basic first aid for pets

Basic first aid for your dog, cat, puppy, or kitten in case of emergency.

Maybe your dog got into an accident, your cat was in a fight, or your pet was nicked during grooming. No matter how it happened, it’s time to see the vet.

Any cut, wound, or bite needs veterinary attention. Even small pet wounds can easily become infected, while larger wounds may require cleaning, stitches, and even a drain to help your pet heal.

Here are basic tips on first aid on the way to the vet so you can help the pet you love.

First, deep breaths. One of the best ways to help your pet is to stay calm so you can take quick action. Gentle words and movements can help to reassure your hurt and frightened BFF. If there’s someone nearby to help, have them help you hold your pet so you can focus on finding and assessing the injury.

If you have a first aid kit on hand, grab it now. If you don’t have a kit with medical gauze available, a clean t-shirt or towel will work, too. See what you need in a pet first aid kit


  1. Be safe
  2. Even the mildest-mannered animal can be aggressive when scared or in pain. It’s best to use a muzzle, or make one from soft cloth, to prevent bites.


  3. Check the damage and stop the bleeding
  4. Speaking softly, find the wound. Then use something clean and absorbent — first aid gauze, bandages, a towel, or a t-shirt all work — to apply pressure and stop the bleeding. If you’re able, wrap the wound firmly. Keep applying pressure while you get your pet to the vet.


  5. Call your veterinary team or an emergency pet hospital
  6. Call your local Banfield during hospital hours for urgent care advice. Depending on the situation, we can provide a referral to a local veterinary emergency hospital, urgent care clinics, or to a specialty provider. Find a Banfield near you


    If you have an Optimum Wellness Plan®, you can also log in to use our Vet ChatTM service for live advice via text. Chat now


    If this is an emergency, or during non-hospital hours, please contact your local veterinary emergency hospital.


  7. Follow veterinary care advice
  8. Follow next steps as directed by your veterinary team. They may ask you to go to an emergency hospital, to come in for a same-day appointment, or to make an appointment in the next few days.


  9. Wash your hands
  10. Always wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap after caring for sick or injured pets. They need you to stay healthy!


  11. After any injury, watch for infection
  12. Pet skin heals quickly. This sounds like a bonus, but skin that heals too fast can trap bacteria and other crud under the skin. This creates a dangerous under-the-skin infection called an abscess. Any unusual heat, or redness or swelling, may indicate infection. If you spot it, call your vet.

Call your local emergency pet hospital to let them know you are on your way. On your way to emergency veterinary care, call the Pet Poison Helpline at 1-800-213-6680. For a $59 incident fee, the Pet Poison Helpline can supply initial information on how to help dogs, cats, puppies, kitten, birds, small mammals, large animals, and exotic species.


Signs and symptoms of poisoning:

  • Coughing, choking
  • Unusual amounts of slobber, drool, or foaming at the mouth
  • Labored breathing
  • Dilated pupils
  • Blindness
  • Seizures, tremors
  • Difficulty walking (they may look drunk)
  • Vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite


If you suspect poison, call the pet poison hotline at 1-800-213-6680

See more at

See more on how to help your pet

See a list of common pet poisons

If your pet is unconscious, call your emergency veterinary hospital now. They will ask important questions and help step you through immediate actions to take.


  1. Check the airway
  2. Tip your pet’s head back, open their mouth, and check the airway for a blockage. Safety first! Be extremely careful, as your pet could easily bite you if they regain consciousness quickly. Be sure to follow all ER team instructions.


  3. Check breathing
  4. Watch your pet’s chest to see if it rises or falls. If your pet is breathing, move to step 5.


  5. Check for a heartbeat
  6. With your pet on their right side, find the spot where their pointy little elbow touches their chest. Check for movement, or place your hand there to feel for a heartbeat. If their heart is beating, move to step 5.


  7. Start chest compression
  8. Follow all directions from your emergency veterinary team. Chest compressions on pets are typically performed when pets are on their sides. The general rule is thirty compressions, then a pause to assess your pet’s condition.


  9. Get your pet to help
  10. Your pet emergency team may be able to recommend a pet ambulance service if one is available in your area. Get your pet to help as quickly and safely as possible. Your pet will need veterinary care, even if they regain consciousness, to treat any underlying issues and to check for additional damage.

Pet seizures are not always life-threatening. If you do not suspect poison, your best bet is to stay calm, try to keep your pet safe, and to record the seizure so your vet can see a record of what occurred. Contact your veterinary team for advice, and follow all directions in order to help your pet.


What to do if you think your pet has been poisoned
How Banfield can help
Doctor giving hands to dog

In an emergency, please contact your local veterinary emergency hospital. 


Chat with a vet online

Every Optimum Wellness Plan® (OWP) comes with Vet ChatTM, which gives you 24/7 access to live general veterinary advice via text.  Chat now


Urgent care advice

Call your veterinary team during hospital hours for urgent care advice.

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