Basic Pet First Aid

As pet owners, we often need to be prepared for accidents and illnesses will occur with our beloved furry family members. In an emergency, you will want to make sure your pet has the best chance of survival. Emergency treatment and first aid for pets should never be used as a substitute for veterinary care. But it may save your pet’s life before you can get your pet to a veterinarian. In this blog, we are going over basic first aid you can give your pet before heading to a vet.




Depending on the type of burn, symptoms can show immediately or take up to 12-24 hours to appear. The most important thing to do is to apply something cool to take the heat out of the wound. You can do this by:


  • Running cool water on the wound for at least ten minutes
  • Or, applying a moist cool pack for at least five minutes


It’s important to keep your pet warm whilst you are cooling the burn site – you can wrap them in a blanket while applying first aid, then you should take your pet to a vet for further treatment.


Light Wounds


Sometimes our pets may experience small or large graze type wounds where only the surface layer of the skin may be affected. In this case, you can perform basic first aid for grazes by:


  • Flushing the wound gently with saline or clean water
  • Apply a sterile non-adhesive dressing
  • Seek advice from your vet regarding further treatment


Puncture/Fight or Penetrating Wounds


If your pet has been in a fight and sustained any injuries, it’s important to see a vet promptly to ensure the wounds can be thoroughly cleaned to reduce the risk of infection. Sometimes puncture wounds may appear to be superficial, however, they are often deeper than they seem and cause deep and serious infections.


If your pet has sustained severe attack or penetrating wounds, we recommend transporting your pet to our clinic immediately. Do not attempt to remove any penetrating objects, but try to restrict your pet’s movement if possible. In the meantime, you can:


  • Apply pressure to any wounds to control bleeding
  • Keep your pet warm
  • See a vet immediately


Take care to avoid being bitten or scratched when handling your pets that may be in pain or shock. We recommend using towels to carefully transport your pet, or a carrier if it is suitable to do so.




Seeing your pet having a fit can be very distressing. The most important thing to do is clear any danger away from your pet. Reassuring your pet with your voice can be helpful. While your pet is having an episode, do not place your fingers into your pet’s mouth or try to restrain them as this can be dangerous. If your pet is unconscious, check your pet is breathing and ensure there is no obstruction by examining inside the mouth. Do not attempt to give food or water while your pet is convulsing. After the episode has stopped, bring your pet to your vet promptly.




Choking is an emergency as your pet may experience obstruction of the airway. The first thing to do is to check your pet’s mouth immediately to see whether the tongue is causing the obstruction or to see if you can remove the object that may be causing an obstruction. Use caution as a choking pet is more likely to bite in its panic. Don’t spend a lot of time trying to remove an object if this cannot be easily done. If your pet can still breathe, keep him/her calm and get them to your vet immediately.


In some cases, it may be necessary for you to attempt the pet version of the Heimlich Manoeuvre by:


  • Raising your pet onto their hind legs
  • Place your pet’s spine against the front of your body, ensure you are supporting your pet’s back at all times
  •    Put your arms around your pet just under the ribs
  • Squeeze the chest firmly in and an upward and forward direction


For smaller pets, you may try an alternative method:


  • Hold your pet upside down by their back legs
  • Firmly deliver a blow using your hand to the abdomen of the pet in the area of the last ribs


If your pet has not responded to your attempts to relieve airway obstruction and loses consciousness, start CPR immediately. You should always call your vet immediately for advice.




If your pet is not breathing and you cannot feel a heartbeat, you should try to perform CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). It is important to stay calm, as this will give you the best chance to perform CPR effectively.

  • Lay your pet on their right side on a firm surface
  • Check your pet’s throat to ensure nothing is blocking the airway
  • Gently grasp the tongue and pull it forward out of the mouth
  • Close your pet’s mouth (hold it closed with your hand) and breathe with your mouth directly into its nose until their chest rises. Once the chest expands, continue the rescue breathing every 4-5 seconds
  • For medium sized dogs, press down on your pet’s heart about one inch. For larger dogs, you will need to press harder and with more force
  • For small dogs, cats and pockets pets, cradle your hand around the animal’s chest so your thumb is on one side of the chest and your fingers are on the other side. Compress the chest by squeezing between your thumb and fingers
  • You should perform 80-120 compressions per minute for larger pets and 100-150 times per minute for smaller pets
  • Don’t perform rescue breathing and chest compressions at the same time – alternate breathing and compressions or work as a team with another person so one person performs compression for 4-5 seconds and stops long enough to allow the other person to give one breath


Being prepared and having knowledge of basic first aid for your pets is a great idea, but always remember that any first aid administered to your pet should be followed by immediate veterinary care. If your pet is injured, appears to be suffering from illness, or if you are ever unsure or are in an emergency situation, call Vets on Balwyn on (03) 9857 8100 so we can provide appropriate advice and prepare for your arrival to ensure your pet receives the necessary treatment as soon as possible.

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