by Johna Gagnon, M.Ed., Licensed Certified PetTech Instructor

April is Pet First Aid Awareness Month. Pet owners, including parents of dogs, aren’t always knowledgeable about what to do if their loved one needs medical intervention right away. As with humans, first aid for pets is the immediate care given after an injury or sudden illness. What you do, or don’t do, in the first moments can often be the difference between life and death. “1 of 4 pets would survive if just 1 pet first aid technique was used prior to seeking emergency care,” according to the American Animal Hospital Association.

This is a good time to check your home and yard, or wherever you walk your dog, for hazards. Pets are surrounded by potential objects that can cause harm or injury. Pet proof your dog’s living space if you can; preventing accidents for your pup is just as crucial as it is for humans. As Thom Somes, The Pet Safety Guy™, says, “Preventable accidents are the leading cause of death and disability among pre-senior dogs and cats.”

This is a good time to make sure you have the knowledge and skills you need to care for your furry friend, should an accident or illness occur. Commit to learning about pet first aid as soon as possible. For many people, it’s not an interesting topic, but that changes when their dog or cat suddenly chokes on a toy, is hit by a car, suffers a near-drowning accident, or ingests one of the many pet toxins found in the average home. Thankfully, the odds are that these things won’t happen. But anybody whose dog or cat has suffered a life-threatening accident no longer cares about odds. Learning first aid not only can save your companion’s life in an emergency, but also will make you a more relaxed and confident pet parent or pet guardian. Sign up for a local first aid training course with private companies offering PetTech or PetPrep. You’ll want to take a class that offers hands-on training in bleeding protocol, choking management, CPR, rescue breathing, as well as education on fractures, shock, seizures, poisoning, insect bites/stings, heat/cold injuries, and assessing pet vitals.

Have a plan and a first aid kit. Preparing yourself for an emergency is a lot less daunting than it may seem. Set aside a day in your life for your pet’s sake. We don’t like to think about needing this until a scary incident comes up. Keep important phone numbers easily available, like on the refrigerator and in your cell phone, so you can find them quickly in an emergency. You’ll need the business number and after-hours emergency number for your veterinarian. Also, the number of a reliable friend who can help in a pet emergency. The ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center hotline (there may be a $65 fee) is a great 24-hour resource. You can buy a pet first aid kit or you can easily make one. Putting together a pet first aid kit is similar to the human version. Include gauze pads and rolls, tweezers, eyedropper, plastic syringe, clean towels, blanket, splint supplies, and anything else that might help the wellbeing of your furry friend. Put everything in individual plastic bags that could be used to collect samples needed for the veterinarian. Include a muzzle (store bought or makeshift from a necktie, strip of cloth, etc.) in case your pet lashes out in fear and pain. This will keep you safe while handling the emergency. Keep your pet’s first aid kit in your home and take it with you when you travel with your pet.

Do you know what to do during a pet emergency? Can you determine what needs immediate action? Do you know what the common pet emergencies are and the signs or symptoms? Accidents occur at unlikely and random times, so it is important to always be ready. Pets are important to our families. April, Pet First Aid Awareness Month, is a perfect time to ensure you have the knowledge and skills to take care of your furry family member.

Johna Gagnon is a certified PetTech Instructor with Becky’s Pet Care, where she teaches courses such as PetSaver™ and Pet CPR & First Aid. You can learn more about pet first aid classes at