First aid for pets

When faced with a sick or severely injured animal it is important to assess the situation fully to prevent further injury to the animal or an injury to yourself. Always protect yourself from injury. When an animal is in pain it is common for them to act aggressively and can bite even if they appear to be docile. Towels can be used to wrap cats or cover the head of a dog to reduce its stress whilst travelling. Make-shift muzzles can also be made from a strip of soft cloth, rope or stocking, to help to avoid bites.

As a pet owner it is best to prepare in advance and have the phone number of the clinic programmed in your phone, or know the location and contact details of the nearest 24 hour clinic (for example the Animal Emergency Centre), in case of an emergency in the middle of the night. Ideally contact the clinic to notify them of the emergency before you leave home or on your way in so we can prepare for your arrival.

First Aid Kit Contents

  • Pet first aid manual – simply print out these notes 
  • Cotton wool roll
  • Cotton balls/gauze pads
  • Tape
  • Elastic bandage wrap
  • Antiseptic cream
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Plastic gloves
  • Pet thermometer
  • Instant ice pack
  • Muzzle
  • Towels

Basic First Aid Advice for Common Problems

Snake Bite

Signs of snake bite include vomiting, dilated pupils, wobbly on feet, and collapse

Death can occur within 10-30minutes in severe envenomation

If you suspect snake envenomation, get to the veterinarian as soon as possible to have the best chance of recovery


Apply pressure with gauze if bleeding profusely

Clean with salty water (1 level teaspoon in 500ml water) if animals allows

Wrap large wounds with a bandage to keep clean

Seek veterinary attention as wounds can become infected and need antibiotics, or may require suturing

Bleeding (external)

Apply firm direct pressure to areas with a thick gauze pad until bleeding stops

Bleeding (internal)

You may notice bleeding from the nose or mouth, coughing blood, pale gums or blood in urine

Keep warm and quiet

Get to vet promptly


Animals will often go into shock after a severe injury/trauma or a fright

Symptoms include weak pulse, pale gum colour, shallow breathing and dazed appearance

Keep animal restrained, quiet and warm

If unconscious, keep head level with the rest of body

Burns (chemical)

Flush area immediately with large quantities of cold water\

Burns (severe)

Apply ice water compresses onto burn area

Take to the veterinarian

Broken legs

Fractures may be obvious with the limb being held at an odd angle, or there could just be pain and inability to use the limb

Muzzle pet and control bleeding if possible

Transport to the veterinarian immediately, supporting the injured part as best you can


Signs include convulsions, diarrhoea, salivation, weakness, depression and pain

Record what the pet ingested and how much 

Call your veterinarian

Do not try to induce vomiting unless advised by your veterinarian – contact the vet first as some toxins will cause more damage if vomiting is induced

If toxins are on the skin or coat, ask for directions on if and how to wash them off


Symptoms include rapid or laboured breathing, vomiting, high body temperature, collapse

Gently wrap in a cool wet towel

Transport to the veterinarian

Do not overcool animal. Stop when rectal temperature reaches 39 degrees Celsius