Pet First Aid

Just like their humans, pets can get in to trouble.  Some times they're particularly good at finding it!  The following is some tips to help owners prepare for emergencies and how to respond during an emergency.

It is important to note that in any and all emergencies or situations where first aid is given, the next step should be veterinary care!  First aid care is not a substitute for veterinary care, but it may save your pet's life until he/she receives veterinary treatment.


Luck favors the prepared.  Preparation for an emergency allows for people to have the most options, make the best decisions, and preserve the health of their pets as much as possible!

Pet First Aid We recommend starting your preparations by getting a pet-specific first aid kit.  While commercial kits are available, we recommend making one that is specific to your pet.

  • PET FIRST AID: QUICK REFERENCE GUIDE provided by Bellalago Veterinary Hospital
  • IMPORTANT PHONE NUMBERS (Veterinarian, Emergency Hospital, Poison Control, Animal Control, Non-Emergency Police)
    • Bellalago Veterinary Hospital - (407) 847-0802
    • VHA 24-Hour Emergency Hospital - 863-324-3340
    • ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center - 888-426-4435 (charges may apply)
    • Osceola County Animal Services - 407-742-8000
    • Polk County Animal Services - 863-577-1762
    • Osceola Sheriff (non-emergency) - 407-348-2222
    • Polk County Sheriff (non-emergency) - 863-298-6200
  • An up-to-date copy of your PET'S MEDICAL RECORD
  • DIGITAL RECTAL THERMOMETER to take your pet's temperature
  • MUZZLE (appropriately sized) to prevent bites (Do NOT muzzle your pet if he/she is vomiting)
  • GAUZE ROLL for wrapping wounds or muzzling an injured animal
  • CLEAN TOWELS for restraining cats, cleaning, or padding
  • NONSTICK BANDAGES OR STRIPS OF CLEAN CLOTH to control bleeding or protect wounds
  • ADHESIVE TAPE for securing bandages
  • NEOSPORIN (Triple antibiotic ointment)
  • EYE DROPPER (or large syringe without needle) to give oral treatments or flush wounds
  • PLAIN K-Y JELLY (or generic version) to protect wounds, eyes
  • MILK OF MAGNESIA OR ACTIVATED CHARCOAL to absorb poison (Use only if instructed to do so by your veterinarian or poison control center)
  • 3% HYDROGEN PEROXIDE to induce vomiting (Always contact your veterinarian or poison control center before inducing vomiting; do not use hydrogen peroxide on wounds)
  • SALINE SOLUTION for cleansing wounds (Saline sold for use with contact lenses works well for most purposes.)
  • PET CARRIER (for cats and small dogs) which can double as a carrying case for your first aid kit

A good pet first aid kit is also part of the preparing for a hurricane.  Click here to learn more about preparing for a hurricane with your pet!

It is also a good idea to have a family discussion about what happens in an emergency.  Some key questions to discuss are located here.  

What about finances?  Studies show 6 out of 10 Americans do not have the resources to pay a $1000 emergency veterinary bill.  Do you?  One option is CareCredit which is a line of credit that can allow for balances to be carried for up to 6 months with no interest!  There are no annual fees so there is no cost to keep in your wallet in case of an emergency!

Basic First Aid

Always remember that any first aid administered to your pet should be followed by immediate veterinary care.  First aid care is not a substitute for veterinary care, but it may save your pet's life until he/she receives veterinary treatment.


If your pet is injured, he/she is likely in pain, scared, and confused.  Be careful to avoid getting hurt, bitten, or scratched.

  • Never assume that even the most gentle pet will not bite or scratch if injured.  Pain and fear can make animals unpredictable or even dangerous.
  • Don't attempt to hug an injured pet, and always keep your face away from its mouth.  Although this may be your first impulse to comfort your pet, it might only scare them more or cause them pain.
  • Perform any examination slowly and gently.  Stop if your pet becomes more agitated.
  • Drive carefully to your veterinary hospital.  Panicked or out-of-control driving puts you and your pet at risk.


Choking pets have difficulty breathing, paw excessively at their mouths, make choking sounds when breathing or coughing, and may have blue-tinged lips or tongue.

  • If your pet can still breathe, keep him/her calm and seek immediate veterinary care.
  • Look into your pet's mouth to see if a foreign object is visible.  If you see an object, gently try to remove it with pliers or tweezers, but be careful not to push the object further down the throat.  If it's not easy to reach - don't delay; get your pet to a veterinarian immediately.
  • If you can't remove the object or your pet collapses, place both hands on the side of your pet's rib cage and apply quick, firm pressure, or lay your pet on his/her side and strike the rib cage firmly with the palm of your hand 3-4 times to sharply push air out of his/her lungs and push the object out from behind.  Repeat this until the object is dislodged or until you arrive at the veterinarian's office.


  • Open your pet's airway by gently grasping its tongue and pulling it forward (out of the mouth) until it is flat.  Check the throat to see if there are any foreign objects blocking the airway.
  • Perform rescue breathing by holding your pet's mouth closed with your hand and breathing directly into its nose until you see the chest expand.  Once the chest expands, continue administering one rescue breath every 4-5 seconds.


Do not begin chest compressions until you've secured an airway and started rescue breathing.

  • Gently lay your pet on its right side on a firm surface.  The heart is located on the left side of the lower half of the chest, just behind the elbow on the front left leg.  Place one hand underneath the pet's chest for support and the other hand over the heart.
  • For dogs, press down with quick, firm pressure to depress the chest one inch for medium-sized dogs.  Use more force for larger animals and less force for smaller animals.
  • For cats and other small pets, cradle your hand around the animal's chest so your thumb is on the left side of the chest and your fingers are on the right side of the chest, and compress the chest by squeezing it between your thumb and fingers.
  • Press down 80-120 times per minute for larger animals and 100-150 times per minute for smaller ones (less than 25lbs).
  • Alternate chest compressions with rescue breaths: perform chest compressions for 4-5 seconds and stop long enough to give one rescue breath.
  • Continue until you can hear a heartbeat and your pet is breathing regularly, of you have arrived at the veterinary hospital and they can take over the resuscitation attempts.


If you know or suspect your pet has consumed something that may be harmful, call your veterinarian, emergency veterinary clinic, or Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435 - available 24/7; a consultation fee will apply) immediately.

  • If possible, have the following information available:
    • Species, breed, age, sex, weight, and number of animals involved.
    • Symptoms
    • Name/description of the substance that is in question; the amount the animal was exposed to; and how long it's been since your pet ate it or was exposed to it.
    • The product container/packaging available for reference.
  • Collect any material your pet may have vomited or chewed, and place it in a plastic sealable bag to take with you when you bring your animal in for veterinary treatment.
  • Do not try to induce vomiting or give any medication to your pet unless directed to do so by Poison Control or your veterinarian.


  • Clear the area of other pets, furniture, and any objects that may cause injury.  Do not try to restrain your pet or startle him/her out of the seizure.
  • Time the seizure (they usually last 2-3 minutes).
  • After the seizure has stopped, keep your pet comfortable and quiet and contact your veterinarian.


  • Assume the snake is poisonous and seek veterinary attention immediately.  Try to identify the snake if it can be done without risk; do not attempt to capture or kill the snake.  Do not bring the snake in to the veterinarian's office - a photograph will do!


  • Apply a muzzle and flush the burn with cool (not cold) water.  Seek immediate veterinary care.


  • If possible and safe, try to stabilize injuries before moving an injured animal by splinting and bandaging them.  Keep in mind, however, that a poorly applied bandage or splint can do more harm than good, leave the bandaging/splinting to professionals.
  • If there is a foreign body in the wound, do not remove it.  If necessary, carefully cut it short without moving it to leave 3-6 inches sticking out before transporting your pet to the veterinarian.
  • While transporting your injured pet, keep him/her confined in a small area to reduce the risk of additional injury.  Pet carriers work well, or you can use a box or other container (but make sure your pet has enough air).  For larger dogs, you can use a board, sled, blanket, or something similar to act as a stretcher. 
  • Call your veterinarian or an emergency veterinary hospital so they can be ready for you when you arrive.


  • Apply direct pressure with a clean towel or cloth for at least 3 minutes before checking to see if the bleeding has stopped.
  • Severe bleeding can quickly be life-threatening - get your pet to a veterinarian immediately if this occurs.  Add towels on top of previous layers if they are soaking through, but do not remove them as it may disturb clot formation.


  • If you cannot immediately get your pet to a veterinarian, move him/her to a shaded area and out of direct sunlight.  Place a cool or cold, wet towel around your pet's neck and head (do not cover your pet's eyes, nose, or mouth).  Remove the towel, wring it out, then rewet and rewrap it every few minutes.
  • Pour or use a hose to keep cool water running over your pet's body (especially the abdomen and between the hind legs).  Then, use your hands to sweep the water away as it absorbs the body heat.
  • Transport the pet to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

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