Emergency First Aid for Pet Owners

Dogs, cats, birds, and exotic animals as well can have urgent life threatening medical conditions. These conditions such as trauma, toxicosis, sudden illness, long term illness, or complications related to current medical or surgical problems need to be addressed in a calm and timely fashion. The following first aid guidelines for pets will help owners prepare for a crisis before arriving at their veterinarian’s hospital or the local emergency hospital.

Pet owners should be aware of their veterinarian’s regular office hours and if emergency services are available.  If the pet owner’s regular veterinarian does not have emergency hours available for evening, weekend, or holiday emergencies then owners should access the Animal Emergency and Critical Care Center at Long Island Veterinary Specialists. The proper telephone number and directions to Long Island Veterinary Specialists should be clearly posted in the home for quick reference.

516 - 501-1700

Poison control hotlines Early intervention is critical to help prevent the toxic effects of a specific poison to which your pet may have been exposed. The Animal Poison Control telephone is 1- 800- 548-2423. They charge a fee of $45.00 to a major credit card for this service. Emergency services should be sought immediately if you think your pet was exposed to a toxic substance!

Common Emergencies Requiring Urgent Medical Attention:

Pets exhibiting any of the following symptoms should be brought to their veterinarian immediately if during regular business hours, or the Animal Emergency and Critical Care Center during the evenings, weekends or holidays.

Bloody diarrhea
Diabetic insulin crisis
Pregnant – straining for 2 hours without giving birth
Respiratory distress
Straining to urinate

Instructions for Pet Owners: You may be instructed to use one or more of the following to stabilize your pet prior to transport.

  • Muzzle - Used to keep dogs from biting.  It is strongly recommended that owners  use muzzles (specific sizes and models can be purchased at most pet/grooming stores) before handling their dog during an emergency situation. If a muzzle is unavailable, belts or cloth strips secured around your pet’s mouth can be used. Always use caution when applying a muzzle-type device.  Do not muzzle a cat; instead a large blanket can be used for handling purposes to prevent unintended injuries.
  • Stretcher - Use plywood or an ironing board large enough to carry your pet if it is non-ambulatory. Always secure the pet to the board with cloth rags, tape, or belts.
  • Pet Carrier - Used to transport cats or small pets.  If you are unable to place an injured cat in a pet carrier, wrap the cat in a large blanket.
  • Blanket - Used to decrease loss of body heat and to wrap-up cats/small dogs for handling purposes.
  • Telfa pads - Used to place over open wounds.
  • Medical tape - Used to secure a bandage on a patient (1 and 2 inch white tape).
  • Hydrogen peroxide - Used to induce vomiting if directed to do so by poison control or a veterinarian.
  • Large plastic bag -  To cover the transport vehicle’s seat in case of bleeding, urination, defecation or vomiting.
  • Eye Wash - To flush eyes if needed.



Basic First Aid


Bite Wounds

Bite wounds are often more severe than they appear, and frequently are not recognized as an emergency. Serious internal damage may occur without major external wounds. Large wounds can be bandaged with a clean towel or cloth, whereas small wounds can be cleaned to remove dirt and other foreign material.  If an object that caused a penetrating wound to the chest or belly (i.e. knife) is still in the body, it should be left there for removal by a veterinarian.


Burns may cause serious and life threatening injuries to animals. Immediately remove the pet from the heat source and wrap it in towels soaked with cool water while transporting it immediately to a veterinary facility for medical care.

External Hemorrhage (Bleeding)

Bandages may be applied to areas of bleeding until you are able to get medical care for your pet by placing a clean sheet, towel, or piece of clothing over the wound.  To avoid restricting blood flow or breathing, bandages should not be wrapped too tightly.

If a bandage becomes blood soaked, apply more bandage material but do not remove what is already in place.

If you have been directed by a veterinarian to place a tourniquet, it is imperative to release the tourniquet every 5 minutes to avoid permanent limb injury.

Eye Emergencies

If the eye has been exposed to any type of irritants or if the globe is exposed, keep the pet calm and avoid struggling. If it does not stress the pet, flush the eye(s) well with eye flush or plain water while transporting it to the veterinary clinic.

Foreign objects penetrating the eye should never be removed by the pet owner.  Pets with a foreign object in their eye should be brought to their veterinarian immediately if during regular business hours, or the Animal Emergency and Critical Care Center during the evenings, weekends or holidays.


Immobilize pets by placing them on a stretcher or in a confined area (carrier or a box) and transport to your veterinarian immediately if during regular business hours, or the Animal Emergency and Critical Care Center during the evenings, weekends or holidays.

Heat Stroke

Hot, humid weather, poor ventilation, strenuous exercise, obesity, breeds with short length muzzles, and pre-existing diseases increase the risk of heatstroke.  Animals suffering from heatstroke need immediate attention to bring down the body temperature. The animal should be cooled with room-temperature water baths or wrapped in towels soaked in cool water. DO NOT PLACE ANIMAL IN COLD WATER. Owners should transport their pet immediately to a veterinary clinic for medical care.


Frostbite and hypothermia can occur in minutes in frigid temperatures. Frostbite usually affects the ears, tail, scrotum, and feet. Signs of frostbite can range from the skin appearing bright red in the early phase to pale grey color. If the damage was severe enough, the skin or foot pads could peel.  Hypothermia can cause severe life threatening consequences. Signs of hypothermia are skin that is cold to the touch, change in behavior, excessive shivering, or a coma-like state.  Keep your pet warm by wrapping him/her in a blanket while being transported to the veterinary hospital.


If an animal has ingested or been in contact with poison, the owner should read the active ingredient usually found on the label. Poison control centers should be contacted for specific antidotes and treatments.  The Animal Poison Control telephone is 800- 548-2423. They do charge a fee of $45.00 to a major credit card for this service.

If a pet has ingested a toxin, the owners should follow the directions of a veterinarian over the phone until able to get to the veterinary hospital.  If your veterinarian directs you to induce vomiting in your pet, hydrogen peroxide and syrup of ipecac may be used for this purpose.

If the pet has been externally incontact with poison, remove the animal from the source while wearing protective gloves and clothing.  Wash the animal with copious amounts of water before arrival at the hospital. Check all animals in the home for contact with the poison.

Common household pet toxins are:

  • mouse/rat poisoning
  • human drugs
  • antifreeze
  • windshield wiper fluid
  • Organophosphates (lawn fertilizers, weed killers, pet flea products, etc.)
  • Antifreeze Toxicity - If a pet is suspected of having ingested antifreeze  (2 tablespoons can be toxic to a small dog or cat) go directly to a veterinary facility (ask if they have the test for antifreeze toxicity and the specific antidote). Signs that may be observed after ingestion of antifreeze are: abnormal behavior, staggering gait, vomiting, seizures, and excessive urination initially, but these progresses to no urine production.   Addressing this type of toxicity in a timely fashion can save your pet's life.

  • Human Drug Toxicity - Owners accidentally administer their own prescribed medication to their pets. In this situation poison control should be called for recommendations on specific treatments

  • Mouse/Rat Poison Toxicity - Clinical signs after ingestion are bruising of the skin, rapid breathing, and bloody vomit or stool. If you suspect your pet has ingested poison, bring your pet and the toxin packet to a veterinarian immediately.
  • Organophosphates Toxicity - Products containing organophosphates include but not inclusive are: certain flea dips/powders, many insecticides, and weed killers. Clinical signs are salivation, urination, diarrhea, tremors, and seizures.  If a topical product was applied, rinse the pet with a mild shampoo and warm water. Wrap in a towel and bring to a veterinarian as soon as possible if during regular business hours, or the Animal Emergency and Critical Care Center during the evenings, weekends or holidays.

Respiratory Emergencies

Respiratory emergencies not associated with choking are best handled by keeping the animal as calm and stress-free (minimal restraint) as possible. Cats should be placed in a dark, well ventilated, cool carrier and minimize noise and excessive movement.

Traumatic Events

Avoid rapid changes in body position to prevent further injury to animals with possible internal injuries, bleeding, or shock.  While transporting your pet, try to avoid excessive stress.

You are here: Home Emergency Center Emergency First Aid

After Hours:  Should a problem arise after normal business hours, all departments are covered by the Animal Emergency and Critical Care Center at Long Island Veterinary Specialists. It is always best to call in advance when possible, however, if problems arise, do not hesitate to bring your pet in immediately. This facility is staffed 24-hours by veterinarians and technicians ready to assist you and your pet.