How to Administer First Aid to Your Pet

The Ambleside Animal Hospital team is here for your pet’s health care needs, but at-home first aid can be crucial in an emergency. As a pet owner, knowing basic first aid skills can help decrease your panic and increase confidence—which your pet needs if things go awry.

What should be in my pet’s first aid kit?

You probably have first aid materials at home for your own use, but set aside a designated kit for your pet that includes:

  • Absorbent gauze pads, adhesive tape, cotton balls or swabs, and elastic bandaging material
  • Tweezers, oral syringe, scissors with a blunt end, and a small flashlight
  • Alcohol wipes, styptic powder, saline eye solution, and antibiotic ointment
  • Contact information for Ambleside Animal Hospital, and the local after-hours emergency clinic.

Once the kit is complete, you are equipped to administer pet first aid. Here are the actions to take for common pet scenarios.

What if my pet tears a nail?

Torn nails can be a bloody mess. You may need to muzzle your pet before treatment because torn nails are painful and a pet in pain may bite. To help stop bleeding, apply constant pressure to the area with a gauze pad, and then apply a small amount of styptic powder or cornstarch to the nail. You can bandage your pet’s foot to prevent further injury, but a follow-up veterinary exam is recommended because torn nails can easily become infected.

What if an insect stings my pet?

Insect stings can cause your pet to itch or lick at the sting site, and pain and swelling. Your pet’s immune response to an insect sting can vary from mild itching to severe anaphylaxis. Keep liquid diphenhydramine (Benadryl®) on hand, but contact us before administering any medications to your pet, and to discuss further care.

What if my pet has diarrhea?

Pets can develop diarrhea for many reasons, including a food change, travel, scrounging for trash, or intestinal parasites. Soft stool and mild diarrhea can often resolve with a bland diet of cooked white rice and a spoonful of canned pumpkin, but you must bring a stool sample to our hospital so we can check for parasites, and provide a probiotic to restore intestinal balance. If your pet continues to have diarrhea, or their stool becomes liquid or bloody, contact us for a full evaluation.

What if my pet is exposed to a toxic substance?

Household products, certain plants or foods, rat poisons, antifreeze, and medications pose hazards to your pet. Check out this household hazards list to ensure your pet’s safety. If your pet ingests, or is exposed to, a toxic substance, call the Ambleside Animal Hospitalteam, or the Animal Poison Control Center, and have the following information available:

  • Your pet’s species, breed, age, gender, and weight
  • The product consumed, amount ingested, and the time ingested
  • Signs your pet is exhibiting
  • Product packaging and any vomit material, if your pet needs a veterinary evaluation

What if my pet is bleeding?

To stanch bleeding from a wound, place some thick gauze or a pad over the wound and apply pressure for at least three minutes to allow the blood to clot. Contact us to assess whether your pet needs the wound closed with sutures, and antibiotics to prevent infection. If your pet is bleeding from their nose, mouth, or rectum, or has blood in their urine, or pale gums, they may be bleeding internally and need immediate veterinary care.

What if my pet has a seizure?

A seizure can be scary for any pet owner, especially because you cannot stop the episode. The hallmark signs are a loss of consciousness, convulsions, and post-seizure disorientation.

  • Do not hold your pet while seizing, but move any objects out of harm’s way.
  • Keep track of the seizure’s length.
  • Monitor your pet after the seizure to ensure they don’t harm themselves.
  • If this is your pet’s first seizure, make an appointment with the Ambleside Animal Hospital team for an immediate evaluation.
  • If your pet has multiple seizures in a 24-hour period, or the seizure lasts longer than two minutes, your pet needs immediate veterinary care.

What if my pet is choking?

Choking is a life-threatening pet emergency requiring quick action. Your first step is to look into your pet’s mouth with a flashlight, and to try to remove the foreign object with small pliers or tweezers—always being careful to not push the object further down their throat. You can also lie your pet on their side and push their ribcage firmly three to four times, to cause a sharp exhalation that may dislodge the object. If that is not successful, your pet needs immediate veterinary care.

Basic pet first aid can be extremely useful, but these skills are not a substitute for veterinary care. If your pet experiences a medical emergency, don’t hesitate to contact the Ambleside Animal Hospital team for assistance.