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Basic First Aid Tips for Your Pets

Image of a buldog with an icepack on its head, seated next to a first aid kit

What You Should do if Your Cat or Dog has an Accident or Injury

Your cat or dog has had an accident or some sort of injury…would you know what to do? When we injure ourselves, we often have an idea of to clean out a cut, put ice on a bruise and bandage accordingly. However, our pets can’t really tell us what’s wrong and they sometimes hide their pain, but, noticeable things such as cuts and wounds should require immediate attention. It’s best to be careful if your pet has sustained an injury; you may exacerbate the situation even further and they may be inclined to attack you by biting or scratching. Be cautious when you first notice any injuries and be sure to contact your Austin vet once you notice that your pet is hurt. If you can’t get through to your vet right away and need to tend to them immediately, here are a few ways to help them temporarily.

Dealing with Seizures

Our pets can sometimes have seizures, based on epilepsy, which is a common neurological disorder for cats and dogs. A seizure can last up to 3 minutes, so if you notice your pet going through this, the first note of caution is not to put your hands near their mouth, or in their mouth. Try to keep them steady, so they don’t roll over or bang into anything. Make sure that they’re in a calm environment while it’s happening. One idea is to take a video with a cell phone while the seizure is occurring, so you can show it to your vet, when you bring your pet in. This will help the vet determine the cause of the seizure, if it’s not epilepsy. Once the seizure ends and your pet seems to have calmed down, bring him/her into the vet right away for a diagnosis. Special medications can be prescribed to help prevent or limit these episodes. If this hasn’t happened before with your pet, and your vet is unavailable, then you may have to go to an emergency room.

Cuts and Bleeding

It’s inevitable that your cat or dog may cut themselves and bleed. The first thing to do is not to panic, as it may stress out your pet. You should do what you can to stop the bleeding right away. Grab a clean towel (a regular towel or paper towels should do) and apply pressure to the wound, so that the bleeding stops. Your pet may be in pain and be resistant at first, but the blood needs to stop. Once the bleeding stops, inspect the wound, if it’s a small cut, then you should try to clean it out so that it doesn’t become infected. You can use a solution of a teaspoon of salt diluted in a cup of warm water. Never ever use antiseptics meant for humans, as they can cause skin irritations. If the cut is small, you should still bring your pet to the vet right away, so that it can be looked at and properly dressed. If the wound is larger and the bleeding is harder to stop, still bring them in; depending on the size of the cut, stitches may be required.

Issues with Limping

If your pet is limping for some reason, they may have experienced a severe injury. You should make sure they are seated and not active as running around can cause more pain to an unclear injury. The causes of limping can be varied: a broken bone, ligament damage, dislocations, issues with their nails (such as ingrown nails), a cut foot pad, inflammation between their toes, a possible sprain, spinal issues, and even arthritis if your pet is older.

If the injury is severe, you can try to apply ice to the area. Never apply it directly on the skin, so use an icepack wrapped in a towel just to be safe. There may be resistance from your pet due to pain or the coldness of the ice. If it bothers them, then don’t use ice. Bring your pet to your Austin veterinarian to help you diagnose the source of the limp. X-rays may be needed depending on the severity of the injury. If the limping appears to be prolonged over time, supplements might be required to help them deal with mobility issues.

When your Pet Ingests Poison

Should your pet accidentally eat something poisonous, contact your vet immediately. Honestly, there is nothing that can be done at home. Our pets like to explore and often get into things that they shouldn’t, including soap, household cleaners, certain types of foods, and plants that are not pet safe.

If you notice this, reach out to your Austin vet right away, or an emergency room if your vet isn’t available. Be sure to take a sample of the toxic substance with you, including its packaging if you have it, which will help your vet determine the severity of the situation. Some of these items can be extremely dangerous, such as soap and household cleaners, as it can burn and cause ulcerations, leading your pet to inhale their vomit (aspirate). Don’t second guess this if it should happen; your vet is the best route to go if poison is ingested.

Claws and Nails

If you’ve ever broken a nail, or bent it backwards, it hurts. It’s the same for our pets. If your pet experiences a broken or torn nail, you can apply a temporary bandage to their paw to prevent the nail from moving around, but most likely they’ll need what’s called a nail strip, where the damaged nail is removed, and which should only be done by a vet. If you notice any blood, apply a clean, non-stick bandage over the nail to help stop the bleeding. Don’t wrap the bandage too tight, but make sure that it’s secure and dry before heading to the vet’s office to prevent any other issues, such as infection.

Insect and Snake Bites

If your pets are outside ones, they’ll very likely come in contact with insects, such as bees and mosquitoes. Allergic reactions are not unusual, which can oftentimes lead to swelling. If you notice any type of unusual swelling, it’s likely to be an insect bite. The sting area will probably hurt, so you can help alleviate this by making a paste of baking soda and water and placing it on the particular site. Oatmeal baths are also an effective way to help if your pet has been bitten more than once. If the swelling doesn’t go down, then you may want to try ice for a ten minute period. If the swelling remains, you may need to give your pet an anti-histamine, but you should let your vet do this instead of trying it at home.

Snake bites are not the same as insect bites. Snakes, especially poisonous ones, can be lethal to your pets. Many snake bites may be hard to notice depending on how much fur your pet has, but you may be able to notice one if there’s a marked swelling or puncture wounds. The venom from a snake bite is extremely dangerous, so you shouldn’t wait, bring them to the vet right away.


We do have ticks in Central Texas, but you’re more likely to find them up in the Northeast US. The four most common kinds in Austin are the American Dog Tick, the Lone Star tick, the Brown Dog Tick and the Blacklegged Tick. If you find a tick on your cat or dog, you should try to remove it if you can. If you remove it, put it in a plastic bag or sealed container, and bring it your vet to determine what type it is; if your vet isn’t available, then reach out to an emergency animal hospital. Your pet may develop tick paralysis if the tick isn’t removed quickly enough.

Dealing with the Heat and Breathing Issues

One thing about Austin is that it gets very hot here in the summer, so you need to make sure that your pets stay cool when it’s brutally hot outside. Try to keep your pets indoors, near AC and/or fans when temps are in the 90s-100s. If you have to be outdoors, find ample shade and always have a bottle of fresh, clean water available for you and your pet.

If your pet does get overheated, do everything you can to keep them cool. However, if nothing seems to be helping and your pet is struggling, especially if they are breathing or panting very heavily, call your vet right away.

It’s also good to have a first aid kit for pets readily available should your cat or dog have any injuries. Items such as absorbent gauze pads, adhesive tape, disposable gloves, blunt end scissors, tweezers, and cotton swabs, to name a few, can come in handy when you have to tend to an emergency before getting them to your Austin vet. It may also be worthwhile to learn some basic CPR techniques, should a sudden issue arise when you can’t get them to the vet in time. Learning these techniques may actually help save their lives.

If your pet has an accident or injury that needs immediate attention, please contact ATX Animal Clinic as soon as you can. Basic first aid knowledge is extremely helpful if you have a cat or dog, and we’ll do everything to help them if they have an injury.