First Aid

VCS Milford
For pets, many injuries and illnesses require immediate expert veterinary attention to prevent serious situations from turning into life-threatening ones.


  • Always put your safety first!
BE CAREFUL! An injured animal, even your own pet, can scratch or bite when in pain or if frightened. Even the friendliest of animals must be handled with care for everyone’s safety. If you are bitten or scratched – seek medical attention. Bite wounds can be severe and often become infected.

Handling an Injured Animal

  • Speak quietly and move calmly when around injured animals. The first step in the first aid process may be to restrain and/or muzzle a dog or cat.
  • Small dogs and cats can often be wrapped in a blanket or towel and placed in a box or laundry basket for transport to the veterinarian.
  • For larger dogs, a muzzle can be applied or a blanket or towel might be placed over the dog’s head. You should be able to see the dog’s nose and mouth in order to verify breathing during transport.
  • It is sometimes easier to lift a larger dog onto a blanket and have two people carry the dog in the blanket.


Fractures are broken bones. The most common cause of fractures is direct force, and in domestic animals this is usually due to being hit by a vehicle. Other causes are falls, being dropped, being stepped on and getting the leg caught while the body is still in motion.
  • All fractures need veterinary attention.
  • The animal won’t use the leg or may hold the leg up.
  • Pain at or near the injury. The animal may cry/bite when injured area is touched.
  • The limb may appear swollen, deformed, shortened or twisted.
  • Shock: due to pain or blood loss.
  • All fractures require veterinary care.


Head injuries are most likely to be caused by being hit by a vehicle, kicked by a horse or accidentally hit by sporting equipment such as golf clubs.

Symptoms of Head Injuries
  • Unconsciousness.
  • Altered/abnormal responses to commands or touching.
  • Head wounds.
  • Blood or clear fluid coming from the nose or ears.
  • Unequal pupils.
  • Place unconscious animal on its side.
  • A semi-conscious dog/cat can be extremely dangerous – if possible, put animal in a box for transportation to vet.
  • Keep the nose and mouth clear. If needed, lower the head to allow fluid to drain. DO NOT place your hand into the animal’s mouth!
  • Keep pet very quiet. DO NOT offer food or water as this may lead to vomiting.

Symptoms of Neck and Spinal Injuries Spinal injuries can range from mild symptoms to total paralysis.
  • Pain: Your pet may not be willing to stand, or in milder cases, may not jump up on furniture or use the stairs.
  • Pet may appear wobbly, or weak, especially in the hindquarters. It may fall easily when turning, or getting up.
  • Legs appear floppy, animal cannot move them voluntarily.
  • Unable to hold urine or feces.
  • Keep animal as quiet as possible.
  • Seek immediate veterinary attention.


  • Obvious bleeding.
  • Possible shock.
  • Keep animal as quiet as possible.
  • Apply direct pressure to the wound.
  • Seek veterinary care if the wound requires stitches, is over the chest or abdomen, or if bleeding continues.


  • Bleeding from nose, mouth, rectum, coughing blood, blood in urine/feces, pale gums, collapse.
  • Keep animal warm and quiet.
  • Seek immediate veterinary care.


Shock is a medical emergency in which the organs and tissues of the body do not receive an adequate blood flow. This deprives the organs and tissues of oxygen, which is carried in the blood. If not corrected, waste products will build up in the blood, leading to serious damage or even death.

Shock can be due to:
  • Problems with heart function.
  • Blood loss.
  • Overwhelming infection.
  • Weakness or collapse.
  • Pale, white or muddy-colored gums.
  • Fast heartbeat, difficulty breathing.
  • Low body temperature.
  • Keep the animal warm, using blankets, towels, jackets or coats.
  • Keep the animal quiet – small animals can be placed in a basket or box for transportation.
  • If animal is unconscious, position animal on its side, with airway clear.
  • Apply pressure to visible bleeding sites if possible to do so safely!
  • Do NOT give any food or water.
  • Transport to veterinarian IMMEDIATELY for further treatment.


Poisons are substances that can cause harm or death when taken into the body. Poisons can be swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Poisons can be found in food, medications, and many household substances. Rodent baits and anti-freeze are common poisons in dogs and cats.
  • PREVENTION is the best form of management for poisonings.
  • Keep all poisons out of reach of animals and children.

Each poison has different signs and symptoms and each pet may show any or several of the symptoms listed below:
  • Vomiting, incontinence of bowel or bladder.
  • Animal may appear drowsy or uncomfortable.
  • Drooling or excessive salivation.
  • Altered breathing patterns.
  • Muscle tremors, twitching or seizures (convulsions, fits).
  • Altered mental state: disoriented, hyperactive, confused.
  • Wobbly gait.
  • Color changes in gums: blue, pale, very red.
  • Unusual odor to breath or skin.
  • Burns to mouth or tongue.
  • Seek immediate veterinary care.
  • Call Poison Control.
  • Bring package of product with you to veterinarian.
  • Check other animals in household for similar symptoms.

Posted on July 14, 2014
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