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It goes without saying that all emergencies should be presented to a vet as soon as possible, but there are some first aid measures you can take until you get there



Sadly these are common, in both dogs and cats. People sometimes worry about whether or not to move the animal, as you would worry in a human, but it is usually better to lift the animal carefully and get him or her off the road and on the way to the vet as soon as possible.

If the animal is concious, it is likely to be upset and frightened, so try to be as calm as possible. A warm blanket can help to keep the animal from struggling too much and also help to stave off the effects of shock. Give no food or drink etc until the animal has been examined and assessed, in case an anaesthetic or sedative is necessary.

If the animal is unconcious, wrap in a blanket and take him or her straight to the vet. If someone can telephone the vet and give them a bit of information about the animal, what happened and how the animal seems, they can be ready to treat your pet as quickly as possible, with all the necessary equipment ready and waiting when you arrive at the surgery, so if you can call ahead, always do.



If your pet is vomiting several times in a short space of time, it could quickly become dehydrated, especially in puppies and smaller animals. This is also true in the case of severe diarrhoea.

One of the tests you can do to check your animal’s hydration status is the skin-tent test. To do this, lift up the loose skin at the back of your pet’s neck. If the skin falls down again quickly, your animal is probably not very dehydrated, but if the skin stays up in a “tent”, this indicates dehydration. If your animal is dehydrated, it will usually be given intravenous fluids (a drip), and will have to be in hospital while this is administered.

If your pet’s hydration seems to be ok, you can give small amounts of an oral rehydration solution, either a commercial product, or a home made sugar and salt solution (check the composition with a vet first!)

Regardless of hydration, your pet should be seen by a vet as soon as possible to determine the cause of the upset.



If your pet cuts itself somehow and is bleeding, it can be very frightening, as a little blood goes a long way! The best thing you can do before bringing your animal to the vet is to wrap the wound tightly in any material you have to hand, just to keep some pressure on the wound and slow the bleeding. If there is a lot of bleeding, don’t bother trying to clean the wound- we will do that at the surgery.

Don’t give food or drink to an animal with a bleeding wound, as we may well have to stitch the wound under either sedation or general anaesthesia.

If your pet is bitten, and the skin is broken, it should come to the vets as soon as possible, even if it doesn’t look too bad. The problem with bite-wounds is that infection is often introduced deep under the skin, leading to painful abscesses later if untreated, so we would usually make sure your animal has some antibiotic cover as soon as possible.

With cut pads/ skin wounds etc, it’s better to get them checked out relatively quickly too, as if they need stitching it is far better to do it early on, before the wound gets infected or starts trying to heal, which can involve having to cut out more tissue before we can stitch, so even if you are not sure whether a wound needs stitching, it’s better for us to check.

Above all, don’t panic! In 20 years I have never seen an animal bleed to death from a skin wound, and that includes the dog who came in having had his head run over by a lawnmower, and was sporting a nice pair of red fountains from the top of his head!



Witnessing your pet having a seizure can be very frightening and distressing for an owner, especially if you have never seen it before. Many seizures have a typical pattern, and some breeds are more prone to them than others (collies, German Shepherds, boxers, among others). They often happen when the animal is sleeping. Things you might witness during a seizure that are “normal” are:

“Paddling”- moving the legs as if running

Passing urine and/or faeces

Vocalisation- many dogs howl during a seizure, which makes people think that they are in pain, but it is a reflex response.

Seizure activity usually lasts about 2-3 minutes (although can seem like far longer) Any seizure activity that continues beyond that should be seen by a vet as soon as possible

Once the animal starts to come round, they can appear disorientated and even as though blind. This is what’s known as the post-dromal phase, and is normal. No attempt should be made at this point to go near the animal as he or she may bite, without realising who or what they are biting.


If your pet has a seizure, the best thing you can do is to ensure he or she can’t hurt themselves (eg put cushions around them, make sure they can’t fall down the stairs) and then watch without trying to interact with or touch the animal. If possible, put the lights out and any tv’s etc off, to minimise any stimulation to the animal. It is always helpful if you can time the seizure from start to finish, and even better if you can video it for your vet, even on a phone- it’s always hard to describe a seizure and a video is a great help to the vet in seeing what exactly happened.


It’s always best to phone a vet, but not usually necessary to rush the animal to the vets, as moving the animal, the car journey etc could actually stimulate the animal more and extend the seizure. If the seizure is showing no sign of diminishing after a couple of minutes , there is a danger of status epilepticus, a rare condition where the seizure activity continues, and which needs urgent attention. This is, however, very rare.


It is not uncommon for an animal which has had a seizure to come out of it and then have another or more seizures subsequently. These are known as cluster seizures. Sometimes they require treatment, so don’t panic, but discuss it with the vet.


And finally, it may console you to know that I have known quite a few people who have had seizures, and they assure me that they are completely unaware of what is happening. So although your pet may be paddling/ howling/ wetting/ crying, he or she will have no knowledge- it is definitely more upsetting by far for you than it is for your pet!



If you KNOW your pet has eaten something poisonous, telephone the vet at once and then bring the dog in. The vet will ask you about the thing your pet has eaten, so it’s ideal if you can have the packet handy, so you can give the active ingredient. This gives your vet time to call the Poisons Bureau and find out the best treatment/ advice for your pet by the time you get there, and to be able to implement treatment quickly.


If you are not sure if your pet has eaten something poisonous, but have reason to suspect he or she may have, telephone the vet and bring the pet along. In some cases we will be able to make the animal sick, or even just monitor the animal, and treat symptoms as necessary


It is very difficult to determine what an animal might have been poisoned with without having the package. Many poisons have no specific treatment, and symptoms can be vague. These cases usually receive supportive treatment, often involving fluid therapy (a drip) and monitoring.


Some things are more toxic to dogs than people realise. Some of the things on this list will be obvious, but others are less so. Substances toxic to dogs (and cats) include

Slug pellets

Rat poison




Garlic (plants)


Ibuprofen (very dangerous in dogs and cats)

Some cat flea products can be very toxic to dogs and vice versa, so always read the label


This is not a comprehensive list, so if in doubt about something your animal has ingested, call your vet!



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