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Emergency Pet Care

In the event of an earthquake, fire, accident, or other emergency, it may be necessary for you to provide first aid to your pet. Pet first aid is immediate and temporary care given to your injured pet until it can be taken to a veterinarian for more definitive medical care and attention.

Prepare a First Aid Kit

Keep a first aid kit on hand for yourself and include items to make it "pet-friendly," including:

Recognize an Emergency

Get to know your pet's behavior and health. Use that knowledge and your common sense to recognize when your pet is experiencing a health emergency.

Watch for:

  • Crying, whining, or yelps
  • Bleeding or obvious deformities
  • Unusual odors in the pet's environment, such as gas, smoke, or chemical
  • Unusual behavior, such as dizziness, confusion, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Signs of shock, including:
    • Rapid, weak, or absent pulse
    • Unconsciousness
    • Cool limbs
    • Rapid, slow, or difficult breathing

Take Action

  • Check: Is the scene safe? If not, seek help. Check the injured animal only when it is safe to do so.
  • Call: Telephone for help, but do not call 9-1-1 for an animal emergency. Start with your veterinarian, emergency animal hospital, local animal control, or humane society. If you suspect poisoning, call the ASPCA's Poison Control Hotline (1-888-426-4435, fee) or the Pet Poison Helpline (1-800-213-6680, fee).
  • Care: If it is safe to do so, provide first aid as needed and transport your pet to a hospital, veterinarian, or shelter for further care.

Administer Basic First Aid

  • Consult your veterinarian for more complete advice on providing first aid to your pet, especially if it has any ongoing health issues.
  • Check for breathing. Administer rescue breathing or CPR, if needed.
  • Control bleeding. Carefully apply pressure to the wound.
  • Warm the animal. Wrap a thermal blanket around the animal's body.
  • Elevate. Place a blanket beneath the animal's hind end to slightly elevate it. Do not do this if you suspect a neck or back injury.
  • Transport your pet to your veterinarian or an emergency animal hospital immediately.

What to Do If You Suspect Your Pet Has Ingested a Toxic or Poisonous Item

Check out these tips from our friends at Pet Poison Helpline.

Take a Pet First Aid Class

There are organizations that offer pet first aid classes for dogs, cats or both and include actions to take in an emergency, such as performing CPR and controlling bleeding. Contact your local Red Cross chapter or local humane society about class offerings.

Published: March 6, 2009;    Updated: March 8, 2012

Filed Under: Emergency Care, Safety, Disaster Preparedness

Author: Oregon Veterinary Medical Association