First Aid for Dogs & Cats

Unfortunately pet owners can be unexpectedly confronted with a sick or injured animal. Here are some tips that might help in common situations. Above all else though our best tip is STAY CALM – panic helps no-one!

Snake Bite

Signs might include any or none of the following : vomiting, drooling, dilated pupils, weak or collapsed which sometimes temporarily disappears, bleeding, a swelling at the site of the bite.

Try to stay calm & keep the dog or cat calm. Don’t let the dog or cat race around. Even if they seem totally normal bring the dog or cat straight to the vet clinic. If a dog or cat has had a close encounter with a snake they may have been bitten even if there is no evidence of this to the untrained eye. Don’t assume it was not a poisonous snake. Remember also that snake bite can occur at anytime of the year although it seems most likely in spring and autumn.

If possible have someone phone ahead so that we can be prepared.

Bring the body of the snake but only if it is already definitely dead ( eg the head has been bitten off the snake by the animal – bring head & body of the snake). If you are unsure id it is dead do not touch it! Do not pursue the snake and do not kill the snake in order to bring it to the vet clinic.

Tick paralysis

Signs include all or any of the following : vomiting/regurgitating food or mucous, change in voice, wobbly when standing or walking, unable to stand, difficulty breathing, inability to blink in one eye.

Don’t give the animal anything to eat or drink. If you can’t find a tick it doesn’t rule out tick paralysis – it may have fallen off already or you may have missed locating it.

Bring the animal straight to the clinic.

Accident – eg hit by vehicle, kicked by horse, dog fight etc.

Ensure your own safety first.

Apply a muzzle to the mouth before moving the animal in case it bites due to pain. A shoe string or piece of thick string can be wrapped around both upper & lower jaw as a muzzle.

Apply pressure to any major bleeding e.g. hold the area with an absorbent dressing and apply pressure by hand or apply a firm bandage. A dog or cat attacked by a dog can often appear to not be very badly injured but often has major internal injuries or extensive

injuries beneath the surface. We recommend that these animals are always checked by a vet.

To move an animal that can’t walk you might make a temporary stretcher out of a strong piece of cardboard or timber or a strong towel. To restrain a panicking cat you might use a good strong cardboard box if you don’t have a cat a cage.

Injured wildlife, such as birds or possums, can be picked up more easily after wrapping them in a thick coat or towel. Placing them in a small dark box is a good idea.

Don’t give any human pain killers. Don’t give anything to eat or drink.


Don’t give the animal anything more to eat or drink.

Make an appointment to see the vet.

Ingested Poison (eg rat bait, human medications etc)

Phone ahead before bringing the animal to the vet.

Bring the packet if available so the vet knows exactly what has been eaten.

Toad Poisoning

If you have seen your dog mouthing a toad then the mouth needs to be swabbed with a dry cloth for 15 minutes to swab the poison out, until no more foam/salvia is present. Do not flush  with wateras you may flush the poison into the body/lungs. For this reason it is advised that you get your vet to do this if it is possible. 

Bring the dog in to the vet to be checked.


Calm the animal if possible. Get the animal away from danger – e.g. away from the pool or water where it may drown, away from traffic.

Wait for up to 2- 5 minutes to see if the fit stops. It may be safer to transport the dog after the seizure rather than during the seizure especially if you don’t have someone to calm the dog while another person drives.

Do not put your hand inside the dog’s mouth – it could be very badly bitten.

Do not give the animal food or water when the seizure stops as another seizure may start again soon.