Helping an Injured Animal

Helping an Injured AnimalHelping an Injured Animal

It is very possible that during the course of your animalís lifetime, he or she may be injured and in need of help. You may also encounter a stray animal who is hurt. When such a situation arises, being well informed is vital. You may want to assist the pet, but, unfortunately, many people don't know what to do.
NOTE: The information provided here is very basic. Even though first aid is temporary, it can be very complex. In all cases of injury, it is important that a veterinarian's care and advice is obtained as soon as possible.

Be Prepared

These items will come in handy in your vehicle or home:
  • phone numbers and addresses of veterinarians, emergency clinics, animals shelters, or an animal rescue service
  • a blanket (for shock or moving large animals)
  • clean towels (various uses)
  • heavy gloves (protection against bites and scratches)
  • gauze rolls and pads, tape (for bandaging)
  • small rope, strong string, or leash (for muzzling)

If You Find An Injured Animal

Approaching the Animal. An animal that has been injured may be frightened and could bite or scratch. Therefore, be cautious when handling an animal in pain. Move slowly and talk to the animal reassuringly. If you feel that you are in danger of being hurt, try to contact an animal shelter or veterinarian for assistance. If this is not possible, try to find someone to assist you.
Handling the Animal. For a small dog or cat who is biting or scratching, wear protective gloves and/or wrap the animal in a thick towel or blanket. In some cases, a muzzle may be required. A muzzle is a temporary means of restraint to prevent biting. Using a small rope, belt, or leash, tie a slip knot leaving a large loop. Hold the ends, gently draping the loop around the upper and lower jaw. Pull the knot firmly. Be sure that whatever you use to make the muzzle is long enough to tie again under the jaw and then to carry the free ends below the ears and behind the head. The ends should then be tied firmly with a knot that will not slip. CAUTION: DO NOT MUZZLE AN ANIMAL THAT IS CHOKING OR HAVING TROUBLE BREATHING. WHEN USING ANY OF THESE METHODS, MAKE SURE THE ANIMAL CAN BREATHE.
Moving the animal. If it is necessary to move the animal, do so with caution and care so as not to cause further injury to the animal and to protect yourself. A small animal may be placed in a box if available, or wrapped in a towel or blanket. A larger animal may be carefully placed onto a flat board or blanket by first lifting the hind end and sliding the board or blanket under, then repeating with the front end. If these are not available, lift the animals by the torso, not the legs. If you have access to a vehicle, proceed immediately to the nearest veterinarian, emergency clinic, or animal shelter.

If The Animal Is In Shock

Signs of shock include: pale gums, rapid heart and respiratory rate, lowered body temperature, inactivity, and rapid and faint pulse.
Shock is the partial or complete collapse of the blood vessels that supply oxygen to the body's vital organs. Time is crucial in this situation. Any injured animal may be overcome by shock. Cover the animal with a blanket to preserve body heat and be sure the animal can breathe. Transport the animal to a veterinarian immediately.

Bleeding, Open Wounds

Signs include: excessive bleeding, cuts, abrasions, gashes.
Open wounds and bleeding must be attended to immediately. You must first attempt to stop the bleeding. This can be done by applying direct pressure with a clean towel or bandage to the bleeding area. A bandage should then be applied and a veterinarian should be consulted immediately. The use of tourniquets can result in the loss of body parts--or even life--if used incorrectly or inappropriately.


Signs of heatstroke include: excessive panting, reddened gums, a blank or anxious stare, or sudden collapse.
When an animal suffers from heatstroke, brain damage or death can occur in a matter of minutes. Body temperature must be brought down Immediately. Wet the animal, or, if possible, immerse the animal in cool (never cold or ice) water. Continue until panting subsides. Even if the animal appears to recover, it is important to bring the animal to the veterinarian as soon as possible.

Other injuries

Treatment for other injuries such as burns, poisoning, choking, vomiting, cardiac arrest, etc., may be very involved and complicated. A veterinarian should be consulted immediately. For more information about emergency care, or a list of animal shelters or emergency clinics, please contact The Anti-Cruelty Society.

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