First Aid for Pets

bandaged face cat in a bag




Bites and stings can be dangerous to your pet due to the venom injected or because your pet is allergic to it. Initial treatment is to apply a special type of bandage - Pressure Immobilization. However most of our pets are bitten on the mouth or around the head and rarely is the bite visible. Pressure immobilization is used for the management of snake bites, spider bites and where allergic reactions are occurring.



  • Apply a crepe or conforming bandage over the bitten area and around the limb. Use pantyhose or other material if no bandage is available.

  • Apply the bandage firmly but do not stop blood flow.

  • Bandage to the paw and then up as far as possible on the limb. Wrap over the body if necessary.
  • Apply a splint (rolled up newspaper, pieces of wood etc.) with a second bandage.

  • Do not remove the bandage once applied.


Bee stings are rarely lethal but your pet may require veterinary care if your pet has an allergic reaction (usually the face swells).

  • Remove the sting by scraping it sideways with your fingernail or the side of a knife or credit card.

  • Apply cold compresses or a piece of ice to the affected area to reduce pain and swelling.

  • If you suspect your pet has been bitten around the face but can't find the sting check the roof of the mouth and the tongue and remove the sting if found.


Cane Toads occur mostly in Queensland and poisonings occur when the dog picks the toad up in its mouth. Poison sacks occur on the toad's back. The poison is absorbed directly from the mouth into the blood stream and causes very rapid development of symptoms and sudden death in some cases.


  • Your pet may drool or shake its head.

  • Severe muscle trembling and shaking occurs rapidly. Your pet may stagger and appear to lack coordination.

  • Difficulty breathing.

  • Convulsions.

  • Coma and rapid progression to death.


  • Flush your pet's mouth and face with lots of running water. Tilt the animal's head down so that you do not cause your pet to choke. Wash the eyes as well.

  • See your veterinarian urgently.


The European Wasp can sting several times and its sting causes severe pain and swelling. If your pet is bitten in the mouth it can cause breathing difficulties. It is attracted to meat and decaying food. If you have a problem with European wasps in your area it may be necessary to feed your pets inside the house and not to give your pet big bones until the nest can be removed.

Treatment is to apply cold compresses or ice to the bites. See your veterinarian if your pet is distressed, the face swells or if there are breathing difficulties.


This is a small black spider with a red stripe on its back. It is found in most parts of Australia. A single bite in a large dog is not life threatening but it can be a problem for our smaller pets or where multiple bites occur.


  • Your pet may appear distressed.

  • Vomiting.

  • Muscle weakness that is slowly progressive.

  • Coma


  • Apply a cold compress or ice to the bite.

  • Seek veterinary aid if your pet is small or appears distressed.


The following information is written for Australian Snakes. Different snakes have different venoms and so symptoms of snakebite will be different. However recommended management is the same worldwide.

Many snakes are not aggressive however our pets do tend to be curious about things in the grass and may annoy the snake into attacking. In Melbourne we find most of our snakebites are due to tiger snakes; partly as they are common around the creeks and rivers especially in the Western suburbs and partly because the tiger is a more aggressive snake. We start to see bites in September and the last bite last summer was in April. Snakes are usually more venomous at the start of the season.


  • Clear your yard of all rubbish and long grass. It is also a fire hazard.

  • Walk your dog on a lead in areas where you suspect there might be snakes such as along waterways.

  • Avoid taking your dog for a walk on warm summer nights in areas you would expect to find snakes as snakes are more active at this time.

  • Be noisy when you are walking in the bush.

  • Keep sheds free of mice.


Symptoms can occur rapidly in our pets as they are usually bitten on the face or mouth however sometimes they don't appear for more than 24 hours, especially in cats. Take your pet immediately to a veterinarian if you suspect it has been bitten.

  • Drooling, vomiting or diarrhoea.

  • Your pet may appear distressed or anxious

  • Muscle weakness which progresses to collapse.

  • If very lucky the bite wound may be visible. It appears as two tiny puncture marks about 1 cm apart. The area may swell and appear red.

  • The pupils may appear wider than normal (tiger snake).

  • Your pet may start to may have difficulty breathing.

  • There may be "blood" in the urine.

  • Some cats will become very floppy like a child's under-stuffed toy and have large pupils, which are unresponsive to light changes. They are conscious and can become very distressed when handled but have no muscle strength to fight.

  • Coma

  • Respiratory arrest and death.


Vitamin C has been used by some people to treat snakebite. This is not a treatment but an aid and will not prevent death if your pet has had a lethal dose of venom.


Australia has many non-venomous snakes. Bites from these snakes will not kill your pet however they can become infected. The area around the bite should be clipped and cleaned and watched for signs of infection. If infection occurs see your veterinarian.


Ticks occur in many parts of Australia however only the paralysis tick is a problem to our pets. It occurs in Northern Tasmania and mostly along the Eastern Coast from Lakes Entrance in Victoria northwards. They have small brown bodies that are flat and oval but as they engorge that become darker and rounder. They tend to be commonly located around the head especially in the ears and under the collar on dogs. Ticks can also hitch-hike on hay and camping material so they can be moved into non-paralysis tick areas. Some ticks are not dangerous but should be removed and your pet watched for symptoms. See a veterinarian if any symptoms occur.


  • If you live in a tick area then examine your pet for ticks every day. Examine between your pet's toes, in its ears and under its tail as well as all over its coat and under its collar.

  • Use a tick prevention treatment. See your veterinarian to find out what is available and what will suit you best.

  • Keep your yard clear of long grass, which harbours ticks.


  • Weakness in the vocal cord muscle causing a change in your dog's bark.

  • Weakness in the muscle in the hindquarters and wobbliness. This is particularly noticeable when your dog is going up stairs.

  • Progressive paralysis while your pet still has control of its tail. It also still responds to pain.

  • Red gums.

  • Collapse.

  • Difficulty panting and breathing.

  • Respiratory paralysis and death.


  • Search for the tick and remove it. It is important not to leave the mouth parts behind so use fine tweezers and gently lever the tick off.

  • Some veterinarians use fast knockdown fly spray on a cotton wool ball dabbed onto the tick. This kills the tick and makes it easier to remove.

  • Mark the fur or skin where the tick was found either with a non-toxic pen or by cutting the fur. If your pet needs treatment then your veterinarian may wish to give antitoxin at the bite site.

  • Always check for more than one tick.

  • If your pet has not been rinsed/sprayed for ticks within the manufacture's recommended time period then you should do so.

  • If your pet shows symptoms then seek veterinary aid. Even with treatment symptoms tend to worsen over the first 24 hours before they improve. This is particularly important if your pet has not been bitten before or it is early in the tick season.


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