paw prints

Accidents happen: First aid tips dog owners need to know

Fluffy black dog poses with pet first aid kid.

Responsible dog owners keep a pet first aid kit ready, so they can keep their dogs as happy, healthy, and safe as possible.


Accidents happen – but they don’t have to end badly. April marks National Pet First Aid Awareness Month, and dog owners should keep it top of mind to prepare for any emergency or accident.

Emergencies and accidents can happen at any time and come in many different shapes and forms, from something as simple as a cut paw pad during a short walk to choking on something your pup may have gotten a hold of without you noticing at home. 


In the U.S., nearly 70% of households own a pet, and of those pets, it is estimated that 1 in 3 will need emergency veterinary treatment every year. A survey conducted by Banfield Pet Hospital shows that 91% of pet owners are not prepared to take care of their pets in emergencies.

Check out our tips and “must-have” items below to ensure you are first aid ready and that will help give you some peace of mind in the event of an emergency:

Watch what your dog eats

Many dogs try to get into things they shouldn’t, and most of the time, when a dog eats foreign items, it’s not a big deal. Usually, those items move through the body and are safely expelled.

If you notice, however, that your pup starts showing signs of illness, such as vomiting or sudden loss of appetite, it may warrant a call or visit to your vet.

As a general rule, it’s important to ensure your pup’s toys and other household objects lying around are too big to swallow, which brings us to another point: almost any small object can be a choking hazard.

Signs of choking include extreme distress, excess drooling, pawing at their mouth, and choking sounds like gagging and retching.

If you ever find yourself in a situation where your dog has eaten something they shouldn’t or is choking and cannot breathe, start by restraining – but not muzzling – your dog.

Use both hands to open their mouth, taking care to press the lips over your dog’s teeth to prevent biting.

Any dog – especially a panicked one – can bite, so it doesn’t hurt to take every precaution. If possible, have someone else hold your dog’s mouth open while you carefully use your fingers to swab the throat to remove the obstruction.

If you can’t remove it using your fingers, it’s best to transport your dog to an emergency clinic immediately. While the Heimlich maneuver can also be used on your dog to dislodge a foreign object, if you are not comfortable doing this, it’s best not to delay the journey to the vet in an emergency.

Prevent poisoning 

As we touched upon in the previous point, dogs are notorious for getting into things that they shouldn’t. If your dog has ingested a poisonous substance, first, identify that substance, then read and follow the instructions on the label.

 Call your local pet poison hotline for further instructions if needed.

If the poisoning is through contact – you may notice this if your pet displays signs of discomfort, excessive scratching or licking, swelling, or redness – wear protective gloves before attempting to remove any substance with paper towels or clean rags.

Never attempt to induce vomiting or removal of substances with other solvents unless your vet or the poison hotline advises you to do so.

Stop bleeding

If your pup is injured by a bite from another animal, a simple scrape from roughhousing in the backyard or a cut during a walk, the best thing to do is to apply pressure to the wound using a thick gauze pad or clean towel for several minutes until the bleeding stops.

A small cut or scrape can typically be treated at home by cleaning the wound and applying a thin layer of antibiotic ointment before bandaging it up to prevent infection.

If the bleeding persists, however, or the wound is deep, apply a tourniquet and seek emergency care sooner than later.

Most deep wounds can be easily treated with sutures, but delaying this can result in serious infection or even surgery to ensure a full recovery.

Stock your pet first aid kit

Plan ahead so you are ready in a dog medical emergency. Start by preparing a first aid kit. Jack Russell terrier with thermostat lies next to chihuahua wearing stethescope with paw on first aid kit.

Plan, so you are ready in a dog medical emergency. Start by preparing a first aid kit.

Having a pet first aid kit on hand may seem obvious, but packing it with the right supplies may not be. Make sure you include multiples of all the traditional first aid supplies in your pet’s emergency kit, including things like hydrogen peroxide for cleaning minor wounds, antibiotic ointment to help prevent infection and relieve pain, gauze, scissors, tape, bandages, clean gloves for wound treatment, and disinfecting wipes to keep things as clean as possible.

Including an extra roll or two of poop bags is also a good idea – not just for poop disposal, but for general disposal of used first aid items, too.

There are lots of great resources available on the internet on what else to include in your pet’s first aid kit and additional tips on how to identify and handle different types of common injuries.

Pack the comforts of home

In high-stress situations where your pet may have to be rehomed temporarily (think natural disaster or a situation where illness prevents you from taking adequate care of your pet), having something your pet is familiar with will help ease their anxiety and keep them calm.

Consider storing a well-loved blanket, favorite toy, or even an old kennel. Take that old blanket or one of your old shirts that still has your scent on it and store it in a large sealed ziplock bag, so it’s ready to go if your pet needs it.

Just as comfort items are beneficial to us as humans, the familiar sights and smells of an old toy or blanket will help put your pet at ease in stressful environments.

To complete the kit, ensure you provide a substitute caretaker with enough food (and water!) to last a week if needed, along with a collapsible silicone bowl. It might seem like a no-brainer, but storing food and treat options that can be easily kept fresh until it’s needed is also important for your pet’s health.

Instead of compromising freshness and the possibility of spillage by storing already open kibble, consider using pocket-sized pet food options such as Petcurean’s NOW FRESH or GO! SOLUTIONS wet food recipes that are packaged in convenient, reclosable Tetra Pak cartons. These recipes are specially formulated to provide complete and balanced nutrition so you don’t have to worry about your pet getting the nutrition he/she needs on top of everything else that may already be on your mind in an emergency.

Keep paperwork handy

If your pet needs emergency medical attention that can’t be taken care of at home, it will help to have your pet’s health history all in one place. This includes knowledge of your dog’s most recent weight as medication is often administered based on this information. Additionally, include things like phone numbers for your regular vet and an emergency vet, as well as a copy of your pup’s ID, tattoo or microchip information, and vaccination records. 

Putting together a pet emergency preparedness kit and plan is an essential part of being a responsible dog owner. After all, you are your dog’s lifeline in an emergency situation. By preparing yourself and your pup for the worst-case scenario, you can rest easy knowing that you are doing everything you can to ensure the health and safety of your beloved furry family member at all times.

Christine Mallier is the Community Relations Manager for Petcurean.

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