Photo: Lum3N | Pexels

 Being clued-up on first aid could help save our pet’s life in an emergency. 

Our vets from the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) in the UK have put together this guide for pet owners to help you learn which steps to take should a pet become seriously ill or injured.


REMEMBER: If you’re worried about your
pet, call your vet.
Photo: Mikhail Nilov |Pexels

Your pet could need to see a vet as an emergency if they:
•    Aren’t breathing or are having difficulty breathing
•    Are unresponsive
•    May have broken bones
•    Are having a fit/ seizure
•    Are having difficulty moving or coordinating movements
•    May have eaten something toxic
•    Have collapsed and can’t get up
•    Have been vomiting or passing diarrhoea for more than 24 hours
•    Have been electrocuted
•    Are unable to pee
•    Are having a severe allergic reaction
•    Are choking
•    Are bleeding heavily


If your pet is injured, you'll be more help
to them if you can stay calm.
Photo: PxFuel

•    Try not to panic. If your pet is injured, you’ll be more help to them if you can stay calm.

•    Call your vet. Explain what’s happened and let them know when you’ll arrive. Follow any instructions you’re given, for example emergencies may be seen at a different site. If it’s an evening or weekend, you might get a message giving you details of your local out-of hours vet.

•    Be careful when checking your pet and giving first aid. Pets can lash out when they’re in pain which can injure you and cause more problems for your pet. If your pet has serious injuries don’t try to cope with them yourself. They will often need treatment from your vet as soon as possible.

•    Don’t give your pet anything to eat or drink unless your vet tells you to.


•    Keep your vet’s name, address and telephone number stored in your mobile phone, and somewhere safe at home.
•    Keep a pen and paper handy to take down any important instructions from your vet.          
•    Keep a pet first aid kit at home. If you’re travelling, carry a mini pet first aid kit and make sure you know the details of a local vet in case of emergencies.


•    Is your pet collapsed?
•    Are they responding to you?
•    Are they breathing? If not, begin CPR.
•    Are they having breathing problems or are they breathing quickly?
•    Do they have pale (white or blue) gums?
•    Do they have any wounds or injuries?
•    Is their belly swollen?
•    Could they have eaten something toxic?

If your pet has any of these signs, please call your vet immediately.


It's best to attend a veterinary-led first aid course, to learn how to deliver CPR in the safest way.
Photo: PxFuel

CPR is life-saving first aid given to pets if their heart stops and they aren’t breathing. 

We would always advise owners to take veterinary advice and attend a veterinary-led first aid course, to learn how to deliver CPR in the safest way.

Unfortunately, CPR usually isn’t appropriate or successful for pets. Those who have an underlying illness or disease are unlikely to recover, even if given CPR. 

However, CPR can save lives in some situations – for example, if a healthy pet’s heart has stopped due to a specific cause, like drowning or choking.


1. Check the area around you and your pet for potential hazards.
2. Approach your pet, speak to them and see if they respond.
3. Gently touch your pet. If they’re collapsed but aware or responding to you, they don’t need CPR.
4. Call for help - call a vet immediately and you’ll often need two people for CPR.
5. Move your pet to a safe place (if necessary).


Carefully pull the tongue forward. Putting your fingers near your pet’s mouth can be dangerous. If they suddenly wake up, there’s a good chance you could get bitten.

REMEMBER: If the pet reacts or tries to resist you then they don’t need CPR. Call your vet and tell them your pet has collapsed but isn’t unconscious.

Check there’s nothing in the throat. If there’s something blocking the airway, remove it, taking care not to push any obstructions further down the throat.

Look and listen. Are they breathing? Can you see the chest rising and falling or feel breath coming from the nostrills or mouth? If they’re not breathing, immediately check for a heartbeat.

Place your hand or ear over the chest, where the elbow meets the ribcage. Can you feel/ hear a heartbeat? If you are sure there is no heartbeat, start CPR.


STAY CALM: Reassure your pet with a calm, soothing voice.

CHECK SAFETY: Make sure the area is safe for you and your pet.

Call your vet if you are concerned and don’t feel confident in moving your pet. Your vet will be able to give you advice on what to do next. 
 Photo: Sergio Locatelli | Unsplash

CHECK YOUR PET: If your pet has hurt their neck or back, avoid moving them and try to keep them still until you have spoken to your vet.

Carefully check for:
•    Breathing difficulties 
•    Broken bones
•    Wounds 
•    Heavy bleeding


SUPPORT YOUR PET: Make sure you support their head, neck and back by putting one arm under their head and shoulders and another arm under their pelvis. You may need to call a friend, neighbour or someone nearby to help.

As a rough guide, if your pet weighs more than 15kg, you will need someone else to help you lift them safely.

Once your pet is securely supported, slowly and carefully, lift your pet onto a large towel, blanket or board. If nothing else is available, a jumper or coat can be used but make sure it’s strong enough to hold your pet.

MOVE YOUR PET: Check the route is safe. Speak calmly and place a hand on your pet to reassure them. Hold the four corners of the blanket, board or towel, bend your knees and lift them. Walk slowly, don’t jolt them.

If your pet is unconscious, struggling to breathe or has a serious injury, take them to the vet ASAP. If possible, phone on the way to check they are
ready for your arrival.


It can be worrying if your pet gets injured. The treatment needed for a wound depends on its location, size, depth and cause. Anything more serious than a minor cut or graze should always be checked by a vet.

Anything more serious than a minor cut or graze should always be checked by a vet.
Photo: Bicanski | Pixnio

• If your pet has a small wound that’s not bleeding, flush the wound gently with water to help to remove as much dirt and bacteria as possible.

• If the wound is bleeding heavily, apply pressure to the wound with a dry, clean dressing and call your vet straight away.

• If there are areas of skin missing cover the wound with a clean, dry dressing and call your vet.

• If your pet seems uncomfortable when you try to cover the wound, or if you don’t have a clean dressing available, leave the area uncovered.

• If there is something inside the wound (such as piece of glass) don’t try to remove it and avoid putting any pressure on it. Your vet will be able to safely remove the object and clean the wound.

Deep or large wounds should always be checked by a vet. All wounds, no matter how big or small, should be monitored for signs of infection as they heal.

If you are worried about your pet, cover their wounds, keep them warm and call your vet straight away.


If your pet is choking, they’ll often be struggling to breathe. If they are recoughing they’ll still be able to breathe.

Choking can be a serious life-threatening problem that needs immediate action. 

• Firstly, check if your pet is choking or coughing. If your pet is choking, they’ll often be struggling to breathe. If they are recoughing they’ll still be able to breathe.

• If they are choking and conscious, try to gently open their mouth to look for something that’s stuck. If you can see a blockage, use forceps or a strong pen to remove it. This can make your pet panic, so never use your fingers as they could bite you by accident. 

• If your pet is collapsed and unconscious, check their mouth for a blockage, remove it safely and start CPR.

• If you’re unable to remove the blockage, call your vet as an emergency.

• If you’ve removed the blockage or your pet is coughing, contact your vet for advice.


A good pet first aid kit will contain all the things you’ll need to give simple first aid for small injuries at home. 

Even if you can treat your pet using your first aid kit, you should take them to your vet for a check-up as soon as possible. Your first aid kit should have:

A good pet first aid kit will contain all the things you’ll need to give simple first aid for small injuries at home.
Photo: Lachmann-Anke | Pixabay

• Gloves
• Pet-safe antiseptic wipes
• Pet-safe wound wash
• Sterile eye wash
• Wound dressings
• Bandages
• Cotton wool pads
• Microporous tape
• Tick tweezers/ twick twister
• Tweezers
• Blunt ended scissors
• Foil blanket
• A thick, old towel
• A spare lead (for dogs)
• Muzzle (for dogs)
• For large pets,a blanket can be used as a stretcher
• First Aid guide

Never apply bandages tightly at home, as they can make wounds worse or even cut off the essential blood supply. Always apply any wound dressings loosely so you can fit at least two fingers comfortably between the bandage and your pet’s skin.

To find out more about Pet First Aid,
visit: PDSA, UK





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