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Imagine the scenario. You are walking down the street and you see an animal flat on the ground, seemingly unconscious from a distance. Would you know what to do?

An emergency situation involving an animal can be very distressing, particularly if you’re not prepared. Fortunately, the principles of first aid for humans also apply here and can help you when you try to respond. Let’s take a look at them.

1. Don’t panic

It is very easy to do, but always think there will be something beneficial you can do in pretty much any situation.

2. Do no harm

Do not rush in without thinking. Do not immediately move an animal with trauma, and if you see something embedded do not try and remove it as this may cause increased bleeding.

3. Think ABC

  • Airways: Are they clear or is there anything obstructing them? If safe to do so, open the mouth and pull the tongue forward and check for any obvious obstructions.

  • Breathing: Are they doing it? If unsure, you can take a small clip of fur and put it in front of their nostrils to spot any movement. After checking airways, you can gently close the muzzle and breathe into their nose to see if this stimulates it.

  • Circulation: Can you feel a pulse? The best place to feel a pulse is the femoral vein, which you can find at the top part of the inner back leg. If there’s no pulse or you suspect breathing issues, attempt CPR by pushing on the chest (just behind the front legs) approximately twice every second. Only do this if you are trained in how to perform CPR correctly as otherwise it could be dangerous. Place one hand under the chest to give it support and to feel the pressure being applied, and give two breaths into the nose every 15 compressions. If done properly, you should be receiving a proper workout! (But do use less force with smaller dogs).

There is also some basic first aid you can perform to help a pet in the following cases before you take them to the vet:

If they have been hit by a car

Place a warm blanket over them, and if it is safe to do so, move them gently onto a hard surface (plank or equivalent) whilst keeping the head still. Be careful if you suspect a broken bone, and if possible place the animal in a cage to limit their movement. If you do not see any obvious wounds, do not assume ‘all is fine’ as in many cases, the damage done internally is far worse than any external damage.

If they have bleeding wounds

Any dirt can be flushed out with warm saline, otherwise put on a clean bandage and apply firm downward pressure to help stem any bleeding for a minimum of three minutes. If no bandage is available, improvise as best you can with a towel or clothing. If blood continues to seep through, add another layer. Be aware not to obstruct their breathing if the wound is around the head or neck. Take the animal to the vet straight away.

If they are having a seizure or fitting

Any seizing dog should ideally be kept in a cool, dark place as they can easily overheat. If not possible, apply clothing or cloth around their eyes (to make it dark and calm but take care not to obstruct the airways) and under the head to minimise any damage whilst the fitting occurs. Reduce all noise where possible and do not try and hold the pet as it is fitting as this can actually prolong it. Time the seizures (they usually last 2-3 minutes) and take the animal to the vet as soon as it is safe to do so.

Never give an animal human medicine, especially painkillers as they can easily kill a pet.

Please bear in mind that this article is not a substitute for medical advice from a vet. Always seek prompt professional treatment if you experience any emergency situation. It’s also important to remember that an injured animal may be frightened or in pain and therefore could lash out or bite, so keep your own safety in mind when you respond!

Hopefully, you will never face any of the situations described above. However, being prepared could play a huge part in helping to save a life.