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First Aid for Dogs

As dog owners and pet parents ourselves, we know how stressful it is when our furry family members experience an emergency situation.

Recognizing an emergency can be difficult. If you think your pet is experiencing an emergency but are not sure, call your veterinarian or the nearest 24 hour veterinary hospital as soon as you suspect a problem. There are no "dumb" or "bad" questions when dealing with your pet's health. They are there to help you help you assess whether your animal needs to be seen.

We have compiled this page to include short list of tips and articles so you may learn how to respond when the unexpected occurs.

Be Prepared for Emergencies

Please review the AVMA's First Aid Tips for Pet Owners for more information.

If your pet is exhibiting any of the following symptoms, please seek veterinary consultation and/or care as soon as possible:

There are a variety of online resources to help you understand the causes, symptoms and treatment for these emergencies. However, please call your veterinarian or the nearest 24 hour veterinary hospital first if you suspect your pet of having a medical emergency.

Links to Basic First Aid Tips for Pets:

AVMA's First Aid Tips for Pet Owners

University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine: Basic First Aid for your Pet

American Red Cross: First Aid for Pets First Aid and Emergency Care

Animal Poison Control Center

Articles and Tips for Specific First Aid Emergencies:

Animal Poison Control

If you suspect a poisioning has occurred, contact your veterinarian or a 24 hour emergency veterinary hospital as soon as possible. Acetaminophen or other human medicines, grapes and raisins, xylitol and plants such as lilies are among the many household items that can be toxic to your animals.

Allergic Reactions/Bee Stings/Hives

The most common sign of this injury is a swollen muzzle. It is advisable to call your veterinarian to determine if treatment is necessary. Most dogs do not have a problem with bee stings, but some have respiratory difficulty and all need to be watched carefully for 24 hours.


Choking, Gagging and Coughing

If your animal isn't breathing, call your veterinarian or the closest 24 hour emergency veterinary hospital immediately. You can place your mouth over their nose and give three quick breaths in order to help stimulate their breathing. It is important to distinguish between coughing, gagging, and choking.

Heat Stroke

Pet owners should remember that the inside of a car can quickly reach 120 degrees in warm weather and should not leave their animals in the car, even during short trips. This can quickly lead to heat stroke. The signs of heat stroke include:

Hit by Car

For a dog that has been hit by a car, you need to get the dog on a firm surface, such as a piece of plywood. If that is not available, put it in a blanket. The goal is to move the animal in one piece with a minimal amount of motion. The animal should be transported to your veterinarian or a 24 hour emergency veterinary clinic AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

Lameness and Limping

This condition can be caused by a number of different factors, including but not limited to degenerative ligament condition, or slipping of the knee cap while walking. Sudden changes are likely to be caused by ligament ruptures, twists, or impact injury. If your pet is limping or has developed an irregular step, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian for evaluation before it develops into a chronic, painful condition. In many cases, medication can be prescribed to correct your dog or cat's walk while also easing any pain they are experiencing.


If your pet is experiencing a seizure, try to stay calm and keep clear. If you try to hold your dog or cat down, you may cause injury. Also keep your fingers away from your pet's mouth, as their reflexes may cause them to bite without any real awareness of their actions. Try to take note of how long the seizure lasts and the activity your pet was engaged in prior to it occurring. These details may help in diagnosing the condition if they form a noticeable pattern.

If your pet has experienced a seizure, take him or her to a veterinarian for examination as soon as possible. This will help narrow down the cause of the incident and in most cases help prevent it from happening again in the future. Remember:

Toxic Materials

If your dog or cat has come into contact with or ingested toxic material, two organizations are available for 24/7 support. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (1-888-426-4435) and the Pet Poison Hotline (1-800-213-6680) will instruct you on the proper course of action to take depending on the severity of the situation. The top ten toxins reported in 2011 helpline calls to look out for, as reported by AAHA-affiliated site are:

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