In an emergency, you may panic and freeze, which can cost precious time in a critical situation. But, with advance preparation and by brushing up on your pet first aid skills, you can save your four-legged friend’s life in a disaster. From burns and toxicities, to seizures and bleeding wounds, your Walnut Creek Vet Hospital team has got your pet first aid education covered. Check out our tips for worst case scenarios and learn how to stabilize your furry companion until you reach our hospital. 

What do I do if my pet has been exposed to a toxin?

With their nose for trouble, toxin exposure is common in pets. Whether a toxic food, chemical, or plant, your home, yard, and garage are filled with hazardous substances. While you may think you should automatically make your pet vomit if they’ve ingested something poisonous, that is not always the case. For example, if they’ve swallowed an acidic cleaning chemical, making them vomit will do more harm than good. If you suspect your pet was exposed to a toxin, contact the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center immediately for advice. Be prepared to answer questions about the substance your pet contacted, how long ago, and their signs. The poison control center will provide you with a case number, which will allow us to more accurately treat your pet with an advanced treatment protocol designed by a veterinary toxicologist. 

What if my pet is having a seizure?

Watching your pet undergo a seizure is scary. If your pet is seizuring, turn off the lights and TV to minimize stimulation, and keep them from falling off furniture or down the stairs. Do not hold them, because they may bite unexpectedly, since they are unaware of their surroundings. Time the seizure, and take a video, if possible. After the seizure has stopped, keep your pet warm, calm, and quiet until you arrive at our hospital.

What if my pet has broken a bone?

Orthopedic injuries can be incredibly painful in pets, whether they truly fractured a bone or merely sprained a muscle. Since you do not have an X-ray machine at home, treat your pet’s leg injury as a potential fracture to minimize further damage, and keep yourself safe. Start by muzzling your pet to avoid a bite out of pain. Next, gently place your pet on a sturdy stretcher, securing them in place if possible. In general, avoid placing a splint, which often does more harm than good. Instead, keep your pet from moving, and avoid putting pressure on the injury. 

What if my pet is bleeding?

Like a broken limb, a bleeding wound is likely painful, and your pet may bite when you care for their injury, so muzzle them before proceeding. Then, place a thick gauze pad on the bleeding area, and apply firm, steady pressure for at least three minutes. If you continuously check to see if the bleeding has stopped, you delay a clot from forming, causing your pet to lose more blood. Once the bleeding has stopped, apply a bandage to avoid bumping the clot while you transport your pet to our hospital. 

What if my pet has been burned?

Whether your pet was burned by fire or a chemical, first aid care is similar. Burns are another painful condition, so muzzle your pet before beginning treatment. Apply an ice water compress to your pet’s fire burn, or dilute their chemical burn area with large quantities of water. 

What if my pet is not breathing or has no heartbeat?

If your pet is not breathing, or seems to have no heartbeat, have someone contact our hospital while you care for them. First, open your pet’s airway by grasping the tongue and gently pulling it out of the mouth until it lies flat. Check for any stuck objects that may interfere with breathing. Next, perform rescue breathing by holding your pet’s mouth closed and breathing into their nose until you see their chest expand. Repeat breaths every four to five seconds. If your pet has no heartbeat, you can begin chest compressions after beginning rescue breathing. Follow these steps for chest compressions:

  • Lay your pet on a firm surface, right side down. 
  • Place one hand underneath your pet’s chest for support and the other over the heart, located behind the elbow of the front left leg. 
  • For dogs, press down gently about one inch if they are medium-sized, but harder for larger dogs.
  • For cats and other small pets, cradle your hand around the pet’s chest so your thumb is on the left side of the chest and your fingers are on the right. Compress the chest by squeezing it between your thumb and fingers.
  • Perform 80 to 120 chest compressions per minute for larger pets and 100 to 150 for smaller pets. 

Perform rescue breathing and chest compressions alternately, not simultaneously. Watch this video on performing CPR on your pet. Keep in mind that first aid care should be used only to stabilize your pet in an emergency until you can reach veterinary help. Once your pet is secure and stable, contact our Walnut Creek Vet Hospital team to let us know you’re on your way with an emergency.