Do you know how to care for your pet in an emergency?

By Ellaine Kiriluk
The Buddy Beat
Updated 2/26/2012 8:36 AM
  • Auggie


  • Maisy


  • Philip


I was watching "Judge Judy" the other day and the case was about a person hitting a family's dog with his car. The TV show got me thinking. How many of us are prepared to care for our animals if they're injured? It's time to be prepared.

The American Veterinary Medical Association and the Humane Society of the United States offer basic tips for providing emergency care for your animals. The AVMA cautions an injured animal may be in pain and likely to be scared and confused. We need to be careful to avoid being bitten or scratched or getting hurt.

Since pain can make animals unpredictable, and even dangerous, don't attempt to hug an injured pet and always keep your face away from his mouth. Although your first impulse may be to offer comfort, you may be scaring him even more or even causing more pain.

Call your veterinarian or emergency clinic before you move your animal so they will be ready when you arrive. (I have these numbers on my refrigerator, just in case.) Your pet may need to be muzzled in order to transport him safely and reduce chances you'll be bitten. The AVMA notes, if necessary, -- and your pet is not vomiting -- your pet can be muzzled with a towel, gauze rolls or stockings.

The AVMA states, "Never muzzle your pet if it is vomiting." The HSUS adds not to muzzle an animal if it is choking, coughing or otherwise having trouble breathing.

A small animal can be wrapped in a towel to restrain them, taking care not to wrap it too tightly and keeping its nose uncovered so it can breathe. If possible, splint or bandage injuries to stabilize them prior to moving the animal.

But, AVMA notes, when attempting to set a fracture with a homemade splint, "remember, a badly-placed splint may cause more harm than good. If in doubt, it is always best to leave the bandaging and splinting to a veterinarian."

When you are ready to transport your animal, keep it confined in a small space, using a box or pet carrier. To transport larger dogs, use a blanket or throw rug as a sling or a firm surface like a board or toboggan/sled as a stretcher. If possible, secure the animal to the stretcher by wrapping a blanket around them, taking care not to put pressure on the injured area or the animal's chest.

The AVMA provides this reminder: "Always remember that any first aid administered to your pet should be followed by immediate veterinary care. First aid care is not a substitute for veterinary care, but it may save your pet's life until it receives veterinary treatment."

The HSUS notes everyone living with a pet needs to have a basic first aid kit in their home and in their car if they travel with a pet. You can add items to a human first aid kit or purchase a first aid kit from a pet store, catalog or online. Pet specific supplies in the first aid kit include:

• Pet first aid book.

• Phone numbers for your veterinarian, nearest emergency veterinary clinic (and how to get there), and poison control center hotline. The ASPCA poison control center is (888) 426-4435.

• Copies of important medical records.

• Nylon leash.

• Self-cling bandage (stretches and sticks to itself but not to fur), available in pet stores, online and in catalogs.

This is basic information about first aid for our pets. Ask your veterinarian and go to for more information. We really do need to know how to help our animals if there's an emergency.


Auggie is a male Pomeranian. He's about 8 years old and weighs about 9 pounds.

Maisy is a female golden retriever. She's about a year old and weighs about 51 pounds.

Philip is a male Chihuahua. He's about 10 years old and weighs about 4 pounds.

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