First Aid for Dogs and Cats
Accidents can happen. Even if your provide your cat or dog with everything he or she needs, nutritious food, regular grooming, regular veterinary examinations, professional dental cleanings, vaccinations, lots of love and care - accidents or injuries can still happen. It's important to be prepared for those unexpected situations. Knowing what to do may save your dog's or cat's life.
Put Together a Pet First-Aid Kit Which Includes:
Bandaging materials: gauze pads & rolls, rolled cotton, self-adhesive elastic wraps
Extra blankets & towels
Your veterinarian's phone number Ahwatukee Animal Care Hospital (480) 893-0533
Print out our CPR page, our Emergency contacts page, and our Poisonous Substances page and keep them handy.
Checking Vital Signs
~ Use rectal thermometers for pets. Newer human digital thermometers are best. Normal temperatures for dogs: 101 degrees F to 102.5 degrees F. Normal temperatures for cats: 100 degrees F to 102.5 degrees F.
~ Heart rate can be checked by placing a hand over the cat's or dog's chest. Normal heart rate for dogs: 70-160 beats/minute. Normal heart rate for cats: 140 - 220 beat/minute.
~ Respiration can be measured by observing the flanks or holding a wet finger in front of the nostrils. Normal respiration for dogs: 10 - 20 breaths/minute. Normal respiration rate for cats: 20 - 30 breaths/minute.
~ Measure both rates for 15 seconds, then multiply by four to get the rate per minute. Make sure the dog or cat is in a calm, resting state to ensure normal rates.
Handling and Transporting
~ Don't assume a dog or cat won't bite or scratch.
~ Don't try to comfort an injured dog or cat by hugging her or him. Don't put your face near his or her head.
~ Muzzle dogs, if necessary, with gauze or soft towel strips. Wrap small dogs or cats in a towel.
~ Perform any examinations slowly and gently. Stop if the pet becomes agitated.
~ Don't attempt to lift or drag a large injured dog. Improvise a stretcher out of a board, throw rug, child's sled, etc.
~ Before transport, try to stabilize injuries. Rolled magazines or newspapers can serve as impromptu splints. Pad limb and splint generously with rolled cotton and gauze, if available, or improvise with suitable pillows, pieces of blanket, towels, etc. Make sure the splint immobilizes joints above and below the site of the injury.
Emergency First Aid Action Steps
The following situations generally require veterinary attention.
These emergency action steps are designed to help you stabilize your pet while veterinary help is being obtained.
Possible causes: foreign object (i.e.bone, food, needle, toy, plant material, fabric, yarn, ribbon) lodged in throat, teeth, or esophagus; allergic reaction
1. Gently pull tongue forward and inspect mouth and throat.
2. If foreign object is spotted, hold the mouth open and attempt to remove it by hand or with tweezers or a pair of small pliers. Take care not to push the object farther down the dog's or cat's throat.
3. If the dog or cat is not breathing, start CPR. See our CPR page for instructions. Print this page out and place it in your Pet First Aid kit so that it is handy if you should need it.
4. Transport to the veterinary hospital immediately.
Do not apply a tourniquet unless absolutely necessary.
1. Arterial bleeding requires immediate veterinary attention.
Arterial blood will be bright red, will bleed in spurts and will be difficult to stop.
2. Apply a clean cloth or sterile gauze to the wound.
3. Apply direct pressure for at least five to seven minutes to stop bleeding.
4. Transport to your veterinarian.
Possible causes: Excessive heat and/or lack of shade, overexertion, lack of water (dogs and cats differ individually in how much heat that they can tolerate - even mildly warm, humid temperatures can stress some pets).
1. Place in cool shaded area.
2. Immediately bathe dog or cat with tepid water.
Do not leave pet unattended while soaking, even if conscious.
3. Monitor rectal temperature.
When temperature drops to 103 degrees F, dry your pet off.
4. Transport to veterinary hospital.
Continue to monitor temperature.
Do not allow the pet to become excessively chilled.
Bee or Wasp Sting
1. Neutralize the sting. Bee stings are acidic. Neutralize with baking soda.
Wasp stings are alkaline. neutralize with vinegar or lemon juice.
2. Apply cold pack.
3. Apply calamine or antihistamine cream.
4. In case of potential severe swelling or difficulty breathing, transport to veterinary hospital immediately.
Possible causes: broken limb or digit, acute arthritis, injury to footpad, dislocation, sprain, muscle soreness
1. Attempt to localize injury through gentle inspection.
Once localized, examine affected area to check for pain, heat, injury, & swelling.
2. If a fracture is suspected, gently stabilize limb for transport
(see handling and Transporting Tips at the beginning of this page).
3. Cover any wounds with a clean cloth. (See Bleeding).
4. Transport to the veterinarian.
Possible causes: drowning, electrocution, trauma, drug or poison ingestion
1. In case of drowning, clear the lungs of fluid. Lift cat's or dog's hindquarters high over head and squeeze chest firmly until fluid stops draining.
2. In case of electrical shock, DO NOT touch the pet until he or she is no longer in contact with the electricity source.
3. In case of airway obstruction, the object will need to be gently removed. (See Choking).
4. If the dog or cat is not breathing, start CPR. (See CPR).
Possible causes: poisoning, abdominal injury, motion sickness, disease, overeating, fear, brain injury, parasites
1. Examine vomit for blood or other clues as to a cause.
2. Gently press on stomach to detect any abdominal pain.
Withhold all food and water until a veterinarian has been consulted.
3. If poisoning is suspected, bring a sample of the suspected poison,
preferably in its original packaging, to the veterinarian along with your pet.
4. Abdominal pain, enlarged stomach and unproductive vomiting are serious signs.
Call your veterinarian immediately. Ahwatukee Animal Care Hospital (480) 893-0533
For Emergencies call us (480) 893-0533 during regular business hours (Monday - Friday 8 AM-6 PM & Saturdays 8 AM - 1PM).
Outside our business hours, call First Pet Emergency Hospital (480) 732-0018.
This is not a replacement for a veterinary consultation.