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First Aid for Pets

Written by: Lynne Conder

A Quick Guide


Common situations which may require emergency veterinary attention


Initial response -- You should know how to:

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Normal vital signs for dogs - Know what is normal for YOUR dog!

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Assuming your dog has been badly injured, these steps might be taken:

  • Emergency first aid serves only to keep the dog alive and relieve pain for the amount of time it takes to get to a veterinarian. When providing first aid, the most serious threats to life are treated first.

  • 1. Stay calm.
    2. Cautiously approach an injured dog.

    a. talk calmly and quietly to the dog.
    b. move slowly toward the dog.
    c. do not chase the dog.

    3 Immediately try to stop any hemorrhage. Severe bleeding must receive immediate attention no matter what other injuries are present. Profuse external bleeding can usually be controlled by applying firm, direct pressure over the wound with a clean gauze, handkerchief or t-shirt. Avoid frequent removal of the bandage to check the wound because bleeding may start again.

    4. Call your veterinarian for advice.

    5. When injured dogs are hysterical, they should be muzzled before being moved. Even a quiet dog can bite if you happen to unintentionally cause pain.
    Be sure the dog can breathe freely. Its nose and mouth must be clear to allow air passage.

    6. Avoid changing the dog's position when it must be moved.

    7. Keep the dog's body warm but not hot.

    8. Cover any superficial wound with a clean bandage.

    9. Give no food or liquids in case emergency surgery is required. Only give over-the-counter drugs (such as aspirin) with your vet's approval.
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    Transporting your dog in an emergency

    1. It is usually preferable to take your dog to the vet's office rather than your veterinarian coming out. The office has specialized equipment and trained assistants. Notify the veterinary practice that you are on your way so they can prepare for your arrival.
    2. Gently slide your dog onto a blanket or coat on the ground. Drag with the body first so any broken legs or other injuries will be pulled onto the blanket rather than pushed which may cause further injury. Position the dog's back (not the legs) against the seat. This provides more stability and doesn't put the legs at risk for added pressure or movement into the seat.
    Young or small dogs can be carried in a box, basket or a person's arms who is not driving.
    3. Two people can pick up the corners of the blanket to form a soft stretcher to transfer the dog to the back seat of the car. The person walking backwards should go on through the car so the dog can be lowered gently onto the seat.
    4. Someone should stay in the back with the dog on the way to the clinic. If the dog is trying to bite, a bandage can be temporarily tied around its muzzle. Do not leave the muzzle on for a prolonged period since this may hinder breathing.
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    National Animal Poison Control Center (NAPCC)
    $45 per case, billed to your phone.
    College of Veterinary Medicine
    University of Illinois
    2001 S. Lincoln Ave, Urbana IL 61801
    $45 per case, billed to credit card (VISA, Mastercard, Discover, Amex)


    When calling, have the following information available:


    For other useful poison information see:

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    A good canine first aid kit is an absolute must. The following is a list of items that you might want to consider for your own first aid kit. Most can be found either in your neighborhood pharmacy or ordered from a number of different pet mail order catalogs.







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    Items that you might want to consider for your own emergency kit:

    Useful household items to have on hand:

    A useful chart listing some normal (for human) household medicines and antibiotics is located here.
    Dosage schedule, precautions, conversion chart by weight, volume, measurement. This would be a good thing to print and keep handy in the house, car, and pet first aid kit. ~ Permission to upload granted by


    Instructions on how to administer liquid Valium

    by Judi Borgers

    For administering the liquid Valium, hopefully either your vet or the pharmacy gave or sold you a syringe large enough to hold the amount determined to be correct for one dose for your dog, with the accompanying needle. The shorter, fatter needles are easier to use than the longer, more delicate ones. You will also need a 'Tom Cat catheter,' or a regular catheter which will fit the syringe you have been given after the needle has been removed. If you are given a regular catheter, the tubing length needs to be cut down to approximately six inches. Measure from the top, cut from the bottom. After cutting mark the tubing three inches from the end with a permanent-ink type marker. The three inches is the part that goes into the rectum.

    If you have the liquid Valium in a brown bottle intended for injectable use, proceed as follows: With the needle attached to the syringe, pull the plunger back, filling the syringe with air equal to the cc's of liquid valium you will be giving. Insert the needle into the opening in the bottle, making sure the needle tip is just past the rubber guard on the bottle. Push the plunger on the syringe, putting the air from the syringe into the bottle; this helps to create a vacuum in the bottle. Turn the bottle and the needle upside down. Now the bottle is on top, and the needle below, then the syringe, with the plunger toward the floor. Pull the plunger back out to the correct cc. dosage marking, and the valium should now be filling the syringe.

    When the correct amount of liquid Valium is in the syringe, remove the needle from the bottle, then remove the needle from the syringe, (have your vet or pharmacy show you how to do this safely) put on the catheter (tubing.) Insert three inches of the catheter into the rectum, and push the plunger, slowly and steadily.

    One hint: Ask your pharmacist for a vial filled with water, if they have it, or one with a placebo liquid. It is very important to practice as much as you can before you actually have to use it during or after a seizure. The liquid diazepam is oily feeling. With the practice vial, you can practice filling the syringe, and then just push the plunger down with the needle inserted into the practice vial, putting the practice liquid back into the vial, so you can practice some more. The hardest part of administering the rectal valium is, without doubt, filling the syringe!

    After use, rinse the syringe with very hot water in order to rinse out all the liquid Valium. Also, if you are trying to re-use the needles, they must be thoroughly washed in very hot water, as the Valium is very slippery and will make succeeding attempts to fill the syringes more difficult. Needles are not expensive, in most parts of the country, and it is best to use one as few times as possible. Additionally, the Tom Cat catheter (the tubing) must be thoroughly cleaned and sterilized in very hot water; this is the part of the apparatus that is inserted into the rectum. Again, this part is not very expensive, and better used as few times as possible.

    Storing the Valium/Diazapam

    When you receive the Valium/diazepam from the pharmacy, it comes in a small brown bottle . Store the bottle at room temperature, away from direct light. For those vets who prefer to give their clients pre-filled syringes, these too should be kept away from direct light; request exact storing instructions from the veterinarian.


    Emergency Care for Cats & Dogs by Craton Burkholder, DVM
    The Household Book of Animal Medicine by Richard Vargoshe & Peter Steinburg
    Merck Veterinary First Aid

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    Page last update: 04/23/2014

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