The best thing you can do when caring for a pet or an emotional support animal (ESA) is to make sure you’re prepared for anything. Even though it can be scary to think about your pet getting injured or becoming sick, knowing how to administer basic first aid to animals can end up saving their life!
It’s always better to do a little research ahead of time, know how to administer first aid to your ESA, and purchase a first aid kit so that you’ll be able to give them the best care possible at all times.
What are the basics of first aid for ESAs?
If you’re wondering how to administer first aid to your ESA, there are some steps you can take so that you’re prepared in the case of an emergency. If you don’t know how to give your dog first aid, you should read up on the basics, like what to do if they’re choking or how to help if they’ve stopped breathing.
A general rule of thumb is to offer your pet first aid but then take them to a vet or animal hospital as soon as possible for follow-up medical care. It’s always best to take this step even if your ESA seems to be feeling better.
Here’s some general info about how to help your ESA in certain health or emergency situations.
Your pet ate something they shouldn’t
It’s a good idea to know the kinds of foods that can be toxic to dogs (such as chocolate, grapes, sugar-free gum, etc.). If your pet has eaten something that’s toxic for humans as well, you should immediately call your vet or the 24/7 Animal Poison Control Center hotline at 888-426-4435.
It’s helpful to know what your pet ate, the amount, and how long ago it was that they consumed it. It can also be helpful to collect the material your pet may have vomited or chewed and put it in a plastic bag to take with you to the vet.
Your pet is crying from unknown pain
If your pet is limping or avoiding putting their weight down, they could have an injury (including a possible broken or fractured bone) of the leg or foot. There’s also the possibility that your pet has gotten an insect sting that is hurting them.
Try to carry them without putting pressure on the injury until the vet can examine them. It’s important to note that animals often shake when they’re in pain, so this can be another indicator that they’re hurting.
Your pet is bleeding
If your pet has an external wound that’s bleeding, place a clean gauze pad over the wound and keep pressure on it with your hand for a minimum of three minutes. For severe wounds, apply a tourniquet using an elastic band or gauze between the wound and the rest of the body; then apply a bandage and pressure.
Severe bleeding can be life-threatening, so get your ESA immediately to the vet.
Your pet is choking
Your pet could be choking if they suddenly exhibit difficulty breathing, excessive pawing at the mouth, making choking or coughing sounds, or have blue-tinged lips or tongue. Look into your pet’s mouth to see if the object is visible. Remove it with tweezers if possible. If you can’t reach it, just rush your pet straight to the vet.
If your pet collapses, place both hands on the side of their ribcage and apply firm quick pressure; then lay them on their side and strike the ribcage firmly with the palm of your hand three or four times. Keep doing this until the object is dislodged or until you arrive at the vet’s office.
Your pet has heatstroke
If your pet is suffering from heatstroke, immediately place them in a cooler or shaded area. Place a cold, wet towel around their neck and head. Rewet and rewrap the towel every few minutes to cool them down.
If possible, use a hose to keep cold water running over their body (especially their abdomen and hind legs), and use your hands to massage their legs. Then get them to the vet ASAP for additional treatment.
Your pet is not breathing
As scary as this situation would be, it’s important to stay as calm as possible. Open your pet’s airway by gently pulling their tongue forward and out of the mouth until it’s flat. Check to see if there are any foreign objects blocking the airway.
Then perform rescue breathing by closing their mouth and holding it closed with your hand and breathing directly into their nose until their chest expands. Continue the breathing every four or five seconds while you’re getting them to the vet.
Your pet has no heartbeat
Start with rescue breathing (as described above). Then lay them on their right side on a firm surface. Their heart is located in the lower half of their chest on the left side, behind the elbow of their front left leg.
Put one hand underneath their chest for support and place the other hand over the heart. Press down gently on their heart (80–120 times per minute for larger animals and 100–150 times per minute for smaller ones).
Alternate between rescue breathing and chest compressions. Continue until you can hear a heartbeat and your pet is breathing regularly, or until you have arrived at the vet’s and they can take over resuscitation attempts.
Offering first aid to your ESA can help increase the odds of their survival, but should always be followed up with professional veterinary care.
What items should be in a dog first aid kit?
Any standard first aid kit should include the following:
- Absorbent gauze pads and bandages
- Adhesive tape
- Cotton balls or swabs
- Fresh 3% hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting
- Ice pack
- Disposable gloves
- Scissors with blunt end
- OTC antibiotic ointment
- Oral syringe
- Liquid dishwashing detergent (for bathing purposes)
- Alcohol wipes
- Saline eye solution
- Styptic powder
It’s also good to have towels, a small flashlight, and a cozy blanket on hand. Plus, don’t forget to have the phone number and address of your vet (along with those of 24-hour animal hospitals in your area) in a place that’s easy to access at all times. Make sure to never give your pet any medications until you check with your vet first.
Finally: what is the best pet first aid kit if you don’t want to put together your own? Amazon offers tons of pre-made first aid kits with everything you’ll need. The best part is that many of them are really affordable, too.
To be the very best ESA owner, have a first aid kit on hand and learn some of the ways that you can provide immediate assistance to your animal if the need arises. Then let the vet provide any other care your pet might need to get on the road to recovery.