April 25, 2021 4 min read

As a pet owner, nothing is scarier than the thought of potentially losing your furry friend. But when you find yourself in a sticky situation, even the most basic knowledge of pet first aid can make the difference. We will be covering the following things you need to know in case of an emergency:

  • Keeping you and your pet calm
  • DRABC, the checklist to any emergency situation
  • Example of real life scenarios
  • Preparing for an emergency

First step: Staying Calm

When my dog passed away in 2012, I was absolutely adamant there was something I could have done to prevent it. And even though there probably wasn’t, knowing what I do now as a veterinary student would have prepared me for an emergency situation with my pet much better.

You see my very first instinct when I saw my dog in pain was to panic. All of the little alarms in my head started screaming and I somehow transformed into a towel throwing, arm waving, crying heap of a mess.

Although it seemed perfectly logical at the time, I realise now that I probably stressed out my poor dog more than I should have. Now I’m not saying that you have to be the perfect picture of tranquillity. But minimizing your reaction in an emergency situation can help you remain clear headed and lessen the amount of stress on the animal.

The Checklist to Any Emergency Situation

Now once you are calm, it’s time to become DR. ABC. This is an extremely helpful acronym for remembering the 5 things you should check in any emergency situation.

Acronym #1: (D)anger

Firstly, are you in any (D)anger by going to help your animal? Remember to scan the environment for any hazards. Your animal is also probably scared, this means it may pose a potential threat to you as well.

Acronym #2: (R)esponse

Once checking the coast is clear, approach the animal quietly and cautiously to check for a (R)esponse. Ask yourself, is the animal awake, is it moving and if so, is it safe to proceed?

Acronym #3: (A)irways

The next important step is to check the (A)irways of the animal and make sure it can breathe. If the air passage is blocked by something removable (like a ball) carefully try to take it out. However, if the object blocking the airway is in pieces (like a stick) do not attempt to remove it and promptly take the animal to the vet.

Acronym #4: (B)reathing

If the airways are clear but the animal is not (B)reathing, proceed to checking their circulation.

Acronym #5: (C)irculation

Check its (C)irculation by pressing your finger into the inner leg and feeling for a pulse. If the animal has no detectable pulse and cannot breathe, promptly take it to the vet.

Examples of Real Life Scenarios

So now that you know your ABC’s when it comes to pet first aid, it is important to know what to do in common emergency scenarios yourself.

Scenario #1: Toxicity

It’s 2AM in the morning. You’ve just finished baking those delicious triple chocolate fudge brownies for the bake sale tomorrow and you walk out to find your chubby little dachshund knee deep in the tray. What do you do? Well luckily enough you’ve caught the little bugger before they would have started digesting the chocolate, and suffer from food toxicity.

If you are able to take them to the vet, immediately do so. Apomorphine is usually given by vets to induce vomiting, depending on what your pet ate and how much time has gone since they ate it. The severity of chocolate toxicity depends on the type of chocolate (the darker it is the worst it will be) and the size of the dog. There are online calculators that you can use to work out if your pet has eaten enough chocolate to cause poisoning.  

However, if you are all alone in the middle of nowhere and cannot get to the vet, call an emergency hotline immediately. A veterinarian can advise you during this situation. It is always good to discuss with the vet on how to prepare yourself in case of poisoning, so that you have the right medication at hand in case of an emergency.

Rat baits, acidic and petroleum agents, plants, and human medication are other common poisoning found in pets that require immediate veterinary attention.

“Although Chocolate is harmful to dogs, Carob is completely safe for dogs! In fact, packed with vitamins, minerals, fibre and pectin, Carob is a super food for your doggos. It can help with removing toxins in the body, improving digestion, lowering of cholesterol and used to treat diarrhoea.”

Scenario #2: Heat Stroke

If you live in a hot area you may be aware that heatstroke is also a very big issue amongst animals. Symptoms include panting, fainting, radiating warmth and extreme tiredness. If you suspect your animal has heatstroke, cool them down by drenching them with running water for 10-15 minutes. Avoid the use of wet towels and blankets as this often traps heat and makes the animal hotter.

Scenario #3: Cuts

If your pet gets a nasty cut that won’t stop bleeding, apply a firm bandage around the wound and take them to a vet. If the cut stops bleeding, clean the area with saline. Make sure there is no dirt left on or around the wound. Take your pet immediately to the vet if you see any signs of infection.

As for fight wound, it is best to bring your pet to the veterinarian as they usually result in bad infections which require antibiotics.

Preparing for an Emergency

Understanding basic pet first aid during an emergency can help you remain calm and take the necessary steps needed to manage the situation. Always have at hand the number of a 24/7 emergency veterinarian, as they can help guide you in the case of any emergency. Remember that some illnesses and injuries may not be as noticeable. It is important for pet owners to be observant to any changes in habits or temperament of your pet.