When it comes to our pets, things can happen that we don’t feel prepared for. In emergency situations, including exposure to toxins and choking, what would you do?

Today, we’re going to discuss some common pet emergencies and how to treat your pet. This is by no means an extensive guide. Rather, it’s an overview. Therefore, you should not use this educational material as your one-stop for all things first aid or as medical advice.

Common Risks to Animals

  • Exposure to Toxins: Animals are susceptible to poisoning from household products like rodent poison, antifreeze, and cleansers. If skin is exposed, check the label, and was your dog with soap and water. If eye, nose, or ear flushing is required, do this now. While this is happening, the vet should be called.
  • Fractures: Dogs with fractured, or broken, limbs may be fearful or aggressive. So, it’s important to muzzle your pet. If necessary, carefully move your pet to a flat surface and call your vet. For moving your pet in order to take them to the vet, use a firm board to use as a stretcher.
  • Seizures: Seizures may occur and they usually last about two or three minutes. Like with humans, keeping dogs or cats away from furniture or other items that cause injury is key. After the seizure stops, you should keep your pet warm and call the vet.
  • Bleeding (internal): Signs of internal bleeding include bleeding from mouth, rectum, nose, coughing blood, urinating blood, weak or rapid pulse, and collapse. Keep your pet warm and head right to the veterinarian.
  • Bleeding (external): Muzzle your pet so they do not nip during treatment. Use clean gauze or cloth to apply firm pressure. If the bleeding does not stop, make a tourniquet and take your pet immediately to their vet.
  • Choking: Choking appears in pets with one or more of the following symptoms: choking sounds, difficulty breathing, pawing at the mouth, blue tongue or lips. Be wary, animals are more likely to bite in a state of panic.
  • Heatstroke: The biggest cause of heat stroke in pets is leaving them in hot cars and outside without shade or water. Ideally, go straight to the vet if your dog is experiencing heat stroke.
  • Burns: Chemical burns need to be flushed with water as soon as discovered. A muzzle should be used if possible. Severe burns need an ice water compress. Then, contact your vet for next steps.
  • Shock: Shock happens when there is intense drama. Symptoms include listlessness, shallow breathing, weak pulse, and dazed look.

What to Do for Your Critically Injured Pet

If the injury is not clear or is clear but your pet is not breathing or has no heartbeat, there are some high-level procedures you can do to help.

When your pet is not breathing, check for an obstructed airway. You can perform rescue breathing by breathing with your mouth over the dog’s nose until you see the chest rise. Continue on this way with a breath every four to five seconds. While you are giving rescue breathing, someone should be calling a vet.

CPR for pets is an important skill to know in case your pet stops breathing. Here are video directions for pet CPR:

For Dogs

For Cats

Read on to find training programs to help you grow your knowledge and skills with first aid for pets.

First Aid for Pets Training Courses

There are many organizations that offer training for pet first aid. If you are looking to expand your knowledge, these are good places to start!

First Aid for Pets

This organization is an award-winning practical and online dog training program. According to their website, “Our courses are informative, practical and fun and always tailored to the needs of those attending. We specialize in devising highly bespoke courses for more complex needs like pets with serious injuries or illnesses.”

Their website offers a variety of free resources along with course programming.


PetTech is a company that offers three practical classes. Their PetSaver class is an eight-hour training course that covers CPR, first aid, dental care, senior care, and more for both dogs and cats. Upon completion, participants receive a 40-page handbook. They also have a CPR and first aid only class (5 hours). Lastly, their “Hiking and Walking with Your Dog” class is a 90-minute presentation that shows pet owners how to care for their pets when active together.

The More You Know, the Better Prepared You’ll Be

As a responsible pet owner, knowing what to do in an emergency is crucial. Although situations that require first aid or emergency procedures are rare, it’s wise to be prepared.

This is article is not intended to be medical advice. It’s for educational purposes. You should seek training or the advice of your veterinarian for more information regarding how to care for your pet.