April is Pet First Aid Awareness Month. The team at Dr. K’s Pet Clinic is here for you and your pet—you already know to call us and bring in your pet when an emergency arises. But, every pet owner also should be prepared to perform pet first aid at the scene of the emergency, as well as en route to our clinic. From packing a pet first aid kit, to performing pet CPR, to transporting your pet to our clinic, follow our guidelines, and you will be prepared for any serious and urgent pet health event.

Prepare a pet first aid kit to carry at all times

Whether in the car, on the trail, or in the backyard—if your pet is there, a pet first aid kit should be in reach. Check the following list for items that should be included in your kit:

  • Your pet’s medical record, including medications and vaccinations
  • Phone numbers for our clinic and the animal poison control center
  • Roll of gauze or strips of cloth for treating wounds
  • Non-adhesive bandages for wrapping wounds, such as “vet wrap”
  • Adhesive bandage tape—human “band aids” are not recommended for pet use
  • Activated charcoal and 3% hydrogen peroxide, given only when directed by the pet poison control center or our veterinarians
  • A pet thermometer, a muzzle, and an oral dosing syringe
  • A leash
  • A carrier to transport your pet

Perform pet CPR if necessary

If your pet has collapsed and is unresponsive, follow our step-by-step guide:

  1. Check for breathing and a heart rate. If you cannot detect either, start CPR.
  2. Perform 30 chest compressions at a rate of 100 per minute, placing both hands over your pet’s heart, and compressing their chest one half its width.
  3. Give two rescue breaths by extending your pet’s neck, holding their mouth closed, and exhaling into their nostrils.
  4. Stop to check for their breathing and a heartbeat every two minutes.
  5. Continue CPR until your pet begins to breathe, or until you arrive at our clinic.

Assess your pet and apply first aid

The first aid you apply varies with the emergency.

  • External bleeding — If your pet is bleeding externally, first place a muzzle on their mouth. Then, cover the bleeding area with gauze, and apply pressure with your hand until the blood clots. Apply the pressure for three full minutes before checking to see if the bleeding has stopped. If a leg is bleeding severely, you may apply a tourniquet with a piece of cloth above the wound. Loosen the tourniquet for 20 seconds every 20 minutes. Transport a severely bleeding pet to our clinic as quickly as is safely possible.
  • Internal bleeding — Signs of internal bleeding include bleeding from the mouth, nose, or rectum. Pets may also display pale gums, labored breathing, swollen abdomen, and weakness or collapse. If you suspect your pet is bleeding internally, keep them calm and still, contact our clinic, and transport them as soon as possible.
  • Toxins — If your pet has been exposed to a toxin, first steps include checking the toxic substance’s label for recommended actions after exposure. Next, jot down the what, when, and where of your pet’s toxin exposure, and ensure you have your pet’s age, breed, and weight information on hand. Call our clinic or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center for further instructions.
  • Fractures — If you suspect your pet has a fracture, first place a muzzle on your pet, since a painful animal may reflexively bite. Transfer your pet onto a flat surface such as a pet carrier or a board. Keep the fracture stable with a bandage or a splint if possible, and quickly bring them to our clinic.

Safely transport your pet to our clinic

As always in pet first aid, the first rule is to muzzle a pet who is in pain, although you must never place a muzzle on a pet who is vomiting. Try to assess the injuries, and then call our clinic for input before attempting to move your pet. Stop if your pet is becoming agitated. Stabilize injuries, if possible, with a bandage or splint before moving the pet. Confine your pet to a small space, such as a carrier, or create a makeshift stretcher from a piece of wood or other rigid object for transport, especially if you suspect a back injury. If your pet is not breathing, continue pet CPR during transport.

Dr. K’s Pet Clinic is here to care for your pet when the unexpected happens. Call our caring team any time your pet needs emergency care, or if you need advice on assessing the urgency of a situation.