Pet First Aid Tips


This article is written by Pet Circle veterinarian, Dr Belinda Stancombe

Having a sick or injured dog or cat can be a scary scenario for most Pet Parents. Not knowing what to do and what treatment is required in some cases can become a life-threatening situation. Pet parents can minimise the panic associated with potential emergency situations by being prepared and educated when it comes to providing first aid care for their pet.

Our vets have put together these First Aid Tips on how to prepare your home for any pet emergencies and how to help your pet during a critical situation. Being prepared in advance may even save your pets life.


Home First Aid Kits

Having a Pet First Aid Kit on hand, will ensure that you are more prepared to deal with an emergency situation with your pet, should one occur. It is important to keep this kit well stocked and accessible in either your home, car or when you are travelling. There are a range of Pet First Aid Kits ready to purchase, or you can make your own using our handy Pet First Aid Kit Essentials list below.

Pet First Aid Kit Essentials

  • Gauze Swabs
  • Gauze Roll or Cohesive Bandage
  • Adhesive Tape
  • Conforming Bandage
  • Cleansing Wipes
  • Sterile Saline Solution
  • Disposable Gloves
  • Blunt Ended Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Tick Twister Tool
  • Towel
  • Thermal Emergency Blanket

Emergency Contacts

It's recommended to have the following contact details accessible in case of emergency. Keeping these in your First Aid Kit, phone or on the fridge ensures that they are quick and easy to find.

Regular Veterinarian: Phone number and Opening Hours

Emergency 24hr Veterinarian: Phone number and Address

Animal Poison Control Centre: 1300 TOX PET

Pet First Aid Tips

While Pet First Aid Tips are not designed to replace veterinarian care, having an idea of what it the best approach during a medical emergency can ensure that your pet receives the best care as soon as possible. Below are some common emergency situations and recommendations on what is the best cause of action for you and your pet. Familiarising yourself with these situations and what the best cause of action would be, may in fact save your pets life.

Snake and Spider Bite

For any snake bite, it is essential to take your pet to the vet straight away. If possible, call ahead to let the vet know you're coming. If you see the snake, make a note of its colours and markings but do not attempt to catch or kill it. Often the bite site is not obvious, but if you can, apply a pressure immobilisation bandage to the area. Keep your pet calm and restrict their movement as much as possible, to slow down the spread of the venom. If the bite is from a venomous snake, then treatment with antivenom by your veterinarian as soon as possible after the bite will give your pet the best chance of making a full recovery.

Spider bites are less common, but can happen. Apply a cold pack to the area if swollen and contact a vet for advice if you notice signs of a systemic reaction such as difficulty breathing, vomiting and diarrhoea or collapse.


Seizures can be scary for pets and pet parents. If your pet experiences a seizure, it is important to ensure that they are safe and can not hurt themselves by moving any furniture away that may injure them. Do not attempt to restrain your pet or place your hand in their mouth as they may accidentally bite you.

Most seizures last 2-3 minutes. Once your pet's seizure has stopped, it is best to keep them as quiet as possible and contact your veterinarian. If the seizure does not stop or your pet has multiple seizures in a short period of time, then it is important to see your veterinarian immediately.

Paralysis Tick

If you think you have found a tick on your pet, the first step is to carefully try to remove the tick by grasping the head of the tick. Avoid pressing on or rupturing the body of the tick during removal. A Tick Twister Tool is a great addition to any Pet First Aid Kit as these make removing ticks at home a lot easier. If you are not confident in your ability to remove the tick then you can ask your veterinarian or veterinary nurse to remove it.

Not all ticks are paralysis ticks, so identification of the tick is important to know if your pet is at risk. Paralysis ticks can be deadly so if your pet is showing signs of tick paralysis such as weakness, vomiting or difficulty breathing seek immediate veterinary assistance.

When it comes to ticks, prevention is better than cure. Ensuring your pet is covered with tick prevention year round is the best way to protect your fur baby from deadly tick paralysis.

Diarrhoea or Vomiting

Diarrhoea or Vomiting can occur in dogs and cats for many reasons. If your pet experiences a gastrointestinal upset and you are not sure of the cause, monitor them closely and make sure they are drinking enough water. Starting on a bland diet such as chicken and rice or Prescription Veterinary Gastrointestinal Diets, can help resolve mild cases.

If symptoms continue, they are a puppy or kitten, they get worse, they refuse to eat or your pet seems otherwise unwell, then it's time to see your vet.

Toad Toxicity

Cane Toads are prevalent in Northern NSW, QLD and the Northern Territory. Most pets will come into contact with toads through 'mouthing' them, by licking or biting. This is especially common in young, curious puppies. When threatened, toads release a toxin from their parotid glands located on their head, which when it comes into contact with a pets mouth, is rapidly absorbed.

The first and most common sign that a pet has had contact with a toad is excessive drooling or foaming at the mouth. The toxin, if left untreated can cause vomiting, seizures, increased heart rate and even death.

If you believe that your pet has had contact with a toad, it is recommended to wipe the inside of their mouth out with a damp cloth as soon as possible, until the toxin is completely removed. A hose should never be used to clean out your pet's mouth, as this can force water into the lungs causing pneumonia. Once the toxin has been removed from your pet's mouth, then they should see the vet immediately to continue emergency care.

Poisoning and Exposure to Toxins

When it comes to exposure to household toxins the general rule is that if it can be harmful to people, it can be harmful to our pets. Some common toxins that can be dangerous to dogs and cats include exposure to cleaning chemical or ingestion of rodent poisons, human medications, plants and human foods.

If your pet has been exposed to a chemical then check the label for further instruction on how to treat exposure in humans and follow the instructions for your pet, such as washing the area with water. Once this is done then your pet should see your veterinarian immediately. Letting your vet know what product your pet was exposed to will given them important information to formulate the best treatment plan for your pet.

If your dog or cat has recently ingested a toxic or foreign substance, speak with your veterinarian as soon as possible. If caught early enough, in some cases, your pet can be made to vomit to reduce any toxic effects. It is not recommended to try and induce vomiting at home as this can be very difficult, and may result in severe side effects. Your veterinarian can use a safe and reversible medication to induce vomiting if required.

Common Household Toxins:

  • Chocolate
  • Grapes and Sultanas
  • Garlic and Onions
  • Rodent Poison
  • Panadol and Ibuprofen
  • Lily Flowers
  • Cleaning Chemicals

Bleeding Cut or Wound

If your pet has a bleeding cut or wound, apply pressure using a clean towel or gauze. Be cautious as pets who are scared or in pain may bite or scratch. All but the most minor of wounds should be assessed by a veterinarian due to the risk of infection and damage to underlying tissues.

If there is a mild wound, trying cleaning the area with some dilute Betadine or warm salty water and apply a pet antiseptic lotion to protect against infection. It is important that your pet does not lick the area excessively as this will increase the chance of a secondary infection establishing. If your pet is licking, an Elizabethan Collar may be required for a few days. If the wound gets bigger, starts to look moist or develops a discharge, or if you pet continues to lick the area, then a visit with your vet is recommended.

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Broken Toe Nail

Although a broken toe nail may not seem like an emergency situation, injured toe nails can bleed a lot when they first occur, and can be alarming for pet parents. Broken toe nails are a common issue seen by veterinarians, and usually occur when a pet gets their toe nail caught when jumping or running. This can be very painful, and the trauma can result in bleeding from the nail, swelling or limping. If your pet injures their toe nail and it is bleeding, apply gentle pressure or a light bandage to help stop the bleeding. It is best to have your veterinarian check the wound as broken toe nails can be very painful and prone to infection, so medication and bandaging may be required.

Keeping your pets toe nails short by clipping, especially the dewclaws, can help to minimise the likelihood of this occurring as they are less likely to catch their nails when playing or exercising.

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Further Reading

Top Tips For Travelling With Your Pet

Pet Obesity Facts

How To Make Dental Care Easier

Tick Paralysis

Premium Pet Food: Is it worth it?

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