Do you know what to do in a pet emergency?  Sometime in the course of your life together you’ll probably be faced with one of the six common pet emergencies.  Here are some helpful tips from the American Red Cross to help you out:


* To determine if your cat or dog is dehydrated, pull up on the skin between the shoulder blades. It should spring right back; if it stays tented this is a sign of dehydration.

Pet Poisoning:

* Signs of pet poisoning include bleeding externally or internally, dilated pupils, drooling or foaming at the mouth, seizures or other abnormal mental state or behavior.  Call ASPCA Poison Control Center 1-888-4-ANI- Help or 1-888-426-4435 or the National Animal Poison Control Center 1-800-548-2423.


* If your pet has a seizure, make sure it is in a safe place, but do not restrain the animal. Keep your hands away from its mouth as your pet may not know who you are during a seizure and could bite you.

Heat Stroke:

* Signs of heat stroke or heat exhaustion include collapse; body temperature of 104 degrees F or above; bloody diarrhea or vomiting; wobbliness; excessive panting or difficulty breathing; increase heart rate; mucous membranes very red; and increased salivation.  Here’s more information on our Blog on Summer Safety Tips including heat stroke.


*Pets bitten by other animals need vet attention to prevent the wound (even if minor) from becoming infected and to check for internal wounds. Never break up a dogfight yourself because you could be bitten.


*If your pet is bleeding, apply direct pressure using gauze over the bleeding site. If blood soaks through, apply more gauze (do not removed soaked gauze) until you can reach a veterinary hospital.

So What’s Normal?

Normal Pulse:


<30 lbs 100-160 beats/minute

>30 lbs 60-100 beats/minute

Cat: 160-220 beats/minute

Normal Breathing Rates:

Dog: 10-30 breaths/minute; up to 200 pants/minute

Cat: 20-30 breaths/minute; up to 300 pants/minute

Normal Rectal Temperature:

Dog: 100.2 – 102.8 F

Cat: 100.5-102.5 F

Capillary Refill:

By observing the color of your pet’s mucous membrane, you can determine if enough oxygen is making it into the animal’s blood stream.  Capillary refill is the time it takes gums or inner lips to return to their normal pink color after you briefly press them.  After checking the animal’s mucous membrane color, press lightly on the gums or inner lip. Observe color as it turns white and then pink again.  Original color should return in one to three seconds.  Blue, pale, yellow, white, brick red or brown mucous membrane colors are an emergency.

Here’s a helpful infographic from DVMmulimedia.

First AID Tips

You may also want to create your own pet first aid kit:  Here’s what should be in it according to the American Red Cross.

Latex gloves

Gauze Sponges

Roll Gauze – 2 inch wide

Roll bandages – gauze wrap that stretches and clings is helpful

Material to make a splint – pieces of wood, newspaper and sticks

Adhesive Tape, hypo-allergenic

Non-adhesive sterile pads for dressings

Small scissors

Grooming clippers

Nylon leash (at least one per pet)


Muzzle – cage muzzle is ideal but a soft one may be more convenient to carry.  Fit one to your pet.

Compact thermal blanket

Pediatric rectal thermometer

Water-based sterile lubricant

Three percent hydrogen peroxide – watch expiration date

Rubbing alcohol (isopropyl)

Over-the-counter topical antibiotic ointment

Epsom salts

Baby dose syringe or plastic eye dropper

Sterile eye lubricant

Sterile saline eye wash

Diphenhydramine* – dosage for your pet’s size (small dogs/cats under 30lbs – 10mg, med dogs 30-50 lb 25 mg, large dogs 50 + lbs 50 mg

Glucose paste or corn syrup

Styptic power or pencil

Expired credit card to scrape away stingers

List of emergency numbers including your pet’s veterinarian, an after hours hospital and National Animal Poison Control (1-800-548-2423 or 1-900 680-0000)

Petroleum jelly


Clean cloth

Needle nose pliers

Tick remover

*check with your veterinarian in advance.