Dogs, cats, birds, and exotic animals as well can have urgent and life threatening medical conditions. The following first aid will help you prepare for a crisis before arriving at your veterinarian’s clinic or the LIVS emergency department.
- Have your pet’s veterinarian’s office number handy. Know their hours of operation and instructions for what to do in any emergency
- When the regular veterinarian’s clinic is closed or they have recommended you visit the ER, call LIVS at 516-501-1700 or come right over. No appointment is necessary.
Early intervention is critical to help prevent the toxic effects of a specific poison to which your pet may have been exposed. See our Resources page for poison control hotlines. 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 LIVS during the evenings, weekends or holidays.
- Bloody diarrhea
- Choking, difficulty breathing, respiratory distress
- Diabetic insulin crisis
- Distended belly
- Pregnant – straining for 2 hours without giving birth
- Straining to urinate or defecate
- Trauma, hit by car, fight, laceration
- Uncontrolled bleeding
Instructions for Pet Owners
You may be instructed to use one or more of the following to stabilize your pet prior to transport.
Muzzle – It is strongly recommended that owners a muzzle before handling their dog during an emergency situation. Fear and pain can cause even the most docile of animals to act in an aggressive manner. If a muzzle is unavailable, a cloth strip 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 – If you are unable to place an injured cat in a pet carrier, wrap the cat in a large blanket.
Blanket – A blanket may be used to decrease loss of body heat and to wrap-up cats/small dogs for handling purposes.
Telfa pads – A clean, dry cloth or telfa pad may be used to place over open wounds.
Medical tape – Do your best to secure a bandage on the patient (1 and 2 inch white tape).
Large Plastic Bag – If time allows, cover the transport vehicle’s seat in case of bleeding, urination, defecation or vomiting.
Eye Wash – Flush eyes if a contaminant or toxic substance has caused irritation.
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: 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 LIVS during the evenings, weekends or holidays.
Fractures: 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 LIVS during the evenings, weekends or holidays.
Heat Stroke: Hot, humid weather, poor ventilation, strenuous exercise, obesity, breeds with short length muzzles, and pre-existing conditions all 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.
Hypothermia: 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.
Poison: 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 ASPCA Animal Poison Control telephone number is 888-426-4435. A consultation fee may be charged. Please remember to get your case number and give it to your veterinarian.
If a pet has ingested a toxin, the owners should follow the directions of a veterinarian over the phone until able to get to a 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 in contact 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.
Mouse/Rat Poisoning – 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.
Human Drugs – Owners accidentally administer their own prescribed medication to their pets. In this situation poison control should be called for recommendations on specific treatments
Antifreeze – 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.
Organophosphates – (lawn fertilizers, weed killers, pet flea products, etc.) – 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 LIVS during the evenings, weekends or holidays.
The following foods may be dangerous for pets:
- Alcoholic beverages
- Apple seeds
- Apricot pits
- Cherry pits
- Candy (particularly chocolate, any containing Xylitol)
- Coffee (grounds, beans, chocolate-covered espresso beans)
- Gum (may contain sweetener Xylitol)
- Hops (used in home beer brewing)
- Macadamia nuts
- Moldy foods
- Mushroom plants
- Mustard seeds
- Onions and onion powder
- Peach pits
- Potato leaves and stems (green parts)
- Rhubarb leaves
- Tea (caffeine)
- Tomato leaves and stems (green parts)
- Xylitol (artificial sweetener)
- Yeast dough