No pet owner wants to envision their dog or cat being harmed, but preparing for a pet emergency may make all of the difference to your pet’s safety and comfort. 

While Urgent Pet Care Omaha is here for all of your pet’s urgent care needs, knowing veterinary first aid could be crucial when time and attention are of the essence. We believe that equipping pet owners with basic veterinary knowledge and skills can decrease panic and increase confidence—what our pets need if things go awry.  

Preparing a first aid kit for your pet

The first step in first aid prep is gathering the necessary tools for common pet injuries. You may already have several of these items in your own first aid kit, but it’s best to keep additional supplies on hand for all of your two-legged and four-legged family members. Grab a medium-sized plastic tub or basket, and keep all items stowed away until needed. Some important items include:

  • Gloves (latex or nitrile)
  • Digital thermometer that can be used rectally
  • Hydrogen peroxide (3%) to induce vomiting
  • Gauze squares, cotton balls, and/or Telfa pads
  • Oral syringe or dropper
  • Bottled water
  • Adhesive bandage tape (not Band-Aids)
  • Muzzle
  • Styptic powder
  • Tweezers
  • Lubrication gel
  • Dish soap
  • Blunt-tipped bandage scissors
  • Stretcher to transport your pet (a floor mat or other sturdy surface works in a pinch)
  • Elizabethan collar

Remember, never administer hydrogen peroxide or other chemicals to your pet unless directed by your veterinarian. Your veterinary first aid box is also a great place to keep your pet’s records and Urgent Pet Care Omaha’s contact information. Keep updated copies of your pet’s vaccine records—proof of rabies vaccination is most important—here, too. 

Common pet injuries and basic first aid

Some pet injuries are exceedingly common and minor, while others are rare but emergent. Because knowing how to react in either situation is important, following are descriptions of some common minor and major injuries we often see, including how you should respond to them at home.

  • Torn nail — This happens often in dogs when a toenail—often the dewclaw or “thumb” nail—gets caught on something, ripping it at the nail bed, or splitting it down the middle. Start by muzzling your dog, as this condition is painful, and you don’t want to risk being bitten. If the nail is bleeding, apply constant pressure to the area with gauze pads or other bandage material. You can gently apply adhesive bandage tape to secure the gauze while you transport your pet to our clinic. Do not allow your pet to chew or lick the area, and use an Elizabethan (i.e., cone) collar to discourage this.
  • Bee sting — Insect stings are common in pets, especially on the face or feet. Signs can include pain, itching or licking at the sting site, and facial swelling. Depending on your pet’s immune response, stings can be no big deal, or cause a serious anaphylactic reaction, so you should take them seriously.
  • Heatstroke — This dangerous condition is characterized by an elevated core body temperature. Signs include excessive panting, drooling, bright red gums, and a rectal temperature of 104 degrees or higher. Heatstroke is a veterinary emergency, so head to Urgent Pet Care Omaha right away if you believe your pet is overheating. During transport, cool your pet by placing cloths or towels soaked in cool—not cold—water, on their body. Use a fan to encourage evaporative cooling, and offer your pet water to drink.
  • Seizures — If your pet is having their first seizure, it is especially important to visit our team as soon as possible so they can examine your pet, and determine the underlying cause. If your pet has successive seizures, has more than one seizure in a 24-hour period, or has a seizure that lasts longer than a couple of minutes, bring them in for immediate care. Do not attempt to control or hold your pet while they are seizing, but move away any objects or furniture that may harm them. Monitor your pet closely during the period after the seizure.
  • Toxin ingestion — If you believe your pet has ingested a toxin, contact our clinic, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, or Pet Poison Helpline immediately. When it comes to poison or toxin ingestion, timing is crucial, and immediate intervention is usually necessary.

If your pet exhibits any of the following signs, transport them immediately to Urgent Pet Care Omaha, or your nearest 24-hour veterinary emergency hospital. 

  • Difficulty breathing—panting in cats is considered abnormal
  • Rectal temperature of 104 degrees or higher
  • Intractable vomiting
  • Uncontrolled bleeding 
  • Bone fracture
  • Obvious pain
  • Collapse

While not exhaustive, this list reflects some common ailments that pets experience, especially during the summer months. A myriad of other conditions can also benefit from at-home first aid, and the American Veterinary Medical Association provides a great reference for basic first aid procedures. Remember, first aid is not a substitute for professional veterinary care, and you should follow up any at-home treatments with our veterinary team. For further questions or information, contact us.