Pet First Aid: Essential Tips for Emergencies and Common Situations

Pet First Aid – what you need to know

First aid and knowing what to do in an emergency may be the difference between life and death – and it’s no different when it comes to our furry family members.

“From CPR to broken bones to seizures, knowing what to do in an emergency situation can make a huge difference to our pet’s health, wellbeing and recovery from injury,” explains PDSA Vet Nurse Nina Downing.

In 2022, vet teams across the leading vet charity saw more than 3,100 fracture cases, that’s more than eight a day, and over 7,300 seizure cases.

“It can be very scary when an accident happens, or if you experience something like your pet having a seizure for the first time,” explains Nina. “But there’s lots of situations where just a simple understanding of Pet First Aid can really help.”

Nina has pulled together her top tips for some of the more common emergencies.

Q: What should I do if I think my pet has broken a bone?

A: Broken bones are extremely painful and require immediate veterinary attention. If your pet has broken a bone, be very careful when moving them. They are likely to be in a lot of pain and may bite you if they are scared and hurting. Avoid touching or moving their painful area if you and don’t allow them to walk if you suspect that they have broken a leg. Call your vet for advice immediately if you suspect your pet has a broken bone.

Q: What should I do if my pet is having a seizure?

A: If you think your pet is having a seizure, it can be quite a scary experience, especially if it’s the first time this has happened.

  • Clear a space around your pet so they can’t hurt themselves on any furniture or wires.
  • Turn off the lights and close the blinds/curtains – and keep as quiet as possible.
  • Keep your pet cool – don’t wrap them up as they can easily overheat during a seizure.
  • Monitor the seizure and make a note of how long it lasts.
  • If possible, video the seizure to provide valuable information for your vet.
  • Don’t try to restrain your pet – you might accidentally hurt them or they might accidentally hurt you.
  • Call your vet immediately if your pet has been seizuring for more than two minutes or has had more than one seizure in a 24-hour period. Otherwise, try to keep calm and phone your vet for advice when your pet has stopped seizuring.

Q: What should I do if I think my pet has heatstroke?

A: Heatstroke is more dangerous the longer it lasts, so it’s really important to cool your pet down as quickly as possible. If you think your dog could have heatstroke, start cooling them immediately, before travelling to your vet, to give them the best chance of recovering. Move them indoors to a cool room or into the shade and gently pour cool water (water from a cold tap is fine) over their entire body, be extremely careful to avoid their nose and mouth. If they are able to drink, offer them fresh cold water. Create a breeze by opening doors and windows or turning a fan/air-con on. Continue pouring water over their body. Phone your vets straight away and follow their advice.

Nina adds: “Our free Pet First Aid guide has been designed to cover a huge range of topics. It is simple and concise, and won’t take too long to read through, but is worth revisiting every so often to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything. The guide covers:

•           what to do if your pet is having a seizure

•           how to move an injured pet

•           what to do if your pet has a wound or if they are choking

•           tips on pet safety at home

•           what you need in your first aid kit

•           how to prevent heatstroke and how to cool your pet

•           what to do if your pet is involved in a road traffic accident

•           performing CPR and much more!”

To download a copy visit

PDSA is the UK’s largest vet charity providing a vital service for pets across the UK whose owners struggle to afford treatment costs for their sick and injured pets. For many vulnerable pets, PDSA is there to help when there is nowhere else for their owners to turn. Support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery helps us reach even more pet owners with vital advice and information.

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