Pet First Aid: Basic Actions

dog and a cat

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Pet first aid is important because pets need care, too. Let’s look at some basic actions you can take to keep them safe and healthy in an emergency.

Clear the area:

  • Remove any obstacles.
  • Remove any debris.
  • Remove any blood.
  • Remove any vomit.
  • Remove any urine.
  • Remove any feces.
  • Remove other foreign objects/hazards (e.g., broken glass). 

In the case of a non-life-threatening injury, you may be able to leave these objects in place and simply bandage over them to contain the wound and protect it from further trauma. The next step is to reach a veterinarian for treatment or seek medical attention.

Inspect for injuries

You should always check for injuries in your pet. Check for bleeding, broken bones, burns, and any other injuries. Be sure to also look for any signs of shock (pale gums, shallow breathing, low heart rate, and rapid heartbeat).

Check for breathing

Check for breathing. If the dog or cat is not breathing, start rescue breathing immediately.

If your pet is breathing but not doing so well after an accident or injury, begin chest compressions to keep their heart beating until you can get them to a vet or hospital.

Check for heartbeat

The first step to checking for a heartbeat is to find the pulse point. The most common locations are on both sides of the neck, just behind and below one of your dog’s ears, on their chest between the front legs, or the inner thigh. 

If you don’t know where these areas are (or what they feel like), ask someone who knows dogs well to show you.

Once you’ve found your dog’s pulse point, count how many beats it makes in one minute (a “beat” is when blood flows through an artery). 

This will give you an idea of whether his heart rate is normal, too high, or low. If it’s higher than expected based on age and weight, then it may be beating too fast; if it is lower than expected based on age and weight, it may be beating too slow.

Stop bleeding and treat wounds

If your pet has an open wound, you’ll want to apply pressure on the area to stop the bleeding. Use a clean cloth or bandage. If the injury is deep, apply pressure and elevate it above his heart level by placing something under him like a pillow or folded towel. If the bleeding is severe and doesn’t stop with pressure, seek emergency care immediately.

Immobilize fractures or dislocations

Immobilize fractures or dislocations. If you suspect your dog has a dislocation, fracture, or broken bone, make sure to immobilize the area with a splint before seeking medical attention. You can create a makeshift splint with items in the house, such as towels and jackets. When making a splint for your dog:

  • Stick to materials that are rigid but not too rigid (such as cardboard). Avoid using anything too flexible, like cloth, because it can move around and cause further injury to your pet’s body.
  • Ensure the material is big enough for your pet, so it doesn’t move around when he tries to get up or walk around.

Pet first aid should always start with inspecting for injuries, checking breathing and heart rate, bleeding control, and immobilizing fractures or dislocations.

If you’re unsure about the severity of a pet’s injury, don’t hesitate to call a veterinarian. It may be better to err on the side of caution and have your pet seen by a professional rather than risk further injury or complications from treating an injury incorrectly.

The first thing you should do when an animal is injured is to inspect it thoroughly for wounds and determine how serious they are. This can include checking breathing, heart rate, bleeding control, and possibly even immobilizing fractures or dislocations (if necessary). The next step of treatment will depend on what type of injuries were found during the initial inspection.


Well, there you have it. There’s a lot of information in this blog post, but it’s pretty simple stuff: if your pet has an accident and gets hurt, you should always check their breathing and heart rate, look for any injuries or broken bones, then stop any bleeding. 

If they need medical care beyond what you can provide at home, the most important thing is to get them to the vet immediately. 

And remember: if all that sounds overwhelming, take some time to slow down and think about it before reacting. We know being a good pet owner can be hard sometimes—but with these tips in mind, we hope your next emergency won’t be so scary!