Arun Veterinary Group

First aid for your pet

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Inevitably there will be times when your pet will require some form of first aid before you can get to us. Here we highlight some of the common situations you may encounter where it will pay to be prepared.

Minor wounds and abrasions

At the time of writing we are hearing more and more about the emerging problem of “Alabama Rot”. This new disease affecting dogs is changing the whole perspective of a previously innocuous type of injury. If you are uncertain how your dog received a minor wound or abrasion, then we would advise you seek an urgent professional opinion. Should you be comfortable with how the injury was acquired then please feel free to follow the advice below.

Relatively superficial injuries should be washed under clean running water and then cleaned up with salty water (one teaspoon of salt to a pint of warm water is the traditional recipe) which helps to draw away dirt and acts as a mild antiseptic. The wound should be patted dry with clean paper towel or cotton wool.
If the wound is superficial then a topical antiseptic cream may be applied but if you are not certain the cream is safe to use seek professional advice . If your pet will lick the wound then a barrier device such as a bandage, sock or vest should be used or an Elizabethan collar if you have one. If the wound shows no sign of healing within 2 to 3 days we advise you seek a professional opinion.

Severe wounds and lacerations

These wounds are more likely to require professional attention so the aim here is to prevent the injury from getting any worse rather than treating it yourself. Active bleeding from a wound may result in serious blood loss so first it will be necessary to get your dog under control. Many smaller wounds may stop bleeding after pressure has been applied for 4 minutes or so.

If you are far from help then it may be useful to sit with your pet putting manual pressure over the wound and see if the bleeding will come to a halt naturally. Return to your car, house or nearest place of help at a steady pace once the bleeding has stopped. If the bleeding is continuous then pressure should be applied constantly using whatever items or help you may have at your disposal. Keeping a first aid kit with a bandage will be a real help. Use enough pressure to halt or at least stem the flow of bleeding to buy time. The use of tourniquets is no longer encouraged as incorrectly applied they may cause more harm than good. Direct pressure is best.

The second priority is to prevent further contamination of the wound wherever possible. If the affected area can be covered by any means, then this will help to keep further dirt from entering the wound. Again, a bandage is really useful here and we would recommend a self adhesive elasticised bandage such as vet wrap. Washing a heavily contaminated wound may seem helpful but done incorrectly this can wash dirt further into the wound increasing the chances of wound infection later. If in doubt it is better not to wash the wound but get your pet promptly to the vet.  Many open wounds can be cleaned up for primary healing and minimal risk of infection if they are seen within 6 hours.  Call us at the earliest possible time and arrange as swift an arrival as possible.

Road Traffic Accident

This most stressful of situations could present with a combination of the above scenarios combined with other serious and life threatening injuries.  Never put yourself at risk of harm but if it is safe to do so and conditions allow then take steps to hold back the traffic and prevent further injury to your pet.

Your pet should be brought under control as soon as possible. He/she may be very frightened and in a lot of pain and in these circumstances even the most docile of animals may bite. If necessary, a muzzle should be applied. There are some simple techniques that can be learned from your vet or vet nurse in how to tie a muzzle. Anything that can be used to tie the mouth shut will be useful and the leash will be the one thing you have readily to hand. Again a bandage is a very useful thing to have to hand.  As soon as it is safe to do so remove your pet from the road to a place of safety as gently and calmly as possible. It may be helpful to use a coat as a makeshift stretcher or if necessary to cover the head to help calm a fractious animal or as a blanket to keep them warm.

Contact us and make your way to us as quickly as possible. Hopefully, as you are by a road, suitable transport will be close at hand. Move the animal with care but it is more important to get to us quickly than to worry about specific injuries other than to stem bleeding as above.

The items we would consider useful in a first aid kit would be –

  • One or two self-adhesive bandages
  • A pair of latex gloves
  • A soft bandage for making a muzzle or as a makeshift lead
  • A rubber boot of a suitable size for your dog.

Bee or Wasp Sting

This often will present as a painful reaction with subsequent swelling around the mouth or face but can occur on the limbs too.
If you know or suspect a sting has happened then monitor your pet’s breathing as swelling to the airway or lungs can be a serious complication.  Piriton may help in some cases and a 4mg tablet can be used to dose dogs over 10kg and a half a tablet if lighter than this. A cold compress of ice or a bag of frozen peas can be placed on the painful area to alleviate pain and also reduce swelling.  If the condition does not improve, pain is severe or there is any change in breathing veterinary help should be sought swiftly.

Adder bites

These injuries will most often be seen on the limbs as a painful swelling perhaps with the two fang marks evident. To prevent the toxins from spreading it is helpful to limit activity and carrying the pet where possible could help. Preventing the pet from interfering with the wound by covering it may help too. Veterinary assistance should be sought swiftly as in addition to dealing with the pain, we can inject viper antivenon.


If you suspect your pet has ingested a poison veterinary advice should be sought immediately. Evidence such as packets, tins, wrappers can provide useful information and samples of plant material may prove helpful too. It will be necessary to visit a veterinary practice as soon as possible as often making the animal vomit can be the best solution and this needs to be done within 2 hours of ingestion.


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