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Emergency treatment and first aid for pets should never be used as a substitute for veterinary care. However, it may save your pet’s life before you can get your pet to a doctor. In support of Pet First Aid Awareness Month, here are our basic first aid recommendations:

Be Prepared 

Just as you keep a first-aid kit on hand for the humans in your family, it is essential to have a pet first-aid kit readily accessible at all times, including one at home and one for when you’re out and about. Ensure your kit includes the following essentials:

  • Medical history
  • Gauze/cotton
  • Non-stick bandage (VetWrap)
  • Pet approved adhesive tape
  • Gloves
  • Digital thermometer for fevers (rectal)
  • Muzzle
  • Leash
  • Styptic powder
  • Hydrogen Peroxide (3%) – consult with a veterinarian before use
  • Oral dosing syringe
  • Small notebook and pen/pencil
  • Alcohol pads
  • Cold pack
  • Small towel for cats/small dogs
  • The COVE’s First Aid Brochure

Include a list of contact numbers in your kit, including your primary care veterinarian’s office. Also, have the phone number of the nearest animal emergency hospital readily available, so you can call to alert them that you’re on your way. And be sure to add The COVE (757-935-9111) as a contact on your mobile phone!


Basic First Aid Scenarios   

In addition to having a first-aid kit, you will need to know what to do if your pet is experiencing a medical emergency. Below are our quick tips for common first-aid scenarios. Importantly, follow up any first aid administered to your pet with immediate veterinary care.


If you suspect your dog or cat has consumed something toxic, call your primary care veterinarian or the Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435) at once. Do not try to induce vomiting or give any medications to your pet unless directed by a veterinarian. Learn how to prevent pet poisoning from our previous blog here.


Wait for the seizure to end before touching your pet. However, do clear the area of other pets, furniture, and any objects that may cause injury. While it can be hard to witness, stay calm and time the seizure, which is likely to last 20–30 seconds. After the episode, keep your pet warm and quiet and call your primary care veterinarian for guidance on next steps.

Heat Stroke/Overheating

Signs and symptoms of a heat stroke include excessive heavy panting, gums possibly being bright red, and the animal struggling to get up. If your pet has a temperature of over 103°F, try cooling him or her down by gently pouring or running cool water over their body. Alternately, soak towels in cool water and lay them across the abdomen.

Excessive Bleeding

If you notice that your dog or cat is bleeding, apply direct pressure immediately with a clean towel or cloth for at least three minutes before checking to see if the bleeding has stopped. If the bleeding continues, seek medical attention quickly.

Snake Bite

If a snake has bitten your pet, remain calm and try to identify the type of snake (poisonous or non-poisonous) without risking being attacked yourself. If there is a puncture wound, follow the steps to stop any bleeding and seek medical attention immediately. We recommend always calling ahead on your way to the animal hospital to notify the staff of your arrival.

Not Breathing

If your pet isn’t breathing, open his or her airway by gently grasping the tongue and pulling it forward (out of the mouth) until it is flat. Check the throat to see if there are any foreign objects blocking the airway. Perform rescue breathing by holding your pet’s mouth closed with your hand and breathing directly into its nose until you see the chest expand. Once the chest expands, continue administering one rescue breath every 4–5 seconds. Even if your pet can breathe again, we recommend calling your primary care veterinarian right away.

Invest in Pet Insurance

Avoid the unexpected costs that arise in emergencies by investing in pet medical coverage. Many insurance policies offer up to 80-90% of coverage after a deductible. And, some plans will pay the clinic directly instead of reimbursing the pet owner that has paid at the time of service. To learn more about various insurance plans, click here.

Any emergency situation with your fur-baby can be scary and overwhelming but being prepared and knowing basic first aid can be life saving. We hope you find these tips helpful and that you start building your first-aid kit just in time for spring and summer festivities.

Remember, if your pet does need emergency attention, The COVE is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.


About Us

The COVE’s veterinarians and staff wholeheartedly embrace the core values of community, collaboration, commitment, compassion, and integrity. This focus ensures that pets, the people who love them, and their primary care veterinarians have as positive and affirming a healthcare experience as possible, regardless of the circumstances that bring us all together.