If you've always wanted to take a pet first-aid course, read our expert advice and then find details of local courses below.
Meet our experts
- Emma Farrell is an International Technical Advisor for VetPlus
- Jenny Philp is a veterinary surgeon and Managing Director for Pets’ Kitchen Ltd
Q What are the most common accidents for cats and dogs?
“Cats often get into fights which can lead to abscesses or puncture wounds,” says Jenny Philp, veterinary surgeon and Managing Director for Pets’ Kitchen Ltd. “Dogs are much more accident prone, in particular when it comes to eating things that they shouldn’t – dead animals, chocolate or their owner’s tablet! Another common accident for dogs is catching or ripping off new claws and overgrown nails.”
It’s also possible for dogs to hurt their mouths and throats on sticks that are thrown for them, so it’s recommended that owners use safe toys designed for pets when out and about.
Q Are there any common pet problems that can be treated at home?
“If your pet has sickness or diarrhoea but seems well in itself, offer them a bland diet and monitor them for 24 hours,” says Jenny. “But if they seem unwell, are unable to keep water down or their condition hasn’t improved after 24 hours they will need to be checked over.”
Q What should I do if my pet seems to be overheating?
“If your pet is showing signs of heat stress – excessive panting and salivating, weakness or collapsing – then you need to get them to your nearest vet immediately,” says Emma. “If they seem well enough in themselves but you’d like to cool them down, pop a wet towel over bigger animals and open the windows,” says Jenny.
“Smaller animals can be more tricky to keep cool, so try to ventilate the room with a fan while spraying fine water mist over them.” Avoid getting water in your pet’s eyes .
Q What should I do if I suspect my pet has a broken leg?
“Call ahead to your vet surgery to help the team prepare for your arrival,” says Emma Farrell, International Technical Advisor for VetPlus. “As your pet is likely to be distressed and sore, it’s best to hold them gently to support them and the affected leg, taking care not to touch the broken leg. Even the gentlest animals can become aggressive when in pain, so use your common sense to avoid a bite.
“Giving them your painkillers is not a good idea, as many human drugs can be toxic to animals.”
Q What should I do if my dog is attacked?
“Don’t let yourself get injured as well,” says Jenny. “A good tip to break up a fight is to throw water over the dogs, which will stun them and give you a few seconds to separate them.“Get the contact details of the other dog’s owner if possible, in case of insurance claims,” says Emma, “then take your dog to the vet as soon as possible. Even if there appears to be no obvious bite wounds, these can be hidden (particularly in thick-coated breeds) or there could even be internal injuries.”
Q What should I do if my dog is choking?
“Small dogs can be picked up directly underneath their chest, as this forces air into their airways,” says Jenny. “For larger dogs, stand over them placing a hand either side of their chest and clap once. Then take them to the vet to be checked over immediately.”
Q What should I do if my pet has eaten something toxic?
“Seek advice from your vet over the phone as soon as possible,” says Jenny. “If it’s appropriate to make the animal sick, this must be done within one hour to be effective.” If you have to take your pet to the surgery, try to take a sample (or even the packaging) from whatever it has eaten to show to the vet.
Q What if I find it difficult to get to the vet?
“Speak to your vet before any problems arise, so you know what to do in an emergency,” says Emma. “They may be able to offer home visits, or have details of a local pet ambulance or taxi service that can take you to the surgery if needed.”
Q What’s the most useful first aid skill to learn?
“As a general rule, the most important thing for you to do is to stay calm, and encourage your pet to do the same,” says Emma. “Animals look to us for guidance, and if we seem relaxed and calm they will respond to this.”
What should be in a pet first-aid kit?
- Sterile saline wash – useful for flushing out minor wounds and for washing out their eyes if they have debris or smoke in them.
- Water – if you’re taking your dog out, make sure to pack water for rehydration, soothing burns, washing off toxins, soaking a paw or cooling them down.
- Bandages – gauze material can be used to help control bleeding and keep wounds clean until they can be treated by the vet.
- Blanket/towel – use to keep your pet warm and combat shock.
- Non-latex disposable gloves – wear while dealing with an injury to reduce contamination.
- Tweezers – useful for removing thorns from paws.
- Medications – if your pet is on regular medication, it’s wise to keep a small amount in a first aid box.
- Contact details for your local vet – so you can call them in the event of an emergency or for some advice.
Find a pet first-aid course
For details of classes and courses near you, visit the Pet First Aid website