We love our pets like family members — the thought of our animals suffering because we’re unprepared to treat them is most pet owners’ worst nightmare. Pet health emergencies are often unexpected so being prepared for any pet first aid situation is extremely important.
Being able to act quickly and take the first steps before you can get your pet to a veterinarian can save your best friend’s life. There are some similarities between human first aid and pet first aid but you should know exactly how to treat animals in an emergency.
April is National Pet First Aid Awareness Month so we’ve highlighted eight important first aid tips for pet owners.
1. Take Pet CPR and First Aid Course
If you’re serious about pet first aid, taking a pet CPR and first aid course is the first place to start. The American Red Cross hosts a 35-minute, online training course that costs just $25. This course covers a variety of topics, including:
- Understanding how to monitor vital signs.
- What to do in the case of a cardiac or breathing emergency.
- How to handle wounds, bleeding and seizures.
- Preventative care.
When you’re around small animals, you should know the technique that’s referred to as Taco CPR. This approach is suitable for smaller animals since traditional CPR may be too intense.
In this maneuver, you cradle the choking puppy in one arm. Use your index and middle fingers to perform compressions on the area between its front legs. Then, tilt the animal’s head backward and move the tongue forward to open the airway.
2. Download a First Aid Resource App
It’s hard to remember every symptom a pet can have and what it means. Luckily, technology has come to the rescue! There are many wonderful pet first aid apps available that can serve as a resource center any time you have a question or concern about your pet’s health.
Red Cross Pet First Aid
Red Cross has a first aid app for humans, and one for pets! The pet version features several helpful sections:
- The Learn section provides information on common issues that arise in pets.
- The Emergency section has a pet hospital locator and provides many of the same informational guides as the Learn section.
- Quizzes are available on the app so you can test your knowledge of pet health care.
- You can customize the Pets section by adding your own animals and their health profile.
The best feature of the 11Pets app is that your pet’s profile can be accessed by multiple devices. That means anyone you give access to can check in on the pet’s health or update its profile. Like the Red Cross app, 11Pets is free!
- You can set Reminders for vaccines, medications, vet appointments and more.
- The app customizes the experience for the type of animal you own, including dogs, cats, birds, snakes and even horses!
- There are upgrades available that unlock even more features like an expenses tracker.
Wag! Vet Chat Service
This service can be accessed both through the Wag! App or through the company’s website.
- The vet chat service is available 24/7.
- Pet parents can chat directly with a veterinarian.
- The service costs $14.99 a month.
3. Get Pet Health Insurance
Buying health insurance for your pet isn’t necessarily a first aid tip. However, it’s an important step in ensuring you’ll be able to afford treatment in the case of an emergency.
We love our pets, but sometimes the cost of treatment has us thinking twice about paying for the procedure. When your pet has insurance, the financial burden will be significantly reduced — and let’s face it, at some point every animal gets into some sort of situation that makes insurance well worth it.
Forbes recently ranked pet insurance carriers, awarding several companies for various strengths. Some of the highlights of the list include:
- Lemonade for having the best pricing for puppies and kittens.
- ManyPets for the lowest out-of-pocket claim costs.
- ASPCA for no waiting period for animals with special conditions.
Wag! has an insurance comparison tool that helps pet parents choose the right policy to keep their pet protected. We recommend using this tool to find the right coverage for your furry friends! In addition to an insurance comparison tool, Wag! offers their own Wellness Plans that cover things the average pet insurance does not, such as annual visits, blood, urine and fecal tests, annual vaccines and deworming. Add-ons for dental, grooming and more are also available.
4. Keep Your Pet’s Medical Records in a Convenient Place
Medical emergencies are always unexpected and every second counts. Avoid scrambling around the house trying to gather up important paperwork by keeping your pet’s medical records organized and located in an easy-to-reach location.
As we enter an increasingly digital world, pet apps like PetDesk partner with veterinarians to create a central hub. There, you can access upcoming appointment information, schedule appointments, check past medical and immunization records, and even get reminders when your pet has upcoming vaccines.
5. Know How and When to Muzzle
Dogs in pain or distress may bite — even normally gentle, docile dogs. You may never need to use this skill, but it could come in handy when you need to render first aid to a dog that’s thrashing and snapping its jaws. The AKC has a handy article that gives the rundown on muzzling a dog.
- Remember, muzzling should only be used when a dog is in distress.
- Even then, only keep the muzzle on for short periods of time.
- A muzzle should never be used as a training tool.
- Never leave a muzzled dog unsupervised.
Learn how to create a makeshift muzzle below:
6. Create a Pet First Aid Kit and Keep it Handy
Maintaining a well-stocked first aid kit for your pet is one way to ensure you’re ready for most common emergencies. The AKC’s list of dog first aid kit essentials includes:
- A pet first aid manual — though the pet apps effectively replace this guide.
- Non-stick bandages — these come in handy because they won’t stick to the animal’s fur.
- Antibiotic ointment — you can also purchase it in a spray bottle.
- Adhesive tape
- Cotton Balls
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Milk of Magnesia
- Magnifying glass
AKC’s first aid kit was created specifically with dogs in mind. However, these items come in handy with just about any animal health emergency.
7. Know What To Do When an Animal Is Choking
Choking is one of the most common medical emergencies a pet owner will face. Being prepared and trained for the situation can be the difference between a mild scare and a tragedy.
There are three main ways to clear the breathing passage of an animal. They may look familiar because they’re essentially the same methods you’d use on a human!
- Use Gravity with Wheelbarrow Lift — stand behind the animal, lift its lower legs and see if the force of gravity can dislodge the object.
- Finger Sweep — restrain the pet, open the mouth and if you can see the object, try to sweep it away. Move your finger side to side along the back of the mouth. Take care not to push the item further into the animal’s throat.
- Abdominal Thrust — make a fist with one hand and reach around to the animal’s abdomen. With the other hand, cup your fist. Then, with both hands, thrust upward into the animal’s abdomen. This force should dislodge the item.
- Back Blows — if none of the above works, stand behind the animals and give a forceful strike to the back between the shoulder blades.
You may need to repeat each of these steps several times before the item comes loose.
8. Be Prepared in Case of a Poisoning or Exposure to Toxins
Along with choking, accidental poisoning is another very common pet emergency with thousands of cases in the United States each year. Animals are curious by nature — sometimes that curiosity leads to them ingesting chemicals or other harmful materials. Some of the most common include:
- Pest poison (i.e. rodent poison, insecticides or snail bait)
- Poisonous plants
- Household chemicals like detergent, cleaning products and gasoline
Luckily, with quick action, serious damage can be avoided. If you suspect your pet has consumed a poisonous substance, call ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center’s 24-hour hotline at 888-426-4435.
One key to providing your pet with a long, healthy life is to be prepared for any sort of medical emergency. Knowing how to identify common issues like poisoning or heatstroke, having the appropriate first aid supplies to treat your pet, and knowing what techniques to use when an animal needs aid can be the difference between a small scare and tragedy.
There may be times when you cannot be with your pet, particularly when you are traveling. If you hire a pet transportation company, you should be able to trust the driver can handle any medical emergency that may arise.
Many drivers on CitizenShipper are pet lovers and experts, with training in pet first aid. Plus, CitizenShipper has partnered with FirstVet, giving our drivers 24/7 on-call access to veterinary advice. In the rare case that the animal needs to be seen in-person, FirstVet provides instant referrals to a nearby vet.
If you have to transport an animal and you’re concerned about safety, there’s no better option than CitizenShipper. List your shipment today and receive bids from experienced and trustworthy pet transportation professionals!
Content Writer at CitizenShipper. I’ve also been published on The Penny Hoarder, Mommy Poppins and mxdwn.