April is National Pet First Aid Awareness Month. In observance, we’re sharing our suggestions for steps you can take to prepare for, respond to and, best of all, avoid a medical emergency.
We’ve put together a collection of links you can use as a self-study course on pet first-aid basics. If you read—even just skim—the resources we recommend, you’ll know some preventive measures to take as well as what to do—and what not to do—in common emergency situations.
First Steps to First Aid Preparedness
Our first recommendation is for all in your household with mobile phones to add Brownsburg Animal Clinic, the Pet Poison Helpline and your choice of area emergency clinics to your stored contacts lists. You can find the contact information you need in the right sidebar on every page of our website, ready for you to transfer to your phones.
Next, we suggest you put together a first aid kit for your pet(s). We like the ASPCA’s recommended list of kit contents.
The Red Cross offers a more comprehensive list as a downloadable PDF, ready to print and use as a shopping list.
We suggest you keep the first aid supplies you assemble in a portable container you can take with you when traveling with your pet.
If you prefer, you can shop online for a pre-assembled pet first aid kit.
The best advance first aid preparation of all is to take steps immediately to avoid needing to administer it! You can take precautions now to prevent illnesses and accidents by making your pet’s environment safe and cultivating good safety habits to keep your pet out of danger.
For ideas on how to protect your pet’s health and safety, we recommend reading and heeding these articles:
- “10 Safety Tips for Dog Owners” from the Spruce Pets
- “Cat Safety” from Best Friends Animal Society
- “7 Safety Tips For The Home When You Have A Cat” from Cattime.com
See our recent blog post, “Keeping Your Pet Safe from Poisons” to find out which foods, plants, household products and drugs are potentially toxic to pets and make sure they’re all out of your pet’s reach.
Pet First Aid 101
Ideally, as a loving and responsible pet owner, you’re willing to learn the basics of pet first aid so, in case of an emergency, you will have some idea of how best to respond.
To help you get started learning about pet first aid, we recommend two pages from the American Veterinary Medical Association website:
The tips page offers a pet first aid overview, with links to more detailed articles, including the page on basic first aid procedures.
The basic procedures article offers succinct advice on handling various emergency situations, including poisoning, seizures, fractures, bleeding, burns, choking, heatstroke and shock as well as what to do if your pet is not breathing or has no heartbeat. We suggest you read the entire page to get an overview of the advice. Use the quick links to take you directly to the sections of most interest.
Another pet first aid resource we like is from VeterinaryPartner, “Introduction: First Aid.” This comprehensive guide was written by four veterinarians and originally published in 1994, but all 35 of the linked-to pages have been reviewed and revised as needed between 2017 and 2022.
By systematically reading each of the articles on the AVMA website and the full VeterinaryPartners guide, you’ll have effectively completed a comprehensive home-study course in pet first aid. We hope you’ll plan the occasional refresher course as needed.
Get Professional Help
Your improved ability to recognize an emerging medical crisis, coupled with your basic knowledge of pet first aid techniques, can make the difference between life and death for your pet.
But keep in mind, it’s called first aid for a reason. Professional veterinary care beyond what you can provide may be needed.
In the event of a medical emergency, your pet will have the best chances of survival if you seek professional help as soon as possible.
Even if your efforts at rendering first aid appear to have worked and your pet seems to feel better, it’s still a good idea to consult with a veterinary professional to determine what additional steps, if any, you need to take.
In the event of a medical emergency for your pet, as soon as you are able, we suggest you use those clinic and helpline numbers stored in your phone to call for any professional help you may need.