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What to do in an emergency

Emergencies normally happen when you are least expecting them. Knowing what to do and what not to do can make a difference to saving your pet’s life.

Road traffic accident

Here are some simple guidelines on what to do if your pet has been hit by a car:

  • Try not to panic. Make sure the accident scene is safe before proceeding to prevent further injury to you or your pet.
  • Phone your regular daytime practice — if it is outside the usual Oakhill surgery hours, there will be information directing you to the emergency service, which may be based at a different location. It is important to phone ahead to ensure the vet and team will be prepared for your arrival and available to see you as soon as possible.
  • Your vet may ask questions such as how the dog was hit, what area of the body appears to be affected and how he is responding now. The vet may give you some advice as to how to deal with any injuries and how to prepare your dog to take them to the veterinary clinic.
  • Keep everyone calm, this will help to keep your pet calm.
  • Be aware that injured animals will be scared and in pain. They may scratch or bite so handle them with care. Dogs in pain or shock can bite especially when frightened so an emergency muzzle can be made with some bandage or tape to loop over the dog’s nose before transporting or handling. Only use a muzzle IF the animal is not having breathing difficulties.
  • Keep your pet warm by wrapping them in a blanket, keeping the nose and mouth exposed and carefully transport them directly to your nearest vet.
  • The most common injuries following road traffic accidents are cuts, scrapes, and broken bones. We also see head trauma (concussion) and internal injuries including internal bleeding.
  • If you think there may be broken bones, keep your pet as still as possible and place them on a hard move-able surface such as a piece of wooden board covered with a blanket or the parcel shelf from your car.
  • Cover any wounds with a clean cloth and apply gentle pressure to stop any bleeding.
  • If your pet is having trouble breathing, maintain an open airway by removing the collar, open the mouth and check for any obstructions.
  • Do not give any medications or food or drink.

Foreign bodies

Most dogs, especially puppies, will occasionally swallow something they shouldn’t. Some objects may be small enough to pass through their system without causing any problems but others may get stuck and your dog could become seriously ill quite quickly.

Treatment may be needed if your dog eats a foreign body so please contact your vet as soon as possible.

Fruit stones, corn on the cob, bones, stones, small toys, bouncy balls, golf balls, babies’ dummies, rubber ducks, coins and fridge magnets all pose a risk to dogs. These objects can cause a physical obstruction due to their size and shape, normally at the outflow of the stomach or in the small intestine. If the foreign object is chewed up, the sharp edges of plastic or bone can pierce the intestine, causing peritonitis (an infection in the abdomen).

Socks, pants, needles and thread and other materials can cause a physical obstruction if they ball up, or can unravel and cause a linear foreign body that can lead to the small intestine bunching up and being cut through like cheese wire.

If you can see thread, string, or another form of cord hanging from your dog’s mouth or bottom, do not pull it or cut it. Doing so may cause injury and make it more difficult for us to treat your dog.

If left untreated, swallowing a foreign body can be fatal for your dog.


Note: If a joint or paw is bruised and swollen, do not follow these guidelines – there may be deeper injuries and you should consult us immediately.

  1. If the wound is dirty, clean with warm salt water (1 teaspoon of salt in 1 pint of water).
  2. Use a soft cloth or towel to clean the injury; avoid cotton wool and other loose-fibered materials, as the threads often stick to the wound.
  3. Apply a cold compress, such as a bag of frozen vegetables or even just a cold, wet towel. Keep it in place for a few minutes.
  4. Bandage the wound to keep the dog from licking it.
  5. Call your vet for further advice, describing the injury and, if you know, what caused it.

Bandages need to be changed every day until the wound heals and you should ensure the bandage remains dry. If you notice any purulent (puss-like) discharge, swelling, redness of the wound or an unpleasant smell coming from the bandages when you change them, contact your vet immediately.

Cat or dog bite wounds and puncture wounds

Cats and dogs have lots of bacteria in their mouths and as a result wounds following a bite are more likely to become infected and you should consult your vet.

Puncture wounds are extremely varied: From small splinters and grass awns that break the skin to stick injuries and gunshot wounds. They almost always get infected, leading to severe problems under the skin even when everything looks fine from the outside so we would advise you consult your vet.

Only bandage a puncture wound if it is in the chest, if it is bleeding profusely, or if there’s still an object lodged in the animal’s body.

Do not wash puncture wounds to the chest or abdomen, seek veterinary advice.

Major injuries

If your dog or cat is unlucky enough to suffer a serious injury resulting in a large bleeding wound you will need to contact your local vet as soon as possible. With any bleeding wound the main aim of first aid is to prevent excessive blood loss that can lead to shock.

If possible, cover the wound with a clean cloth, sterile dressing, nappy or sanitary pad. Place your hand over the dressing and apply pressure. If blood soaks through the dressing apply more dressing material and continue to apply pressure. Do not remove the first dressing, as you will disturb any clot that is beginning to form. If you can, bandage the dressing in place while you transport your dog or cat to the vet. If you cannot bandage in place, try to keep some pressure on the wound with your hand.

Wounds over the chest or abdomen

If the wound is on your dog or cat’s chest and a “sucking” noise can be heard, you should attempt to bandage the wound with cling film or other similar material, tightly enough to keep air from entering the wound and transport your pet immediately to the vet. If there is a protruding object, such as a stick, DO NOT attempt to remove the object. If the object is large, you can cut the object leaving about two inches (five centimetres) from the body and then if necessary place a dressing around the object to control bleeding.

If the abdomen is punctured and internal organs are exposed, do not let your dog or cat dog lick at them. Wash the exposed organs immediately in clean, warm water if you can. Use a warm, damp sheet to wrap your pet’s abdomen and take them to a vet urgently.


Seizures occur as a result of abnormal electrical activity in the brain.

They cause your pet’s muscles to contract and relax rapidly. Although they are not immediately life threatening, your dog will lose control of their body, which can be frightening. Prolonged seizures can be deadly.

No two seizures look the same but you may see your pet start to tremble, his eyes glaze over, he may fall or lie down and start to jerk violently. You may also see focal twitching, champing of the jaw and drooling and your dog may pass urine or faeces.

After the seizure, your pet may be disoriented and can appear blind for some time — this is called the “post-ictal” period. This shouldn’t last for more than two hours. In recurring cases, you may spot subtle changes in your pet’s behaviour before a seizure — called the “pre-ictal” period).

Treatment may be needed if your dog suffers a seizure for a prolonged period or repeatedly, so please contact us as soon as possible.