. But it's better to know first aid and not need it than to need it and not know it.

Basic First Aid For Dogs and Cats
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