Airway, Breathing and Circulation

Knowing your ABC’s for pets can help owners stabilise a pet in an emergency situation.

Despite our best efforts to protect our pets, accidents can and do happen. In serious cases, knowing what to do in an emergency can be the difference between life and death.

In normal circumstances, vet charity PDSA offers Pet First Aid courses to help owners learn vital skills if they find their pet in an emergency situation. While these courses are on pause during the crisis, PDSA is offering the ABC steps to follow if your pet gets into an accident.

PDSA Vet, Anna Ewers Clark, says, “Accidents can happen at any time and require speedy action. Many people have a basic understanding of first aid for humans but when it comes to pets, there’s less awareness. In many emergency scenarios, a vet isn’t likely to be first on scene, so it’s important to know what to do.”

There are 3 steps to follow: Prepare, Recognise and Act.

Always prepare for an emergency, this could help save a pet’s life.

“Taking some basic precautions can mean you have the information and tools you need to help a pet that’s in need,” says Anna.

Always have access to your vet’s name, address and telephone number, and keep a pen and paper handy for any instructions they give you.

Try to be vigilant and take action if you are worried about your pet. If you recognise any concerning signs, it is important to consider this as a pet emergency.

Anna added, “Breathing difficulties, collapsing, seizures and bleeding are all common emergencies. Other problems, such as severe vomiting and diarrhoea or not being able to pass any urine for over 24 hours, could also be a potential emergency and can go unrecognised. So always get in touch with your vet practice if you’re not sure.”

Normally in an emergency you should take your pet straight to the vet but, with many vets currently running an emergency-only service, it’s important to call first so your vet can let you know how to get help.

A common time when you may need to act with pet first aid is if your pet becomes unconscious or unresponsive. The key is to remain calm and not panic. Check their ‘ABC’ vital signs:

A – Check the Airway is clear. Pull their tongue forward and ensure there’s nothing stuck in the throat.

B – Check they are Breathing. Look at their chest to see if it’s moving and listen over their nose or mouth for airflow.

C – Check their Circulation. Put your hand on their chest just behind their elbow. Do they have a heartbeat?

If you are sure there is no breathing or heartbeat, you may need to perform CPR. And if your pet has an emergency, don’t forget to call for help. Owners can find out more about CPR for pets and also download a free copy of the charity’s pet first aid guide at

For many people, their pet is their only companion. Now more than ever, PDSA needs your help to treat sick and injured pets and keep families together. PDSA is urging the public to donate what they can to help keep them continue their vital service

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