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Pet First Aid Guide: How to Give Pets First Aid?

Not every wound your pet experiences will need veterinary care, but it's important to be aware of what injuries you can treat at home and which ones will require veterinary attention. Today our vets in St. Louis provide tips on how to perform pet first aid at home and what situations may need to be urgently attended to by veterinarians.

Even Your Beloved Pet Can Have an Accident

Even the most laid-back and relaxed pet could experience an accident that leads to a cut, graze or other potential injuries that require first aid and some that may even need a vet for care as soon as it happens in order to save your pet a lot of pain, and you a lot of money.

Wounds That Require Veterinary Care

While some pet wounds can be treated at home using first aid there are also wounds that should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible. Wounds that require veterinary care include:

  • Animals bites (these may look small but become infected very very quickly)
  • Skin that has been torn away from the flesh below (often occurs during dog fights)
  • A wound with a large object lodged in it (ie: a piece of glass)
  • Wounds caused by a car accident or other trauma
  • Injuries around the eyes, head or that lead to breathing difficulties

What You Should Include in Your Pet's First Aid Kit

Having a pet first aid kit on hand, and a little know-how can be helpful if your pet has a minor injury. Below are a few things you should always have on hand in case your pet gets hurt.

  • Muzzle 
  • Soap or cleaning solution
  • Pet antiseptic solution (ie: 2% chlorhexidine)
  • Antimicrobial ointment for suitable for pets
  • Sterile bandages
  • Self-adhesive bandages
  • Bandage scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Spray bottle
  • Clean towels or rags

How to Provide First Aid For Your Pet

Wounds should be cleaned and cared for as soon as possible in order to avoid infections. Before beginning first aid on your pet, it is best to have someone to help you restrain your pet and be generally supportive.

If you are unsure about what to do, or whether your pet needs veterinary care, remember that when it comes to your animal's health it is always better to err on the side of caution. When in doubt contact your vet, or an emergency vet immediately.

If You Are Providing First Aid to a Dog You Should Use a Muzzle

A scared, anxious or hurt dog may bite while you are trying to help which is why our team recommends muzzling your hurt pooch before beginning first aid treatment. It's a good idea to practice putting a muzzle on your dog before an injury arises so that your dog is used to the process and how the muzzle feels. This will help to prevent adding to your pup's distress. 

You Should Clear all Debris From Your Pet's Wound

Look for objects or debris that may be lodged in the wound when you are applying first aid for your pet. This is especially important if the wound is on your pet's paw pad and they may have stepped on something sharp. If you are able to easily remove the object with tweezers, do so gently. If the object is lodged deeply, leave it and call your veterinarian, or an emergency vet immediately.

Clean the Wound Thoroughly Before Applying First Aid

If the wound is on your pet's paw, you could swish the injured paw around in a clean bowl or bucket of warm water to help rinse out any dirt and debris. If the wound is elsewhere on your pet's body you can place your pet in a sink, bath, or shower and gently run clean water over the wound. You may want to add a small amount of mild baby shampoo, dish soap or hand soap to the water.

Do not use harsh cleaners or apply hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol, or other caustic cleaning products to your pet’s skin as these can be painful or even cause the wound to take longer to heal.

Aim to Control Bleeding if Your Pet Has an Open Wound

Provided that there is nothing stuck in the wound apply pressure using a clean towel. While most small wounds will stop bleeding within a couple of minutes, larger wounds are likely to take longer. Bleeding should stop within 10 minutes of applying pressure. If your pet is still bleeding after that time, contact your vet or emergency animal hospital right away.

Appropriately Bandage Your Pet's Wound While Providing First Aid

If you have antibacterial ointment on hand you may want to apply a small amount to the area before covering the wound with a piece of sterile gauze or other bandage. Avoid using products that contain hydrocortisone or other corticosteroids. Use a self-adhesive elastic bandage to hold the gauze in place. 

Do Not Allow Your Pet to Lick Anyone Open Wounds

If your pet is trying to lick the wound it may be necessary to have your cat or dog wear an e-collar. The bacteria from the saliva as well as the repeated licking motion can halt the healing process and even cause complications.

Continued Wound Care Throughout the Healing Process

Your pets wound will need to be monitored at least twice a day to ensure that infection doesn't set in and healing is proceeding as expected. Clean the wound with water or a pet-safe antiseptic solution twice a day, contact your vet immediately if the wound become inflamed and shows signs of infection.

If you notice increasing redness, swelling, discharge, increasing pain in the area of the wound or a bad odor coming from the wound, contact your vet right away.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Does your pet have a wound that requires veterinary care? Contact our St. Louis vets right away to book an urgent appointment for your pet.

Compassionate Emergency Care for Pets

Animal Emergency Clinic is an after-hours emergency animal hospital providing urgent care to cats and dogs from St. Louis and surrounding areas. Contact us right away if you are experiencing a veterinary emergency.

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