Skip to main content

Pet Insurance policies are underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company.

Pet First Aid Tips

By: Robbi Hess

Knowing how to stabilize your dog during an emergency can help save its life. Here are some common emergency situations and pet first aid tips.

Pet First Aid Tips

The thought of something happening to your beloved dog can send you into a panic. When pet accidents happen, the first thought is, “I need to get my dog (or cat) to a veterinarian.” However, there are steps you can take to stabilize your pet and mitigate further injury before you arrive at the clinic.

Keeping a pet first aid kit on hand, for example, ensures that you are prepared to manage minor incidents and buy time in the case of more serious injuries. Not only can you keep a dog first aid kit stocked at home, but it’s a good idea to bring a to-go pack with you on walks, outings, hikes, etc. You could easily store one in your car’s glove compartment or trunk. 

In it, you’ll want to have emergency supplies such as antiseptic wipes, hydrogen peroxide, bandages, cotton balls and swabs, batteries, a muzzle, a blanket, and hydrocortisone cream. These items should help you be prepared for any accidents or illnesses that may occur. 

Here are a few types of emergency situations, and ways to stabilize your pet until you get to a veterinarian.

Bites and Cuts

Any bite or cut can become infected, especially if your dog is bitten by another dog because of the germs introduced into your dog’s system from the bite. It’s important you clean the area thoroughly and call your veterinarian to have your pet examined. If your pet is bleeding, cover the area with sterile gauze or a clean towel. Apply gentle, direct pressure until the bleeding slows.

If your dog has a puncture wound and the item that caused it—a stick, for example—is still embedded in the wound, do not remove it. Call your vet immediately. Clean the area with a sterile saline solution or clean water; don’t use any other cleaning agent as that can damage the exposed tissue. Stabilize the protruding item, wrap the wound in clean gauze and tie a bandage around it to keep it clean and to keep your pet from licking the area.


If your dog can’t breathe—may be pawing at her mouth and making choking sounds—you need to jump into action. Use caution: A choking dog may bite because of its panicked state. If your pet can breathe, keep her calm and get to a veterinarian immediately.

If it’s safe to do so, look into your dog’s mouth to see if you can see what is blocking his airway. If you can see an object, try to gently remove it. Be cautious you don’t lodge it deeper into his throat. If it’s not easy to remove or you can’t see it, get to the vet immediately.

If your pet collapses because she can’t breathe, place your hands on the side of her ribcage and apply a quick, firm pressure to try to dislodge the item. In some choking cases, if you can expel air out of your dog’s lungs it may dislodge the item.


Every pet owner knows to never leave their pet in a car on a warm day—frankly, you should never leave a pet in a car unattended. Even if your pet is not in a car, he can suffer heatstroke. All dogs are at risk, especially young, old and overweight dogs, those with short muzzles or dense coats, anxious dogs, and dogs with laryngeal paralysis or heart disease.

A dog with heatstroke can easily succumb and requires fast treatment to keep them alive. Early symptoms include increased panting, salivation, body temperature, and heart rate.

If you suspect heatstroke, call your vet immediately and do the following:

  • Move your pet to a cool, shaded area.

  • Place a cool, wet towel around his neck and head, make sure you don’t’ cover his eyes, nose or mouth.

  • Keep rewetting and replacing the cool towel every few minutes to cool your dog down.

  • Wet his body, paying particular attention to his belly and between his hind legs. Massage the cool water into his legs and stomach.

  • Get your dog to the emergency pet hospital or vet clinic as soon as possible.

Accident/Hit by a Car

To prevent a dog-car accident, keep your dog leashed when you’re out. If your dog gets hit by a car, immediately call your vet or emergency clinic.

Following that, lay your pet on a flat board, strap him down and don’t allow him to move as this could exacerbate any internal injuries. If your dog has had a head injury, tilt the board so your dog’s head is slightly elevated. If there are broken bones, minimize your dog’s movements but don’t try to splint the bone yourself. Get your dog into your car, and cover him with a blanket to keep him warm and prevent shock.

Note: Your dog may not show any visible signs of injury after being hit by a car, but it’s crucial you get to your veterinarian to rule out any internal injuries or other non-obvious injuries.

Pet Poisoning

If your dog gets into something you suspect is poisonous or toxic, call your veterinarian and/or the Pet Poison Helpline at (855) 764-7661 immediately.

Don’t induce vomiting unless you are instructed to do so; many toxic substances are corrosive and can cause more damage if your dog vomits it back up.

Note: Keep track of your cats and potentially toxic plants—lilies, for example are toxic to cats—by keeping these plants away from cats.


This is frightening for your dog and for you, but it is important you remain calm. If your dog has a seizure you need to keep your pet safe from injuring herself during the event. Keep objects and your fingers away from your dog’s mouth and do not restrain your pet.

He may be comforted by the feel of your hand on his body during the seizure. Talk calmly to him. After the seizure has passed, contact your veterinarian immediately. If, however, the seizure lasts more than three minutes, call your vet immediately and ask for advice.

Pet First Aid Course

To help you protect your dog in case of an emergency, consider taking a pet first aid course. Also, program your veterinarian’s phone number, nearby emergency hospital, and the pet poison control number into your phone in case an emergency arises. You can’t prepare for every potential accident or emergency situation, but if you have taken a dog first aid course, you will be better able to protect your beloved dog until you can get him to a veterinarian.

Robbi Hess, award-winning author, is multi-petual: She shares her home with two Devon Rex kittens, three adult rescue cats, a mini poodle, a Goldendoodle, three lizards and two ferrets. When not caring for her pets, she is an editor, speaker, time management and productivity guru, content creator, social media manager and blogger. She writes at All Words Matter, My Divas Dish, and is the story editor and chief cat herder at Positively Woof.

Pattern Blue

by you

Design your pet’s plan in less than 60 seconds!

medium sized cat illustration
medium sized cat illustration
Cat illustration
Cat illustration
Cat illustration
Your Pet's Type