Use this guide to help prevent incidents with your pets and be prepared if and when a problem strikes.

By Caren Oppenheim

Just like kids, dogs and cats are prone to accidents. "It's so important not to panic when your pet is hurt," says Ines de Pablo, chief officer of Wag'N Enterprises, specialists in pet emergency management. "Having the right tools on hand and enough knowledge about how to help before you can get to the vet is crucial." Our guide shows you how to prevent incidents and be prepared if and when a problem strikes.

Track Your Pet's Health

De Pablo suggests performing a health assessment on a weekly basis so you can catch a small issue before it becomes something major. Keep your pet safe by doing the following:

  • Rub your pet's fur to feel for any abnormal bumps, cuts, or lumps.
  • Look in your animal's mouth and on his tongue for any swelling, discoloration, or other abnormalities.
  • Monitor changes in eating or drinking habits as well as urination and defecation and be sure to keep a record for your veterinarian.
  • Write down ongoing health problems. If something changes, call the vet.

Pet First Aid 101

Learning standard first-aid skills means you'll be able to help your pet when a crisis arises. Here are the essentials.

  • You should know how to slow down bleeding by applying direct force to basic pressure points, and how to bandage an injured limb. Learn what you need to do for an injury at
  • Familiarize yourself with which foods, plants, and household items are dangerous if ingested and the symptoms they cause. Go to for a list.
  • Visit to find animal first-aid courses offered in your neighborhood or check with your local Red Cross chapter.

Pet First-Aid Kit Essentials

  • Vet wrap (a nonstick bandage that bonds to itself—Band-Aids won't adhere to your pet)
  • Gauze
  • Tweezers
  • Triangular bandage (to use like a bandanna to carry an injured pet)
  • Ice pack
  • Thermal blanket
  • Styptic powder (stops bleeding)
  • Latex gloves

Buy: The Skinny Mayday Pet First Aid Kit,, $19. For every kit purchased, $1 will be donated to the Morris Animal Foundation's Canine Cancer Campaign.

Conditions That Require Immediate Medical Attention

Ines de Pablo, chief officer of Wag'N Enterprises, lists the following situations as those requiring emergency veterinary care:

Head, chest, or abdomen trauma

A prolonged or first seizure

Arterial bleeding


Animal, chemical, and environmental poisoning


Respiratory distress

A sudden inability to walk



Smoke inhalation

Nose bleeds


Spinal cord and neck injuries


Blunt trauma from a car accident

Heat stroke



A protruding eye injury

A loss of pulse after administering CPR

Choking scenarios

Bloody urine or stool

Facial swelling


Originally published in the July 2010 issue of Family Circle magazine.