Pet First Aid for Dog Walkers and Pet Sitters
How to make a pet first aid kit and other essential first aid topics for pet care professionals
Having pet first aid training is essential for any pet sitting or dog walking business. Hopefully, you never need to use it, but you never know when it might come in handy. Also, having certifications in pet first aid techniques can add value to your company and help put your customers at ease.
We have put together a list of several crucial first aid topics that any pet sitter and dog walker should be familiar with. We highly recommend getting professional training and a certification to take your pet care game to the next level.
There is some basic information you should have for every pet that enters your care. Here is a quick checklist of what you should have before ever going on a dog walk or pet visit.
- Vet information: For every client, you should have a record and phone number for the veterinarian they use. You should also have the information for an emergency vet clinic in your area available to be immediately accessed. Many veterinarians partner with an emergency clinic that they can recommend if they don’t offer the service themselves. It can often be overlooked but you should be sure this information is accurate too.
- Health and vaccine information: Make sure your clients give you detailed health information for their pets. It’s important to know if they have any particular health concerns that you need to be aware of, like injuries, allergies, or ailments. It is also a good idea to have a complete vaccine record in case you ever need to show proof or take the pet to a veterinary care clinic. If you are using Time To Pet, we have a feature for tracking pet vaccination records.
- Poison Control: The Animal Poison Control Center has information on which plants, foods, and household products are dangerous for pets. Become familiar with their website and phone number. Animal Poison Control Center: 888-4ANI-HELP (888-426-4435) — https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control
- Pet First Aid Kit: Having a kit of essential supplies readily available is a must. Below, we’ll give you some ideas of what this kit should include.
- First Aid Knowledge: Become familiar with first aid techniques such as CPR, wound treatment, insect or animal bites, and identifying heat stroke or poisoning. PetProHero is a great online course for pet first aid training.
- Tick Removal: In some areas, ticks are a major issue for pets. Learn how to remove a tick from pets safely.
- Disaster Preparedness: Know what to do in the event of a tornado, hurricane, flood, fire, or earthquake.
Pet First Aid Kit
Here is a list of a few necessary items to include in your pet first aid kit. This will definitely vary based on your location and the types of pets you service.
- Water bowl
- Disposable gloves
- Ice pack
- Scissors with a blunt end
- Self-cling bandage
- Absorbent gauze pads, adhesive tape, antiseptic wipes
- Cotton balls or swabs
- Mylar blanket — Useful on hikes, see Arden Moore's Mutt-Gyver™ for more uses
- Ikea Bag — A lightweight, plastic blue IKEA bag is durable enough to transport a pet
- Harm-free soap
- Hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting — check with a veterinarian or poison control expert before administering
- Isopropyl alcohol
- Saline eye solution
- OTC antibiotic ointment
- Phone number and address of veterinarian and local veterinary emergency clinics.
Heatstroke can be incredibly harmful to pets, especially dogs, which are more likely to be left outside for extended periods or in a hot car. If not treated immediately, heatstroke can cause long term damage to a pet’s organs or even lead to death in extreme circumstances.
Pets are unable to regulate their body temperature’s the way that humans do, so keep an eye out for the early signs of heatstroke. Also, make sure that if a pet is going to be outside for a longer duration of time on a hot day, they have plenty of access to water and shade. Never leave an animal alone in a car on a hot day, even if it’s only for a few minutes—cars can heat up incredibly fast in the sun.
If an animal is experiencing heatstroke, you must immediately safely reduce its body temperature. This can be done by pouring cool water over your pet or applying cool, wet towels. Don’t use ice water, as it might cause your pet to go into shock. If the pet doesn’t seem to be cooling down, take it to a veterinarian immediately.
For more information about heatstroke and how to treat it, take a look at this article from VCA Hospitals.
Water intoxication, or water poisoning, is not often talked about, but it can be deadly if not caught early and treated. It occurs when a pet drinks an excessive amount of water rapidly and overwhelms their body by depleting sodium, causing organs to bloat and eventually shut down. It is important to know the symptoms of water intoxication and how to treat it. This is especially crucial on hot days, and for pet care providers that offer hiking and swimming as one of their services.
The symptoms of water intoxication are lethargy, bloating, vomiting, loss of coordination, restlessness, drooling, pale gums, dilated pupils, and glazed eyes. Since water intoxication can happen suddenly, the best treatment is prevention. Keep a close eye on swimming dogs to see if they are taking in too much water. Likewise, keep an eye on how much water pets are drinking on hot days. For milder cases, you can help a pet replenish sodium by giving them electrolytes. If symptoms do not improve, take the pet to a veterinarian. For severe cases, take them to the emergency vet immediately.
Pet poisoning is often caused by household items, food, or plants. Keep a close eye on pets when you are in unfamiliar settings. Pets have the habit of eating first and asking questions later, so be mindful when out on walks or in a home other than your own.
Take some time to familiarize yourself with the foods, plants, and household items that are hazardous to pets. The ASPCA has a lot of great resources on their website. If you think a pet is experiencing poisoning, take them to the vet immediately. If their vet is unavailable, take them to an emergency veterinary clinic or call the Animal Poison Control Center.
- Animal Poison Control Center: 888-4ANI-HELP (888-426-4435) — https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control
Keep an eye out for the indications that a pet might be choking. They will often be in a state of panic, trying to paw at their mouth or coughing excessively. The pet could also be unconscious, in which case, immediately open their mouth to see if anything is obstructing their airway. If the pet is still conscious and choking, be very careful when getting near its mouth. A panicking animal might bite you, even if it has never bitten or shown signs of aggression before.
If you feel comfortable approaching the animal's mouth, open it with both hands and use your fingers in a sweeping motion towards the back of the mouth. If you are unable to remove the obstruction or cannot see anything, you can attempt a Heimlich maneuver or seek out immediate veterinary care.
An animal can go into shock if they are experiencing blood loss or have received a sudden injury. It can occur even if an injury doesn't seem serious. The symptoms of shock can be a rapid heartbeat, shallow breathing, low body temperature, and pale or white gums if the pet is being deprived of oxygen.
To treat shock, remain calm and try to prevent the animal from moving around too much. Try to lay the pet on its right side and make sure the airway is clear. If there is bleeding, take care of that first. Once any injury has been addressed, gently wrap the pet in a towel or blanket to conserve body heat and keep them calm. If the situation doesn't seem to be improving or if the injury is severe, seek veterinary help immediately.
Seizures in pets are most commonly caused by idiopathic epilepsy, liver disease, kidney failure, brain tumors, brain trauma, or ingesting toxins/poisons. While seizures look scary, they often cause longterm damage. The most important thing is to stay calm and keep the pet from harming themselves on anything that could dangerous, like a sharp corner or falling off something. Try not to move the animal unless necessary.
Most seizures only last for a short amount of time. If it continues for more than several minutes, veterinarian help should be sought immediately. Once the seizure is over, and the pet has calmed down, contact the owner and arrange for a vet visit.
If a pet is bitten, scratched, or cut and experiencing blood loss, you will want to muzzle the pet, and apply a thick, clean gauze to the affected area. Hold the dressing down for several minutes to ensure that the blood begins to clot. Depending on the severity of the wound, you may need to seek immediate veterinary care.
If you live in a wooded area or spend a lot of time taking care of pets outside, it’s a good idea to perform regular tick checks on the animals you care for. The Humane Society has an easy to follow guide for taking care of ticks:
- The first step is to perform a scan over the pet’s body. Use your hands to check for any bumps or swelling gently.
- Ticks come in many varieties, so become familiar with the ticks in your area to make the proper identifications.
- While wearing gloves, use a pair of tweezers or a tick remover(is it okay to link to a product?) to pull the tick straight out. Don’t try to twist the tick because it might leave its mouth or head embedded in your pet. If you are unable to remove the full tick, you should take the pet to a veterinarian.
- Clean the bite area with antiseptic. Make sure to take note of the type of tick and let the owner know so that they can keep an eye out for any sign of symptoms or infection.
- Keep your pets safe from future tick bites by checking them often and using a flea and tick prevention products.
CPR and First Aid Certifications
Getting certified in pet CPR and first aid will make you a better pet care provider and also offer peace of mind to your clients. You can talk to your veterinarian to find a local class or training. There are also a few online certifications available through the American Red Cross and PetTech.
Have a plan ready for fires, tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes, and other emergencies—especially important for overnight pet sitting in disaster-prone areas. Make sure all your clients have their pets microchipped and always wearing a collar with an ID tag or phone number embroidered.
It is also a good idea to have a plan in place for how pets will be transported in the occurrence of a disaster or emergency. Ask clients if they keep a crate or car harness in their home. For example, many cat owners keep a bag or carrier in their garage or basement. Dog owners usually keep a folded dog crate somewhere.
For more helpful information, take a look at American Humane’s Pet Disaster Preparedness fact sheet.
When your business involves taking care of someone’s furry baby or best friend, you can never be too safe! Take the time to educate yourself on your staff on first aid topics. Your clients will appreciate it and feel better, leaving their precious pets in your hands. Having a reliable and responsible pet care ethos is always the best practice. It’s also great for your pet company’s reputation. Happy pet owners will be much more likely to spread your name to their friends if they know you are a trustworthy pet sitter or dog walker!
Accidents do happen, unfortunately, no matter how well you prepare. Make sure you are fully bonded and insured. Check out Time To Pet’s Definitive Guide to Pet Sitting Insurance for more great info on the subject.