First Aid for Pets

bandaged face cat in a bag





Every day first aid is used in the human field to save lives. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is used to save lives in drownings, heart attacks, car accidents and many more situations, by both trained professionals and the average person on the street. I learnt CPR as a young teenager doing a life saving course. I would recommend we all learn CPR and basic first aid. First aid for pets is taken from the human field and has been modified to suit their different shapes and sizes. These following pages have been written as a guide to help those interested in extending their knowledge into the animal field.

So why learn first aid for pets? Dogs do fall in swimming pools and drown. Pets have been known to stop breathing after having a seizure either due to epilepsy or a toxin. In a recent case a kitten stopped breathing after the owner prevented it jumping out of his arms onto a busy street. Needless to say he should not have put the kitten in that situation however it did happen and had he not given the kitten mouth-to-mouth resuscitation it would have died. Dogs seem to regularly cut pads, go through plate glass windows and find themselves in all sorts of trouble. First aid can and does save lives. While the basic principles of first aid are the same for animals as for humans (that is they need to breath, have a beating heart and enough blood to carry the oxygen etc. around the body to survive), their differences in shapes and sizes means that how we go about, say CPR, is different for a dog or a cat. Also their metabolism of drugs can be spectacularly different so that common drugs such as aspirin and Panadol (paracetamol) can be fatal. I know in most first aid situations the pet is stressed and in pain however pain killers should be avoided as :-

  • they can be toxic especially to cats and
  • they may prevent the veterinarian treating your pet using more appropriate drugs due to cross reactions.

In most instances your pet will need to see a veterinarian. It is always extremely important never to give human drugs without advice from your veterinarian.

I hope these pages are useful. Please feel free to contact me if you have any suggestions or requests.

Dr. Fiona Anderson BVSc.




These pages are dedicated to
24 Dec 1985 - 13 June 1995


Your safety always has to come first. If you put yourself at risk and are injured then who will then help you? There is even a chance of being killed so use common sense and think of your own safety first.

A dog or cat on the road needs to be moved off the road. A pet who has been electrocuted means the power supply must be turned off before the animal is approached. Don't jump in to a river to save your pet as you are more likely to become a statistic than the animal. The average tiger snake in Melbourne has enough venom to kill you and a St Bernard and have plenty left over. While we would like a dead snake for identification don't put yourself in danger collecting it. I know this sounds logical but people die each year under just these circumstances. How often on the news do we hear how a man died trying to save a child from drowning or the motorist who stopped to help at a car accident being hit and killed?

Be careful.

Then there is the added danger from the animal you are trying to help. There are no nasty infectious viruses (such as Rabies) you can catch from your pet in Australia, but bite wounds can be very severe and teeth act like hyperdermic needles forcing mouth bacteria deep into your tissue. Bites often become infected. A large dog can put you in hospital. Even your own dog who has never bitten anyone before may bite you because of the shock and pain. The first step in the first aid may be to restrain and muzzle a dog or restrain a cat.


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