First Aid for Fido

Pets are part of the family, and when they’re sick or injured, it’s easy to panic. So what do you do when your cat or dog has a seizure, starts choking or eats something bad?

Dr. Victoria Piccone, DVM, and Dr. Sarah Quigley-Buckley, DVM, are associate veterinarians at Marion Veterinary Hospital. They say step one of any pet emergency is to call a veterinarian immediately, even if it’s not your pet’s usual doctor.

clinical dog examination by veterinary doctor with stethoscope

“Have a number and address for a 24-hour ER to save time should a situation arise where prompt response is necessary,” says Dr. Piccone.

Although no home remedies can replace veterinary care, pet parents can apply first aid to their pets on the way to the emergency clinic. Here’s what you can do for your fur baby en route.

What if my pet…

…eats something poisonous?

“The vet will need to know the ingredients of a poison or the percentage of cacao in chocolate, and the amount of the substance ingested by the pet. If possible, bring the packaging and remainder of the substance with you to the vet. While en route, contact the Animal Poison Control Center hotline at (888) 426-4435 and follow their instructions,” says Dr. Quigley-Buckley.

Pet parents can also call (888) 426-4435 24/7, 365 days a year for a poison-related emergency. A $65 consultation fee may be required.

…has a seizure?

“Above all else, avoid getting bitten—seizing animals are unaware of their surroundings and can bite. Remove potentially hazardous objects that can fall on them. Block areas like stairs where they can fall. If safe, transport your pet to the nearest veterinary hospital if their seizures last more than five minutes,” says Dr. Piccone.

…starts limping?

“The patient may need to be muzzled for handling if it’s painful. If it’s safe, look for any obvious signs of discomfort, swelling or lacerations. Restrict them to cage rest or a leash while calling your veterinarian. If the pet is not bearing weight, he or she may need to be carried,” explains Dr. Quigley-Buckley.

…begins choking?

“You may be able to see a foreign object obstructing the animal’s ability to breathe. If you can hook your finger around the object and pull, you may try this with the understanding that there is a risk of being bitten,” says Dr. Piccone.

…is bitten by another animal?

“If possible, obtain the other owner’s contact information, as well as rabies vaccination history. If your pet is actively bleeding, attempt to put pressure on open wounds as long as it is safe to do so. Take the patient to the veterinarian immediately,” says Dr. Quigley-Buckley.


“Signs may include sudden collapse, weakness, hyperventilation, hypersalivation, bright red mucous membranes or vomiting/diarrhea especially with blood. While en route, you may cool the extremities, armpits and groin area with cool water or cold packs,” says Dr. Piccone.

First aid essentials for pets

  • Bandages and gauze
  • Blankets or towels
  • Leash with muzzle
  • Water bottles
  • Ice packs
  • Rubbing alcohol and cotton pads
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