First Aid for Pets

bandaged face cat in a bag





Injuries to the abdomen can damage the internal organs such as the liver, spleen, kidneys or intestinal tract. Bleeding can be profuse and life threatening. Injuries to the bowel may result in the spillage of intestinal contents into the abdomen resulting in a very nasty infection. Fortunately abdominal injury appears to be less common than in humans but is still of great concern.



  • Traffic accidents.

  • Kicks especially from horses.

  • Dog attacks - a large dog attacking a smaller dog or cat.

  • Wound breakdown such as a spey site.

  • Crush injuries (having a heavy weight fall across the back).


  • Shock.

  • Pain.

  • Vomiting.

  • Evidence of injury (I.E. bruising, swelling, local pain).

  • Blood in the urine if the bladder or kidneys are injured.

  • Blood in the faeces or around the anus if the large bowel has been injured.

  • Pain on touching the abdominal muscles.

  • Abnormal swelling may indicate a hernia particularly in the groin or flanks.

  • Protrusion of intestines if the abdominal wall has been torn.

In many cases of dog attacks the skin is intact or has only minor wounds while the muscle layer has been significantly injured. The intestinal tract and sometimes the spleen can be torn open even though the skin is undamaged. Bite wounds are often worse than they appear superficially and should be treated as such.


  • Give nothing to eat or drink.
  • If a hernia is suspected bandage the abdomen to support it. Use sheeting, bandage material or towels and keep your animal as quiet as possible.
  • Swelling at a spey wound may indicate a hernia. Again support the area by bandaging it.

  • Do not allow your pet to jump or move around. Especially do not allow your pet to jump into or out of your car.

  • If the abdominal contents are through the skin wrap protruding intestines with a large non-stick dressing, such as a clean sheet soaked in clean water or saline/salty water. Aluminium foil or plastic food wrap (Gladwrap) can also be used.

  • Wrap this to the body to help you handle the animal.

  • Wrap your pet up in a towel or a blanket to keep the animal still and warm.

  • Transport to your veterinarian immediately.


Dogs particularly tend to swallow all sorts of things. These include:- balls, corn cobs, stones, toys, children's dummies, meat skewers, knives, fish hooks, rings, string, rope, cloth, blanket bits, plastic, bones etc. In fact some dogs make a hobby of it and anything they can chew they will swallow. Cats tend to be more selective and fur balls are their most common intestinal foreign body. Linear (string/thread) foreign bodies are more dangerous than discrete ones.


  • Vomiting especially if it is both food and water.

  • Pain on touching the abdominal muscles.

  • Lack of faeces.

  • Depression and dehydration.


  • Seek prompt veterinary treatment. It is much easier to remove a foreign body in the stomach than from the intestinal tract.

  • Give nothing to eat or drink.


Cats are supposed to vomit up the fur they groom from their coat. This is to prevent it from entering the intestinal tract where it may become stuck. Typically the cat vomits up a long cigar-shaped mass full of fur.

It is only necessary to treat your cat if the vomiting is often or if your cat is having other symptoms. These symptoms include coughing and gagging, passing hair in the faeces, or lack of appetite and weight loss. Fur balls have been known to block the intestinal tract and cause major problems, so if your cat seems to be unwell then see your veterinarian. Also these symptoms are vague and may be an indicator of a more serious problem.


  • Prevent the problem by grooming long-haired cats regularly.

  • Give your cat Catlax, a teaspoon of petroleum jelly or paraffin oil. Paraffin oil can be added to the food. If given directly in the mouth give very slowly and do not place in the back of the mouth. Allow your cat to lick it up. Catlax or petroleum jelly can be smeared on the lips if your cat won't eat it on the food.

  • Weekly dosing can help prevent fur balls.

  • While your cat is in difficulty treat daily, however see your veterinarian if the problem does not resolve over a couple of days.


Pelvic injury due to car trauma is extremely common in our dogs and cats. Fractures of the bones of the pelvis and/or dislocation of the pelvis from the spine are the most common injuries. Damage may occur to the organs in or near the pelvis, and bleeding can be very serious. Veterinary attention is recommended.


  • Inability to stand or great difficulty when rising, then standing on only one hind leg.

  • Your pet may appear in pain.

  • Swelling over the pelvis. Bruising in the groin.

  • Urinary or faecal incontinence.

  • Shock.

  • Floppy tail, particularly in cats.


  • Allow your pet to find itself a comfortable position. They tend to sit with the injured side lowest. Try to get them to sit in a box or a basket to make it easier to transport them.

  • Keep your pet warm and dry. Towels can be used to catch urine. Warm hot water bottles may help if your animal appears cold.

  • Treat for shock if necessary.

  • Transport to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

  • Take note if your pet has passed urine or faeces and remember to tell your veterinarian.


This is a life threatening condition where the urinary outflow is blocked. It occurs in both dogs and cats but is extremely common in the indoor, plump, long-haired, desexed male cat. The syndrome in cats is known as Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease. Cause and prevention have been discussed in this article on the Lort Smith website.

Male pets are more likely to develop obstruction because their urinary tract is longer and narrower, however females do occasionally obstruct. Obstruction is life-threatening and requires immediate veterinary help so if in doubt take your pet to your veterinarian. Symptoms such as passing blood, frequent urination, pain on urination and licking of the penis or vulva indicates a problem. It may be cystitis but this may progress to full obstruction and does require urgent attention.


  • Frequent unsuccessful attempts to urinate.

  • Swollen abdomen.

  • Your pet may seem restless and in pain.

  • Abnormal behaviour such as hiding.

  • If your pet has been obstructed long enough to start to reabsorb toxins from the bladder then it may vomit and may go into shock or into a coma.

Seek urgent veterinary attention.



This usually occurs in cats when their tail gets caught under the wheel of a car and they damage their spine in their attempt to flee. The vertebrae are pulled apart in the tail or the tail from the pelvis. The nerves can be torn further up the spine causing damage to the nerve supply to the bladder and rectum or even the back legs. The injury is rarely instantly life threatening but early treatment by your veterinarian may help minimize nerve damage. Keep your pet quiet until your pet is seen by the veterinarian to prevent your pet further damaging the tail or the spinal nerves.


  • Floppy tail.

  • Lack of feeling in the tail

  • Urinary and/or faecal incontinence.


These are notoriously difficult to heal especially if they are on the tail tip.


  • Clip the hair around the injured area.

  • Clean the wound thoroughly with warm salty water or an antiseptic.

  • Apply a non-stick dressing then bandage. (See Wounds for more detail).

  • Tails tend to get knocked especially in dogs who wag them. Applying a protective sheath can be helpful. These can be made from hosing or syringes or syringe cases and fitted over the tail tip and taped in place.


Send mail to Administrator with comments or questions about this site                Fiona Anderson 2001