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Pet First Aid Ė Would You Know What To Do?

Have you ever thought about how you would give your pet first aid if you were ever faced with an emergency situation? Recently I read a heart wrenching story about a beautiful golden retriever who had gotten hold of a ball on her walk and choked to death. This saddened me deeply and frightened me at the same time. Would I know how to give pet first aid if my little Roxi or Bella were choking on something? Would I know what to do in any other type of emergency situation with Roxi, Bella or one of the Kitties?

My own answer was that I wasnít sure. Afraid of my own answer, I was prompted to do some research on pet first aid so that I would know what to do if I ever found myself in that type of situation. I also felt that it was important to share what I learned about pet first aid on this website in hopes that it could help save other petís lives if ever needed.

Here is a list of guidelines you can use if you are ever faced with a situation that you will need to give your pet first aid. Please remember that this should not be substituted for veterinarian care.

Pet First Aid For Choking

Just like children, pets can choke on just about anything from toys or even a piece of food, to a chunk of a chew bone or even a stone or coin. The best way to avoid having to give your pet first aid for choking is simple prevention:

*Make sure that small objects that may pose a threat are always put in a place where your pet cannot access them.

*If your pet is eating or chewing on a rawhide, greenie or anything else, make sure to supervise them to see if they arenít biting off more then they can chew or that they are chewing at all.

*If you buy toys for your pet, make sure that they donít have any small parts that can be chewed off and swallowed. Also, if your pet tends to rip toys try to find them toys that are non-destructible. Many pets have choked on a piece of rubber or stuffing.

Okay, so youíve done everything you possibly can to prevent your pet from choking, but accidents still happen. So, what do you do if you are faced with this situation and need to give your pet first aid? The first thing you need to do is determine that your pet actually is choking. Of course if you saw your pet swallow something then you will know that it is, but what if you didnít see what happened and youíre not sure? If your pet is truly choking they will be in severe stress. It will salivate, paw at its mouth and wonít be able to breathe. Hereís what you should do to give your pet first aid once you have determined that your pet is choking:

*First try to open the pet's mouth, but be careful that you donít get bitten. Animals become defensive when they are in distress. Once you see the object, attempt to remove it with you fingers. If the object is deep in the throat, try using a long nose pliers or tongs. As awful as that may sound, your petís life depends on it.

*Pick the animal up by its back legs, this may dislodge the object.

*If you are unable to remove the object, itís time to do the animal version of the Heimlich maneuver. With the animal standing upright, make a fist with both hand. Reach underneath the ribcage and give a series of thrusts towards the lungs. Thumping both sides of the animal's chest simultaneously with cupped hands may also dislodge the object.

*Once you have dislodged the object, call your vet immediately. Your pet will need to be examined to make sure that there are no injuries related to the choking.

*Undoubtedly, your pet will have a sore throat. For a natural soother, give them a little bit of honey periodically until their throat has healed. Donít overdo it. Less then a teaspoon at a time is all thatís required.


Minor Mishaps in Pets

Both dogs and cats often fall victim to minor cuts, scrapes, bites and stings- especially those who are active and adventerous! Cuts and scrapes, abrasions, insect bites, and other mishaps are often a common occurrence.

Most of these little injuries heal fairly quickly on their own and without long-term adverse effects, especially in healthy pets with strong immune systems. However, it is important to give a little pet first aid and care for these wounds appropriately and naturally.

Certain herbs are excellent for soothing the skin after everyday minor mishaps experienced by dogs, cats and other pets, thereby supporting comfort and a quick return to normal. A great place to find these herbs is in PetAlive Wound Dr. It will soothe your pet's skin after minor mishaps, keep areas clean and protected, and support natural skin health and growth.


In the case of insect stings or contact with poison ivy, please seek medical treatment if there is any swelling of the mouth or tongue or if your pet appears to have any difficulty breathing.

The ABCs of CPR in Pet First Aid

What kind of pet first aid do you administer if your pet isn't breathing? The answer is CPR.

Remember the ABCs of CPR: Airway, Breathing and Circulation.


* Make sure the mouth and airway is free of objects. Gently and very carefully tilt the head back. Pull the tongue out of your petís mouth and sweep the mouth for foreign objects. If there is something lodged follow instructions for choking.


* Lay your pet on its right side and check for the heartbeat. Itís crucial that you make sure there is no heartbeat before administering CPR. First watch to see if the chest is rising up and down and listen to the chest where the elbow touches the ribs.

*Make sure the neck is straight without overextending.

*For medium or large animals youíll perform mouth to nose breathing. Close the mouth and lips by placing your hand around the lips and holding the muzzle closed. Place your mouth over the dogís nose.

* For pets under 30 pounds, place your mouth over the petís mouth and lips. Your mouth will form a seal.

*Give four or five breaths quickly. Check for breathing. If pet is breathing shallowly or not breathing, begin rescue breathing again. For large animals give 20 breaths per minute. For pets under 30 pounds, give 20-30 breaths per minute.

* Check for heartbeat. If no heartbeat is detected begin cardiac compressions with rescue breathing.


For most animals, chest compressions are best done with the animal lying on its side. Make sure they are lying on a hard surface. (For dogs with barrel type chests like bulldogs and pugs, itís best done with the animal on his back.)

For small animals (less than 30 pounds)
* Put your palm or fingertips over the ribs at the point where the raised elbow meets the chest and kneel down next to the animal with the chest near you.

* Give about 1 inch chest compressions at a rate of 2 per second. Compressions need to be more rapid for small animals because they have a higher heart rate then humans.

* Begin 5 compressions for each breath. After 1 minute, stop and check for a heartbeat. If there is no heartbeat, continue until heartbeat resumes.

For animals 30 to 100 pounds
* Kneel down next to the animal with the back near you.

* Extend your arms and cup your hands on top of each other.

Place your hands over the ribs where the raised elbow meets the chest. *Give 2 to 3 inch chest compressions at a rate of 1.5 to 2 per second.

* Give 5 compressions for each breath. After 1 minute, stop and check for a heartbeat. If there is no heartbeat, continue until heartbeat resumes.

For animals over 100 pounds
*Perform the CPR as you would for large pets but compress the chest once per second and apply 10 compressions for each breath.

Perform CPR and pet first aid until the heartbeat resumes or you have reached a veterinary hospital.


Where we live in Florida it is very easy for a pet to become overheated all year round. In other states it isn't as common, but even if you live somewhere in the northern hemisphere, summers can be scorching. I know I may sound like a broken record, but the best way to avoid having to give your pet first aid for heatstroke is by prevention.

First, and foremost, never leave your pet unattended in a vehicle on a hot day.

Limit and supervise any outdoor time during the hottest part of the day. If it's too hot for you, it's too hot for you pet. Early morning and evenings are the best time for outdoor playtime.

Make sure you have plenty of cold water for your pets. You can even put icecubes in it.

Tip: Soak a bandana in icecold water and refrigerate it for a few minutes. Then wrap it around your pet's neck.

If you take precautions, you may never have to use pet first aid on your pet for heatstroke but if you do it's best to be prepared.

So what are the symptoms of heatstroke? Rapid or labored breathing, vomiting, high body temperature, collapse

How should you give your pet first aid for heatstroke? Place the animal in a tub of cool water. Or, gently soak the animal with a garden hose. You can also wrap it in a cool, wet towel. Do not overcool. Stop cooling when your pet's temperature reaches 103 degrees Fahrenheit. Call veterinarian.

Frostbite and Hypothermia in Cats and Dogs

Now that you know what to do if your pet is suffering from heat exhaustion or heat stroke, let's focus on the opposite.... frostbite and hypothermia.
In Florida, where we live, it's something that you usually don't have to worry about, but not everyone lives in a warm area. For those of you who live in the colder climates, it's extremely important to be prepared for the cold winter temperatures.

A lot of peope think that cats and dogs can withstand cold temperatures because they have fur. This is a misconception. Some large dogs do well in the winter months and love to be outside, but others like small breed dogs and cats are more sensitive and do not tolerate cold. It just takes a minute outside for the paws of a little dog like a Yorkie to freeze up and have them shivering. If you have a small breed it might be a good idea to provide them with a coat and boots.

Cats normally don't like to stay outside too long when it's very cold. Always pay attention to the forecast before letting your cat out. If it gets colder and your kitty hasn't come home the next day they will be at risk for frostbite or hypothermia, especially if they are hurt. If you aren't going to be home, don't let your cat out of the house. Don't leave your pet out in the cold. It could cost them their life!


Even though animals have ways to deal with the cold, if exposed to extreme freezing temperatures for a long time the same mechanisms that keep them warm and alive can actually cause damage and death to the tissues of their extremities (tips of ears, tail, foot pads). This is what's known as frostbite. When a pet's body gets very cold, the body system will pull all the blood from the extremities to the center of the body to stay warm. The animal's ears, paws, or tail can get so cold that frostbite results and ice crystals form in the tissue of the dogs body damaging the tissue.

When an animal is exposed to cold temperatures their body will react in stages:

1. The fur, which provides insulation, when exposed to the cold will stand up. It's similar to when we get goose bumps. The hairs will trap air in that layer and the air will be warmed by the body adding extra insulation.

2. When the body temperature decreases the skelatal muscles will involuntarily reflex or "shiver. This generates heat to warm the pet up.

3. When the body gets really cold it will be selective in where it sends warm blood. Since the organs are what keeps your pet alive they are the most important. Blood vessels in the extremities will constrict until normal temperature is attained

4. If the animal doesn't receive Pet First Aid by this stage, frostbite will develop. The tissues that have frozen will die. Dogs and cats will often experience frostbite on their legs, tails, face, footpads, tips of ears and genitalia in male dogs. Frostbite can result in the loss of limbs, toes and tips of ears.


If your pet has been outside and you think they have frostbite, here are the symptoms to look for:

- Shivering
- Ice on the body and limbs
- Bright red tissues followed by paleness and then black.

Pet First Aid

Here's what you should do:

- Warm the area with towels soaked in warm water or warmed ice packs. If the limb or paw is frozen, soak it only in a bath or bowl of warm water.
- Gently dry after you have warmed the area.
- Absolutely don't rub or massage the frozen tissue. This can cause damage.
- Don't apply snow or ice.
- Don't put your pet completely in a bath, because it will cause the body temp to decrease & cause hypothermia.

Once the tissue is warmed up your pet may be uncomfortable. This will also happen if the tissues are dead. To prevent your pet from causing self damage you should wrap them in a blanket. This will also keep them warm. You should be sure to get veterinary care for your pet, because secondary infections can sometimes lead to gangrene.


Hypothermia is when the body's temperature is abnormally low. This is serious and can cause unconsciousness, shock and sometimes even death. If your pet has signs of frostbite, they may also have hypothermia; however, do not rely on this alone because hypothermia can occur without the prescence of frostbite.


- Shivering
- Weakness
- Low body temp. You should take your pet's temperature rectally and if it falls below 99.5 degrees farenheight (37.5 celcius) they are hypothermic.

Pet First Aid

- Warm your pet by using blankets, warm water in plastic bottles (wrap in towels to prevent burns), or rice in zip lock bags warmed in the microwave and wrapped in towels. You can also microwave ice packs (unfrozen) and wrap in towels. You may choose to use a heating pad, but make sure that you do not put it directly on your pet. If your pet is weak they won't be able to move and can get burns. You may also choose to use a hair dryer on medium warm heat while someone else is preparing the blankets and water bottles.

- Check your pet's temperature every 10-15 minutes.

- Once your pet's body temp has reached 101.3 degrees farenheit (38.5 celcius) stop warming. Over heating an animal can be dangerous.

- Bring your pet to the veterinarian even if you have given your pet first aid and it seems they are fine. Kidney and bladder infections can occur in pets that have been exposed to cold.

We can't stress enough that veterinary care is a must if your pet has been hypothermic or has frostbite.

Please check back here often for more pet first aid tips.

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