Pet First Aid

by - July 09, 2018

First aid does not substitute for veterinary treatment, but it does provide quick lifesaving attention for a sick or injured pet.
Keep the following supplies handy in a lunch box or cleaning-tool tote:

  • Veterinarian's office and emergency phone numbers, and the 24-hour hotline of the ASPCA's National Animal Poison Control Center, 800-426-4435
  • Gauze
  • Adhesive tape
  • Scissors or pocketknife (to cut gauze and tape)
  • Nonstick bandages (Telfa pads)
  • Towels and clean cloth
  • Hydrogen peroxide (three percent)
  • Milk of magnesia or activated charcoal (to absorb poison)
  • Eyedropper (for administering oral medications or eardrops)
  • Muzzle
  • Rectal thermometer and a lubricant, such as petroleum jelly
  • Styptic powder to stanch bleeding
  • Diphenhydramine (such as Benadryl) for antihistamine relief of insect bites or stings

Common Situations

Below are some common dog injuries, and ways you can help your pet. Keep in mind that pain or illness makes pet behavior unpredictable.

Automobile accident

Find or create a firm surface (such as a stretcher, board, mat, or even a blanket held taut). Slide it under the animal and lift gently. Keep animal warm while you take him to a vet or animal emergency clinic.

Bites and cuts

Wash with mild soap, rinse well, and pat dry with a clean towel. Gently dab with hydrogen peroxide. Apply an antibiotic salve. (For punctures or large wounds, get immediate veterinary attention.)


Apply direct pressure with a clean cloth.


A dog's distended abdomen may be a symptom of a life-threatening illness. Get to a veterinarian immediately.

Broken bones

Do not move or disturb the bone. Splint fractures with a magazine or newspapers loosely rolled around limb. Tape just above the splint, continue down the leg; do not cover toes. Do not attempt to splint a struggling animal.


Apply cool compresses. Don't immerse animals that have burns over large areas; they may go into shock. Dress small burns with sterile nonstick bandages. Do not apply ointments, butter, or petroleum jelly; they retain heat and attract infection.

Choking, coughing, or gagging

Choking may signal a tracheal obstruction or defect. Coughing is common after strenuous exercise and should subside when the pet rests. Frequent coughing may signal illness.

Eye injury

Check for obvious foreign bodies, such as a small stick or hair; flush with mild saline drops. Scratches or irritations may require medicated eyedrops or salves. Cover eye with damp gauze to prevent pet from rubbing.


Discoloration indicates freezing injury. Get pet into a warm place. Warm injured skin slowly with tepid water.


Soak overheated pet in tepid water; provide fresh drinking water. Never leave pets in cars. Provide well-ventilated outdoor shelter in hot weather.

Insect stings

A swollen muzzle or face indicates a possible sting. Apply a paste of baking soda and water, or a topical antihistamine. Respiratory difficulty signals allergic shock; get to a vet.


Three common poisons are antifreeze, rodenticide, and moldy garbage. In all cases -- even if only a suspicion -- get immediate veterinary care. Symptoms take as long as 24 to 72 hours to manifest, which may be too late for lifesaving treatment.


If it occurs more than once, or is projectile, call your vet. Never muzzle a vomiting animal; he could suffocate.

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