First Aid and CPR for Your Pet

By: Dr. Jim Earley

A First Aid Kit, one especially for pets, is something every pet owner should have available at home and when traveling. First Aid should never be a substitute for veterinary care, but is meant to be a means to treat your furry family member until veterinary care can be obtained. First aid kits for pets can be homemade or purchased. In this article, I will provide a list of some basic first aid kit supplies. In writing this article I found several good references on the web for basic emergencies and poisonings as well as resources to help until you can get your pet to a veterinarian. They are listed at the end of this article.

The following is basic information that may help you in an emergency:

  1. Always have the phone number for your veterinarian easily accessible: 828-253-3393. Call us immediately. 
  2. Always have the number of your closest veterinary emergency clinic to be used if Animal Hospital of North Asheville is closed. In the event that you do not already have this number, you will get the number for REACH when you call during a time that we are not open. AHNA is open for emergency care Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM until 8:30 PM as well as on Saturday from 8:00AM until noon and Saturday and Sunday at 4:00 PM. On Tuesday from Noon until 2:30, our doors will be locked because we are in meetings, but you should come directly to the hospital and ring the bell for emergency care. You will receive immediate assistance. Many animal hospitals do not have a doctor on the premises at all times that the hospital is open, but AHNA does. If possible, always call before coming with an emergency so that our emergency team can make special preparations. Emergencies are always given top priority at AHNA! 
  3. Always have the number for the ASPCA Poison Control Center: 1-888-426-4435. There is a fee for this service, but with the largest database of poisons in the country, they can be a very valuable resource for you and your veterinarian to treat your loved one. They aid with information as to how toxic a substance is, how to treat, recommended follow up testing and what to expect following ingestion of a toxin. We use the ASPCA Poison Control Center often when a pet eats medication prescribed for someone else in the family.
  4. Your Pet First Aid Kit should include:
  • Roll gauze to secure bandages or make a muzzle if pet is injured - the most gentle pet may bite if in pain so please be careful!
  • Scissors
  • 4x4 pads to apply for immediate pressure to bleeding wounds
  • 4x4 non-stick dressings to apply to an open wound that is not bleeding
  • Adhesive tape
  • Triple antibiotic ointment
  • 3% Hydrogen peroxide Do not apply to wounds or skin irritations in dogs or cats or use in cats in any way. In an emergency diluted hydrogen peroxide can, after communication with and instruction from a veterinarian, be used to induce vomiting in dogs. Never give hydrogen peroxide to a cat and do not administer without first consulting a veterinarian either at an emergency clinic or your primary veterinarian.  Hydogen peroxide can cause serious complications if used incorrectly!
  • Activated charcoal can often be used after pets vomit to absorb and bind toxins but would be used only after communication with a veterinarian
  • Digital thermometer to be used rectally to determine if your pet has a fever or is suffering from heat stroke. Most pets feel hot even if they do not have a fever because normal temperature for a dog or cat is in the range of 100-102.7, which is much higher than ours is.
  • Bottled water can be lifesaving if you are traveling and your pet overheats. Always have some with you when traveling with your pet. Offer the water to drink or if your pet is overheated and unconscious, apply the water to the coat to cool the pet as you drive to emergency care. 

This is a basic kit. Some kits may have more contents but this will help in
most basic emergencies.

Basic CPR:

  1. The first rule of CPR is to secure an airway.
  2. Make sure your pet is breathing. If not, open your pet’s mouth by holding across the top of the muzzle and pull the lower jaw down with your other hand.
  3. Perform a quick finger sweep through the back of their mouth to ensure the airway is clear.
  4. Close their mouth and cup 1 hand around the muzzle closing mouth and the other over the nose and perform 2 quick breaths breathing in just enough to see the chest rise and fall then continue breathing every 4-5 seconds.

Dr Earleyʼs dog, Dulé, (pictured below) volunteered for demonstrations

Chest compressions:
Lay your pet on his or her right side. The heart will be just behind the elbow. Place one hand under the chest to stabilize and the other on top to perform compressions.

*In small dogs and cats compressions can be performed with 1 hand by gently squeezing the chest with thumb on 1 side and rest of fingers on the other. Rate should be 100-150 compressions per minute

*Medium dogs compress about 1 inch and large dogs just a little more rate 100-120 compressions per minute.

Dr Earleyʼs dog, Aimish, graciously allowed us to use his demonstration service (pictured)

The compressions can be stopped for 4-5 seconds to take a breath, and then resume. CPR is best performed as a team so as to allow better and more regular breathing. As opposed to what you see on TV shows with humans, CPR has a very low rate of success. Your pet should be transported to your veterinarian as quickly as possible.

Below are a few web sites that you may find helpful in learning additional basic first aid information:

  1. How to Make a Pet First Aid Kit
  2., Enter First Aid in the search box
  3. Poisonous Plants of North Carolina

All of us at Animal Hospital of North Asheville hope that you never have a need for a first aid kit, but it is always best to be prepared!


Good to know about the hydrogen peroxide. I have been advised to use it to induce vomiting by veterinarians in the past, but never warned to dilute it. I have had to use it several times with my dog Riley, who snatches many things he is not supposed to have! What is the dilution ratio?

I believe a lot of your patients (2 legged) would be interested in taking a first aid class if offered by AHNA, even if it was a paid class.

I will present your idea to the doctors. Thanks so much :)