You can never predict an emergency but you can always be prepared.
Remember First Aid can save lives! Keep your First Aid kit well stocked and familiarise yourself with the emergency plans below. Our vets have put together an A-Z guide of some of the most common emergencies you are likely to encounter.
Print this first aid action plan and keep it displayed in case of emergency.
- Don’t panic!
- Keep calm and carefully assess the situation
- Animals in pain often bite or scratch. Approach them carefully. Use a muzzle or tape to prevent biting from dogs. Smaller pets can be wrapped in towels.
- Phone your veterinary surgeon in advance. Do not just turn up. Always check there is a vet on site. They will be able to deal with your emergency better if prepared.
- Never give human medicines to animals unless instructed by a veterinary surgeon. They can often be poisonous.
- Do not give your animal anything to eat before going to the emergency vets
- Drive carefully and calmly.
- Your emergency vets phone number:
This should only be attempted if your animal stops breathing. Alert your vet that you are on your way. Common emergencies which can stop breathing are electrocution, drowning and choking.
- Alert your emergency veterinarian.
- Lay the animal on its side
- Hold your cheek or a wisp of hair to the nostrils to check whether breathing has stopped.
- Open the mouth, pull the tongue forwards and check for obstructions
- Extend the head and close the mouth
- Blow into the nostrils and watch the chest rise.
- Allow the chest to fall again
- Repeat approximately every three seconds
- Stop artificial respiration every few minutes and check if the animal has started breathing on its own
- If you cannot feel a heartbeat then attempt chest compressions
- Push just behind the front legs every second
- Give 2 breaths into the nose for every 15 chest compressions
- If there is no heart beat or breathing in three minutes then recovery is unlikely.
Most commonly occurs from cuts or broken claws but can be as a result of other traumatic injuries.
- Remain calm. Bleeding often looks worse than it actually is.
- Apply pressure to the wound through a towel or bandage (not too tight)
- If blood soaks through then apply another layer on top.
- If bleeding is severe then phone your vet and elevate the bleeding area above the heart.
- If applying a bandage use a non adhesive dressing next to the wound. Don’t wrap the bandage too tight and use a layer of cotton wool. Never leave a bandage on for more than 24 hours
- Do not using constricting materials or tourniquets
Particularly significant in large deep chested dog breeds or dogs susceptible to gastric torsion. Associated signs may be vomiting, gulping, salivation, weakness or collapse.
- Take straight to the emergency vets
- Do not panic or stress your pet
- Attempt to look in the mouth to check for throat obstructions
- Take straight to the vet
- Pick up carefully; avoid putting pressure on the chest.
Broken bones (fractures)
Most often occur as a result of road traffic accidents. An open fracture is where the bone is protruding through the skin.
- Approach your pet carefully. Animals often bite and scratch when in pain.
- Try to move the animal as little as possible.
- Move your pet onto a blanket or towel which you can then use to lift them.
- For cats it may help to scruff them and lightly support the chest to lift
- Try not to touch any obviously injured areas
- Cover any open fracture sites with a clean dry towel
- Phone your veterinary surgeon immediately
Burns and scalds
The severity of burns depends on size, depth and location. Severe burns can lead to pain, infection and shock.
- If the skin is intact then run cold water over the burn for a few minutes.
- It may help to put the animal in the bath or sink.
- Do not put oil or cream on the burn.
- Contact your veterinary surgeon
- Cover the burn with a sterile, cool moist bandage.
- If the burn is deeper and the skin is blistered or broken do not run water on the injured area, cover it with a loose dry sterile bandage and contact your veterinary surgeon immediately.
Gagging, retching or frantically pawing at the mouth could indicate choking or throat obstruction. Common objects to get stuck in the throat are balls and bones.
- Hold the animal securely and open the mouth
- Be careful not to get bitten
- If you can see the object try and grab it with forceps (kitchen tongs etc)
- If it is stuck then leave it alone and go straight to the vets
If the animal collapses or turns blue:
- Lay the animal on its side and extend the neck
- Push suddenly and sharply on the abdomen just behind the last rib
- Attempt to grab the object from the throat.
- If you can’t retrieve the object then go straight to the vets.
Animals can drown if they become exhausted while swimming.
- Do not put yourself at risk to save the animal
- If you can pull them from the water then do so
- Clear the mouth and nose
- Hold your pet upside down by the hind limbs to drain water from the lungs
- Place your pet on the ground with the head lower than the chest
- Give artificial respiration if the animal is not breathing
- Seek veterinary attention even if your animal seems to recover.
- Do not approach high voltage supplies (e.g. power lines), phone the police.
- If in the home then switch off the electrical source
- If this isn’t possible then attempt to move the animal using a non metal object such as a broom handle.
- Attempt artificial respiration if the breathing has stopped.
- Seek veterinary attention even if the animal appears recovered.
- Avoid electrocution by unplugging appliances when not in use.
The eye may appear red, watering, held shut or bulging out of the socket after injury. Foreign bodies such as grass seeds often get caught in the eye. Corneal ulcers are common a common injury of the eye.
- Apply a wet dressing to the eye to prevent further scratching.
- If the eye is out of the socket do not attempt to replace it yourself.
- Flush the eyes with water if chemicals are suspected in the eye.
- Seek veterinary attention immediately.
- Attend to any bleeding
- Bathe wounds in a dilute salt solution
- Seek veterinary attention, infections are common.
Fits are characterised by sudden uncontrolled movements. Strong muscular contractions, loss of consciousness, salivation, uncontrolled defecation and urination are all features. The animal may fall on its side, paddle the legs.
- Do not try to hold the dog, this may provide stimulus
- Turn off the lights and close the curtains
- Turn off radio, television and anything making a noise
- Loosen or remove collars
- Pad the surrounding area
- Phone your veterinary surgeon for advice. If the fit lasts five minutes then go straight to the vets.
Usually occurs on warm or hot days, often after playing or exercising. Overweight dogs and short nosed dogs (e.g. Boxers) may be more at risk. Dogs pant heavily and appear distressed.
- Put your dog somewhere cool, out of sunlight and preferably near a draft or fan.
- Wrap in a cold wet towel
- Gently massage and move the legs to increase blood flow.
- Offer fresh water.
- Contact your veterinary surgeon
If you know your pet has ingested something then phone your emergency veterinarian immediately. Take note of:
- Exact name of substance (from original packaging if possible)
- Form of substance (liquid, tablet etc)
- Amount ingested
- Strength of substance (e.g. concentration, milligrams per tablet)
- Do not make your dog sick unless the vet says to do so.
Road Traffic Accident (RTA)
- Always keep dogs on a secure lead when walking near traffic. It may help to neuter animals to prevent roaming.
- Approach your pet carefully, be aware of other traffic
- Animals in pain may bite or scratch. Muzzle if necessary
- If possible transfer your animal onto a blanket or towel to transport
- Pick up dogs with one arm in front of the chest and one arm around the hindquarters
- Pick up cats carefully, one hand on the scruff, one supporting the chest
- Administer any necessary first aid (e.g. bleeding)
- Cover the animal to keep them warm
- Seek immediate veterinary attention
Stings, Insect bites, Ticks
- Pull out the sting with tweezers if visible. Avoid squeezing the poison sac.
- Bathe the area.
- Use a solution of bicarbonate of soda for bee stings
- Use a solution of vinegar for wasp stings.
- If the sting is in the mouth then monitor swelling and breathing. Contact your vet if concerned.
- For ticks use a proper tick comb. Don’t pull out the tick with anything else as the head may be left in. Seek veterinary advice.
Straining to Urinate or Defecate
- An immediate emergency in male cats, due to the risk of blocked bladders.
- Assess whether straining to urinate or defecate, look for spots of bloody urine.
- Seek veterinary attention immediately
Always Be Prepared!!
- Keep a well stocked First Aid Ki
- Ensure everyone in the family has the vets phone number
- Extreme care with plant, slug and rodent killers
- Keep harmful products out of reach
- Assess all dangers in the home carefully
- Close all windows and balcony access when you leave the house
- Don’t allow your pet off the lead near busy roads
- Don’t ever allow your pet to play with toys easily swallowed
- Don’t ever leave your pet in a hot car
- Don’t allow your pet in the kitchen when you are cooking on the stove
- Don’t leave rubbish bags unsecured
- Don’t leave doors to washing machine and tumble driers open