Pet First Aid

Our pets are a part of our family, and as we do with every other member of our family, we should be prepared in case one of our pets becomes injured. This page is a great starting point for pet owners who want to educate themselves about pet first aid. Find information about pet first aid kits, basic first aid procedures, pet CPR and more.

Suggested Contents of a Pet First Aid Kit

Trupanion wants to make sure you are ready when your pet needs you, so we’ve pulled together a list of essential items for your pet first aid kit. Keep the items together in a toolbox or other case, and make sure they are easily accessible.

checkbox icon Latex gloves checkbox icon Cotton swabs or cotton balls checkbox icon Antiseptic lotion, powder or spray
checkbox icon Hand sanitizer or wipes checkbox icon Instant hot and cold packs checkbox icon Alcohol swabs
checkbox icon Penlight or flashlight checkbox icon Nonstick and waterproof adhesive tape to secure bandages checkbox icon Grease-cutting dish soap
checkbox icon Tweezers checkbox icon Sterile gauze pads and bandages checkbox icon Hydrocortisone cream 3%
checkbox icon Blunt-tipped scissors or razor for cutting hair and bandages checkbox icon Splints and tongue depressors checkbox icon Styptic liquid to stop minor bleeding
checkbox icon Blanket, muzzle, carrier or leash to secure your pet checkbox icon Rectal thermometer checkbox icon Copy of rabies vaccination
checkbox icon Water in case of dehydration checkbox icon Lubricating jelly checkbox icon Copy of medical records
checkbox icon Turkey baster, rubber bulb syringe or dosing checkbox icon Antibiotic ointment    

Download a printable version of this list.

Basic First Aid Procedures

Mr. Steeeven, a Trupanion cat
  • To be safe, muzzle your pet. Even the most docile pets may bite when in pain, and it is best to be careful. Ask your veterinarian how to tie a muzzle using gauze.
  • Press a clean, thick gauze pad over any wounds, and keep pressure over the wound with your hand until the blood starts clotting. Hold pressure for a minimum of three minutes before checking the clotting.
  • Keep the pet as warm and as quiet as possible.
  • If you fear there are broken bones, find a flat surface (like a board or stretcher) that you can use to transport the pet from place to place. It’s also a good idea to secure the pet to the surface with a blanket or towel.
  • Always remember that any first aid administered to your pet should be followed by immediate veterinary care. First aid care is not a substitute for veterinary care, but it may save your pet’s life until it can receive veterinary treatment.
  • Some veterinary emergency hospitals have ambulances. Call your vet for advice on how to transport an injured animal based on your specific situation.

CPR for Cats & Dogs

CPR for cats and dogs is similar to CPR for humans. These directions assume the animal is unconscious and the risk of being bitten by the animal is not present.

  1. Remove any obstruction. Open the animal’s mouth and make sure the air passage is clear. If not, remove the object obstructing the air passage.
  2. Extend the head and give several artificial respirations.
    • For large dogs, close the dog’s jaw tightly and breathe into the nose. The dog’s chest should rise. Give 2 breaths.
    • For small dogs and cats, you may be able to cover the nose and mouth with your mouth as you breathe. The animal’s chest should rise. Give 2 breaths.
  3. Perform chest compression.
    • For large dogs, you may be able to position the dog on its back and compress the chest just like for humans.
    • For small dogs and cats as well as large dogs with funnel chests, you may need to lay the animal on its side and compress the side of the rib cage. Alternatively, you can position the animal on its back and press on both sides of the rib cage.
    • The rate of chest compressions varies with the size of the animal:
      • Dogs over 60 pounds: 60 compressions per minute
      • Animals 11 to 60 pounds: 80-100 compressions per minute
      • Animals 10 pounds or less: 120 compressions per minute
  4. Alternate breaths with compressions. The ratio of compressions to breaths should be approximately the same as for humans – 30:2. Continue doing this until the animal responds or begins to breathe on its own.

*These directions come from Learn CPR, a free public service supported by the University of Washington School of Medicine.

Additional Resources

For additional reading on pet first aid, please visit the following links:

American Veterinary Medical Association: “First Aid Tips for Pet Owners”

Emergency Pet Preparedness

American Animal Hospital Association: “Caring for pets during emergencies”