Basic First Aid for Pet Owners

Three minutes
Apr 20, 2022

We love our pets. We want to give them the best, healthiest and happiest life we can. In order to do that, pet parents should be equipped to deliver basic first aid to their cats and dogs to stabilize them until they can seek veterinarian care.

Most parents can recognize the signs of illness or injury in their child and can keep their child comfortable or staunch a bleeding wound until medical care can be sought. Pet parents need to know how to care for their pets in case of an emergency as well.

There could come a time when a pet parent will encounter a health issue with his or her cat or dog and if they take prompt action it could make a big difference.

Always have these three phone numbers at the ready:

  1. Your veterinarian’s phone number and/or the local emergency vet’s number
  2. Your dog and/or cat health insurance policy number and provider’s phone number
  3. Poison control number

Here are incidents that could arise and how a pet parent should address it until they arrive at the vet’s office:

Pet Hit by a Car

While we hope all pet parents keep their pets leashed when they are outside, there are those times when a dog or cat simply gets away. When that happens, it’s possible your beloved dog or cat could run into traffic.

If your dog or cat gets hit by a car, you need to take personal care when you’re dashing into traffic. Slowly approach your pet; if he’s injured he may bite out of fear or pain even though he knows you. When you reach your pet, minimize his movement so he doesn’t further injure himself. If you can find a board or another rigid item to put under your dog or cat that is best, if not, slide a piece of clothing under him then slowly move him out of the roadway.

Cover the injured animal to keep him or her warm and to prevent them from going into shock. If you see bleeding, apply light, gentle pressure to staunch the flow of blood, seek immediate veterinarian care.


When you see a cut on your dog or cat, clean the wound and apply a non-adhesive dressing onto the wound. Wrap it with a bandage and call your veterinarian.

Heat Stroke

If you have a dog that is brachycephalic, one of the breeds with a “pushed in face” like a Pug or a Bulldog, it’s important to keep your dog from overheating, to not exercise him in hot weather and to keep him in a cool space.

Signs of heatstroke include excessive panting and distress. If you notice this, move the dog or cat to a cool place, turn on a fan and use damp towels to cool him or her off. Place the wet towels under your dog’s front and back legs to cool them down and place ice chips in their mouth. Call your veterinarian.

Pet Poisoning

There are any number of poisons or poisonous materials our pets can get into – no matter how diligent we are in pet-proofing the home. If your pet gets into a poison or eats a poisonous plant or food that is dangerous for pets (like chocolate), call the vet or poison control center immediately. Let the vet know what your pet has eaten, how much and when. Do not induce vomiting unless your vet recommends it.

Accidents During Play

Our dogs love to play with sticks and balls, but these can become dangerous. If your dog gets a ball or sticks stuck in their mouth, gently try to remove it; only do this if you can do it without getting bitten. You may need to have a second party to help hold the dog’s mouth open while you remove the object.

If your dog cannot breathe because the ball is lodged in their throat, gently massage the throat or do a quick compression behind the last rib – this may dislodge the ball. Call the veterinarian immediately.

Insect or Bee Stings

In the summer months, bee stings are a hazard. If your dog gets stung, gently try to remove the stinger. Wash the area with warm water or bicarbonate of soda. If your dog or cat has been stung in the mouth or throat, immediately call your veterinarian as this could interfere with their breathing.

What should you have in a pet first aid kit:

  • Activated charcoal (for poisoning incidents)
  • Tweezers
  • Sterile gauze and bandages
  • Disposable gloves
  • Saline eye solution
  • A stabilizing board
  • A towel or blanket
  • Water
  • All emergency phone numbers
  • Your pet’s veterinarian records (this will be important if you need to go somewhere other than your regular vet
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • A basic pet first aid book

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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances.

1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.