Emergency First Aid for your Dog or Cat
FIRST AID TREATMENT
This information is not a substitute for veterinary care. Contact your veterinarian or emergency animal hospital immediately for any potentially serious injury, condition or illness.
- Hit by a car, hard falls or other high-impact injuries: Rush the animal to the closest animal hospital. First, place the dog on a firm surface, such as a plywood board. If a board is not available, place the animal in a blanket or on a piece of strong cardboard. Keep the animal as steady as possible to prevent further injury.
- Poisoning: If there is any possibility that your pet came into contact with a poison, go to the vet immediately, since the onset of symptoms could be delayed a day or even two… and by then, it may be too late.
If you cannot get to the vet immediately, waiting for a ride, or are stranded, you can call either of these 24-hour emergency hotlines staffed with experienced veterinarians:
- ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center 1-888-4-ANI-HELP or 1-888-426-4435
- National Animal Poison Control Center 1-800-548-2423
Fees apply to these nonprofit hotlines, which are staffed by veterinarians. Call immediately, and have this info ready:
- Your name, address and telephone number.
- The type of the poisonous substance the pet was exposed to. Be as specific as possible about the substance, the amount ingested or contacted, the time since exposure, etc. Have the container/packaging available, because the label will identify the product’s active ingredients.
- The species, breed, age, sex, weight and number of animals involved.
- The symptoms the animal is experiencing.
- Antifreeze poisoning:
If you suspect your pet may have ingested antifreeze, take him to the vet or emergency animal hospital immediately! Immediate treatment is essential to prevent a painful death. Initial signs include excessive thirst and urination, lack of coordination, weakness, nausea, tremors, vomiting, rapid breathing and heart rate, convulsions, diarrhea and paralysis. Not all signs may be evident. The final stages of poisoning are characterized by oral and gastric ulcers and renal failure, followed by death.Ethylene glycol is the toxic component in antifreeze. Vets have a test kit to confirm the presence of the poison in the body. If positive, ethanol (vodka or wood grain alcohol) or a newer antidote will be administered intravenously. The goal is to prevent the ethylene glycol from metabolizing to its toxic components. Dialysis can be used to remove the ethylene glycol from the blood stream.If you are delayed in getting to the animal hospital, it is often recommended to induce vomiting immediately. And some people have had success giving their dogs vodka or other alcohol orally, followed by water. The alcohol reportedly interferes with the body’s processing of the ethylene glycol before it fully metabolizes. However, it is imperative to first call a vet for guidance, and if your vet is not available, call your nearest emergency animal hospital and/or one of the phone hotlines listed in this tipsheet.
- When to induce vomiting: For many types of poisoning, it is advised to induce vomiting, soon after ingestion before the chemical can do damage. These include ingestion of arsenic (in rat and mouse poisons), chocolate, insecticides, lead, matches, medications (except tranquilizers), plants, shampoo, shoe polish, slug and snail bait, strychnine and weed killers. However, unless you are stranded somewhere, induce vomiting only under the direction of a vet, physician or poison emergency hotline staff member. It is critical to properly identify the ingested substance.To induce vomiting in pets, give the animal household hydrogen peroxide 3% USP by mouth, using a syringe (bulb or 10cc with no needle). Do not try to pour it down his throat. Instead, pull his lips away from the side of the mouth to make a pocket, in which you will deposit the liquid. It is suggested to use 1 teaspoon per 5 pounds of the animal’s weight, to a maximum of 3 to 4 tablespoons. Before dosing, first give the animal a little bread or other soft food so there is something to bring up along with the stomach contents. If he has not vomited after 15 minutes, repeat the dose of hydrogen peroxide one more time. After vomiting, some folks recommend giving the animal a teaspoon of Epson salts mixed in some water to help empty the intestine.Activated charcoal is also used to induce vomiting in pets. It has the ability to absorb and deactivate many toxins, preventing the poisons from reaching the blood stream. Activated charcoal tablets also help when you don’t have access to a clean water supply. Mix a tablet of activated charcoal in 2 teaspoons of water. Give 1 teaspoon per 2 pounds body weight and follow with a pint of water.While syrup of Ipecac been used to induce vomiting, a growing number of veterinarians, physicians and FDA/public health officials discourage its use for people and animals.Do not feed salt water or mustard, or stick a finger down the throat; these methods are ineffective and potentially dangerous.
- When NOT to induce vomiting. Do not induce vomiting if the animal is lethargic, unconscious, convulsing, having a seizure or is in shock. Do not induce vomiting if the animal ingested an acidic or alkaline product such as drain cleaner, household cleansers and paint thinner. Caustic and corrosive substances can burn the throat and stomach on the way back up, compounding the injury. Also, do not induce vomiting for ingestion of tranquilizers, bones, sharp objects or petroleum products such as gasoline or lighter fluid.
- If the ingested substance was gasoline, kerosene, an acid or alkali, or a corrosive: Try to give the animal milk to dilute the toxin in the stomach.
- If you know the substance was an acid: First, rinse the mouth. Then feed the dog Milk of magnesia or Pepto Bismol using bulb syringe or eyedropper aimed the back of the mouth. Dose 2 teaspoons per 5 pounds of body weight. (For cats, 1 teaspoon Milk of magnesia per 5 pounds; do not give Pepto Bismol to cats.) This helps neutralize the chemicals and reduce the burn.
- If you know the substance was an akali: First, rinse the mouth. Then mix a tablespoon vinegar with a tablespoon of water and feed the mixture to your pet using a bulb syringe or eyedropper aimed at the back of the mouth. An alternate solution is 1 tablespoon lemon juice mixed with 1 teaspoon of sugar. This helps neutralize the chemicals and reduce the burn.Note: Since cats groom themselves, they can ingest poisons such as sprays that get on their fur. So be sure to wash the pet’s fur.Remember, for any poisoning, get to the vet as soon as possible. Temporary first aid measures alone are not enough.
- Wounds: Be careful, since any animal in pain may try to bite. Muzzle your pet by using a strip of soft cloth, gauze, rope, necktie or nylon stocking. Gently wrap around the nose, under the chin and tie behind the ears. Do not obstruct breathing. A towel placed around the head will help control small pets.Wash your hands if possible to avoid further contamination. Wear gloves if you have them. Carefully check the wound. Clip the fur back as needed to clear the area around the wound. Clean out debris using ample amounts of saline, balanced electrolyte solution or Betadine antibacterial scrub (or Betadine solution diluted with water to the color of tea). If these are not available, use regular water. After irrigating the wound, apply antibiotic ointment such as Neosporin to the wound.Note: Do not pour hydrogen peroxide into an open wound; it is better for wounds that have become infected. Do not use alcohol on wounds, as it damages tissue and retards healing.Wrap open wounds to keep them clean. Make sure bandages are not cutting off circulation; in most cases, it’s best to wrap lightly. Change bandages frequently to aid in healing, gently re-applying antibiotic ointment as needed.As soon as you finish treating the wound, loosen or remove the muzzle. Bite wounds often become infected, so call your veterinarian, who may dispense prescription antibiotics.Another home remedy for treating wounds: mix 1 teaspoon Epsom salt in 2 cups of warm water and soak to draw out infection.
If the Wound is Bleeding: Place clean gauze or fabric over the wound and apply firm, direct pressure over the bleeding area until the bleeding stops. For serious bleeding, hold the pressure for at least 10 straight minutes, since continually releasing the pressure to check the wound will hamper clotting. When bleeding stops, continue with the steps in the previous section.
Avoid tourniquets unless absolutely necessary. If you must apply one, consider this: Apply a tourniquet between the heart and the wound if the bleeding is coming from an artery and on the side away from the heart if it is coming from a vein. Arterial blood is bright red, tends to spurt out with significant force, and pulses with each heart beat as it bleeds. Venous blood (blood from a vein) is dark red and may flow rapidly but does not actually spurt or pulse. Because venous blood is on its way back to the heart from the rest of the body, the tourniquet is applied below or “distal to” the wound, i.e., if the wound is on a leg, the tourniquet is applied on the side closer to the foot. Make the tourniquet just tight enough to stop most of the bleeding. Loosen it every 10 to 15 minutes for 5 to 10 seconds to allow the blood to circulate again into the extremity. You can use almost any cloth, rope, sock, or stocking as a tourniquet, as long as it is long enough to go around the extremity and be tied securely.
- Puncture Wounds: Clean the wound and the surrounding skin with an antibacterial solution such as Betadine, applying by dabbing with a gauze pad. Use warm damp compresses for puncture wounds, since you want to delay formation of a scab that could seal the infection in under the skin. This will also increase blood flow to the wound area, which aids healing. It is recommended not to bandage over puncture wounds.
- Paw Treatment: A home remedy for treating paw pad and other wounds: mix iodine and water to the point at which it looks like tea. Add some Epsom salt to clean out the wound and bandage it with gauze. You can also apply Bag Balm to help chaffed and injured paws heal. Put on a dog bootie or small sock to protect injured paw pads.
- Burns (chemical, electrical, or heat): Symptoms include singed fur, blistering, swelling, redness of skin. Flush burns immediately with lots of cool, running water. Apply an ice pack for 15 to 20 minutes. Do not place an ice pack directly on the skin. Instead, wrap the pack in a light towel or cloth.Neutralize acid on skin by rinsing with a solution of baking soda and water. Neutralize alkali substances with a weak vinegar-water solution. Blot dry, apply antibiotic ointment and tape gauze dressing loosely around the affected area. Olive oil can also be applied.Brush off any dry chemicals that are on the skin. Beware, water may activate some dry chemicals. Call your veterinarian immediately.Treating burns: trim fur and dab antibiotic ointment. For wounds larger than quarter, wrap in wet towels and go to vet to avert risk of infection.
- Choking: Signs include pawing at the mouth, gagging, gasping, breathing difficulty, odd neck posture, abnormal gum color (blue, gray, white), unconsciousness. Open the mouth and try to pull out the tongue to check for an obstruction. Sweep inside with a finger if you cannot see anything. If you see or feel the object, remove it if you can do this without causing throat trauma.If you can’t clear the airway or the animal is struggling, hold the pet upside down by his back legs if you can. Or use a Heimlich-type maneuver and push up with your fist held under the animal’s belly, just behind the ribcage. Do not apply too much force or you can injure the animal. Go to the vet ASAP.
- Drowning: To resuscitate, place your pet on a flat surface, open his mouth, pull the tongue forward, and clear away any debris in his mouth. If he is still in distress, hold him by his hind legs and gently swing him back and forth in an attempt to clear the water from his lungs and stomach. If the pet is too large to lift, place him on his side and press upward on his midsection or abdomen. If necessary, perform the Heimlich-like maneuver described in the “Choking” section, and take him to the nearest vet.
- Electrocution: Signs include panting, breathing difficulty, a burn across the lips and tongue, and/or unconscious. It can happen if the pet chews on a power cord. Before touching the animal, turn off power to the outlet and then unplug the cord. Next, if the animal is conscious, rinse his mouth with cold water. Then perform rescue breathing using mouth-to-snout resuscitation if the pet is not breathing but does have a pulse…or cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if he is not breathing and has no pulse.Wrap the pet in a blanket to help prevent shock, and take him to the vet immediately (you could perform resuscitation in the car if someone else drives). Go to the vet even if your pet seems OK, since electrocution can lead to serious internal problems that may not be evident for awhile. Also, check the mouth for lesions for 3 weeks.
- The ABC’s — Airway, Breathing, Circulation: If your pet is not breathing but does have a pulse, you need to perform rescue breathing using mouth-to-snout resuscitation immediately. If your pet is not breathing and has no pulse, you must perform CPR immediately. Here is a web link to essential life-saving techniques about rescue breathing and pet CPR. Print out 2 copies for your home and car travel kit so you will be ready in an emergency situation:
Animal Rescue Society of Person County
- Insect Bites and Stings: Remove stinger with tweezers or by gently scraping away with a plastic card. Bathe the area with a solution of baking soda and water, then apply ice packs (lined with a towel or cloth) for 5 minutes at a time. Some people treat stings with Benadryl. Typical dosages: for cats and dogs under 30 pounds, give 10 mg…dogs 30 to 50 pounds, give 25 mg…dogs over 50 pounds, give 50 mg. For more Insect/Skin Remedies, see the link listed at the end.Stings and bites can cause severe reactions. If there is major swelling, or the animal seems disoriented, sick or has trouble moving or breathing, go to the vet immediately.Benadryl is good for bee stings, insect bites and other allergic reactions. Use plain Benadryl, not the other formulas.
- Itching, Poison Ivy, Rashes: A good tip for soothing human as well as pet skin is to apply a mixture of baking soda and water to the affected areas. Also, mix 1 teaspoon of Epsom salt in 2 cups of warm water to bathe itchy paws and skin.
- Foxtails: These barbed seeds from dried grasses and weeds can be easily inhaled by dogs. They can lodge between toes and in ears, eyes, nostrils, mouth and throat, and can even travel through orifices deeper into body, causing infections and abscesses. Check your dog thoroughly after hiking for foxtails, ticks, etc. If your dog is frantically pawing his nose, ears or eyes, shaking or rubbing his head, sneezing for long periods, biting at his anus or has blood coming from his nose, take him to a vet.
- Shock: Symptoms include irregular breathing and dilated pupils. Shock can occur due to a serious injury or fright. Keep the animal gently restrained, quiet and warm, with the lower body elevated. Call your veterinarian immediately.
- Heat Stroke Prevention and Treatment: To protect your pet from heat stroke, review the Summer Health and Safety tipsheet on the PAW website. Heat stroke can be brought on by activity as well as confinement outside in the heat, and the effects can be devastating. Be aware of the signs of heat stroke:
- Excessive panting
- Labored breathing that may signal upper airway obstruction
- Bright red mucous membranes in the gums or eyes and/or bright red tongue
- Lethargy and weakness
- High body temperature
- Collapsing and seizures, even coma
If you notice any of these signs, get your pet inside and place a cool, wet towel over him or submerge him in cool or lukewarm water. Do not use ice, which can damage skin.
Take your pet’s temperature using a rectal thermometer. If the animal’s temperature exceeds 105 F, get medical attention at once.
Provide drinking water, but do not force an animal to drink. You can apply rubbing alcohol on the skin as a cooling agent.
FYI, dogs cool themselves by panting; this draws air over the moist membranes of the nose and tongue and cools by evaporation. But panting works only for short periods. Prolonged panting endangers the metabolic system. In addition, high humidity interferes with the ability of panting to cool the body.
A great gift idea for any pet owner: A first aid book and kit would make a thoughtful, creative and invaluable gift. Pick up the kit contents the same time you buy them for your own kits for your home and car.
Emergency Treatment 24-Hour Hotlines:
ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center
1-888-4-ANI-HELP or 1-888-426-4435
National Animal Poison Control Center
1-900-680-0000 or 1-800-548-2423
First Aid Guidance:
www.sniksnak.com/cathealth/firstaid.html (Feline First Aid)
Tips for Hiking with your Dog
Insect Bites and Stings, Skin Conditions and Treatment
First Aid for Insect Bites in Dogs
Plants Poisonous to Pets:
Tips for Pet Safety and Pet-Safe Homes:
Safer, Less Toxic Alternatives to Everyday Household Products:
Summer Health and Safety Guide
Pets in Hot Cars:
Flyers available from the Humane Society of the United States at 202-452-1100.
Don’t leave your pet in a Hot Car (flyer)
When traveling, you can find a veterinarian using the AAHA Animal Hospital Locator
reprinted from Paw Rescue website