Did You Know April is National Pet First Aid Awareness Month?

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The purpose of this yearly event is to raise awareness about the importance of pet first aid and to educate pet owners about how to provide immediate care for their pets in case of emergency situations, such as choking, heatstroke, snake bites, toxic substance ingestion, and accidents. Pet mums and dads are taught how to recognise the signs of an emergency, what to do in case of an emergency, and how to use a pet first aid kit.

Pet-related organisations, veterinary clinics, and animal shelters often host events, workshops, and educational programs to provide pet owners with the tools and knowledge they need to effectively care for their pets in case of an emergency, check out what’s on in your local area and become a pet protector!

As a pet parent, being equipped with basic knowledge of pet first aid can go a long way in identifying signs of health issues in your furry friends while investing time in learning first aid can not only benefit your own pet, but also the pets in your community (did someone say neighbour of the year?)

Let’s jump right in and check out the 5 things you need to know about pet first aid for cats and dogs.

Keep a well-stocked pet first aid kit handy, it’s essential for providing immediate care for small injuries at home: Just like a human first aid kit, a pet first aid kit should include items such as:

  • Important numbers, such as your vet or emergency clinic
  • Tweezers for removing splinters or ticks
  • Blunt-end scissors for trimming hair or cutting bandages
  • A muzzle, spare collar, and leash to safely restrain your pet
  • a rectal thermometer to check your pet’s temperature
  • Adhesive bandages or tape to cover wounds
  • Latex gloves to protect yourself from blood or bodily fluids
  • Saline to wash out eyes or wounds
  • Keep the kit in an accessible place, such as your car or near your pet’s bed, and make sure that everyone in your household knows where it is and how to use it.


Know how to check your pet’s vital signs: It is important to know your pet’s normal heart rate, temperature, and respiration rate so that you can quickly determine if they are in distress. To check your pet’s heart rate, place your hand on the left side of their chest, near the elbow. To check their temperature, use a rectal thermometer (make sure it is well lubricated) and insert it about 1 inch into their rectum. The normal temperature for dogs and cats is between 38-39°C. To check respiration rate, count the number of breaths your pet takes in 15 seconds and multiply by 4.

Be prepared for choking: If your pet is choking, you can perform the Heimlich maneuver by standing behind your pet and placing your hands just below the ribcage. Apply firm upward pressure until the object is expelled or your pet can breathe.

Recognise the signs of heatstroke: Heatstroke is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition that can occur when your pet is overexposed to heat. Signs of heatstroke include heavy panting, rapid heartbeat, lethargy, vomiting, and a body temperature of over 40°C. If you suspect that your pet has heatstroke, immediately move them to a cool place, offer them water, and contact a veterinarian.

Know when to seek veterinary care: In any emergency situation, it is important to seek veterinary care as soon as possible. However, there are some specific situations in which immediate veterinary care is necessary, such as:

  • Heatstroke
  • Has been bitten by a snake, has ingested a toxic substance
  • Involved in a serious accident
  • Aren’t breathing or are having difficulty breathing
  • Are unresponsive
  • May have broken bones
  • Are having a fit/seizure that is not stopping
  • Have collapsed, have difficulty moving or coordinating movements
  • May have eaten something toxic
  • Appear to be in severe pain or discomfort
  • Try to urinate or defecate and are unable to
  • Are repeatedly vomiting or have diarrhea that is severe or bloodyIf you notice any of these signs in your pet, get emergency vet care right away. Quick action can make all the difference in a life-threatening situation.


We’ve given you some of the basic tools but there’s much, much more to learn – so don’t wait until it’s too late, equip yourself with the basics of pet first aid, and be prepared to act in any situation. Your furry BFF will thank you for it. Check out the Pet First Aid course by the Australian Red Cross here.

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