Pets are a lot like kids – they can do the darnedest things! I’m sure you’ve heard of pets eating stashes of chocolate, getting a bone stuck in their jaws or throats, running through hot coals whilst camping… The list is seemingly endless. Unfortunately as humans, we think of pets as being so different from ourselves that we sometimes forget the first principles of first aid. Hopefully the info below will help you out if you and your pet are in a sticky situation later…

puppy looks, set

So, what would constitute an emergency for pets?

  • Breathing Difficulties
  • Traumatic Injuries e.g. Burns or being hit by a car.
  • Bleeding
  • Loss of Consciousness
  • Shock (weak, pale gums and eyelids, cold feet, legs and tail)
  • Difficulty Urinating
  • Abnormal Heart Beats
  • Seizures
  • Complications following a surgical procedure e.g. bleeding; sudden change in behaviour etc.

All of these scenarios would need assessment, application of First Aid Principles and immediately seeking veterinary advice.


ABCs & CPR work for pets too!

When assessing a pet, as with people, try following the ABCs:

A = AIRWAYS – Is the pet’s airway clear?

B = BREATHING – Is the pet breathing?

C = CIRCULATION – Can you feel a heart beat or pulse on the inside of the back leg?

Always consider applying a muzzle to a conscious pet before doing anything else with them as they may bite  if they are very painful or scared.

CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) should only be attempted on unresponsive pets that are not breathing. 

  • Lie the pet on its side, ensure the tongue is not obstructing the airway – you can even pull it out the mouth out of the way.
  • Give chest compressions at a rate of 2 compressions per second (100-120 per minute). Compress the chest a third of the depth of the chest.
  • Respiratory Rate: Hold the mouth closed and breath 2 breaths into the snout only enough to see the chest rise slightly – remember small pets have small lungs so don’t breath into their chests too heavily. Giving breaths is not the most important part of the process, so if you are not sure how to do it; you don’t know the pet; are concerned that they may be poisoned or carrying other pathogens that may may you ill, avoid giving breaths as we don’t want you to become ill from giving CPR to a pet.
  • Give 30 compressions followed by 2 breaths and continue until you see signs of response.


What else can be done in emergency situations?

Most importantly, seek veterinary attention specific to your pet’s situation as the following tips are only of a general nature:

Breathing Difficulties: Keep your pet calm as any stress could make things worse – this may mean not touching or moving them too much. Contact your vet for further advice. If the pet stops breathing, perform CPR immediately.

Traumatic Injuries: Limit movement and use a stretcher/board/sling to transport them. If you think your pet’s back has been injured, keep them as calm and still as possible.

Burns: Flush the injured area gently with copious amounts of cool water. Apply a cool compress if transporting.

Shock: Keep your pet warm and calm whilst seeking veterinary assistance

Seizures: Remove any objects that may cause the pet to injure itself. If possible, time the seizure and when it stops, check your pet’s breathing, gum colour, heart rate and level of consciousness and contact your vet.

Choking: Contact your vet immediately for instructions to try to remove a foreign body. Lie your pet on its side and striking the rib cage with your palm 3-4 times. Carefully look into the mouth and gently remove any foreign objects.

Bleeding: If external bleeding, try applying pressure with a gauze pack for 3 minutes, if it does not improve, re-apply and seek immediate veterinary attention. If bleeding occurs from the nostrils, oral cavity, ears, anus or urinary tract, keep your pet calm, warm and seek immediate veterinary attention.

Poisoning: Check with your vet first before getting a pet to vomit since some poisons cause further damage if vomited. If they’ve had something applied externally e.g. a cleaning agent, try washing your pet with soap and water immediately; flush eyes with saline. If they’ve come into contact with a cane toad, wipe the slime off their gums and tongues and try flushing their mouths with water by flushing from the back teeth, out towards the front of the mouth so that they are not swallowing any water.

Heatstroke: Wet the pet down with cool but not cold water. Wrap ice packs in wet towels and apply to the belly, neck and armpits whilst seeking veterinary attention. Change towels every few minutes.


DO NOT: Administer any human pain relief medication unless advised to do so by your vet. Certain human medicines have very serious side effects in pets and may even kill them.

DO: Keep your vet’s and the pet emergency contact details on your phone and somewhere easily visible in your home. And do pass these contact details on to any carers and neighbours that may be taking care of your pet or need help in an emergency situation.


If you have any questions or would like to find out more about Pet First Aid, please give us a call on 0481 527 678 or email on