Pet First Aid for Dog Walkers and Pet Sitters

Michael Grenier
Michael Grenier February 22, 2024

How To Make A Pet First Aid Kit And Other Essential First Aid Topics For Pet Care Professionals - Updated For 2024!

While some pet care professionals might be former veterinarians or vet techs or have some medical training concerning animals, it is safe to say that most dog walkers and pet sitters do not have such experience. However, when you start a dog walking or pet sitting business and begin to take care of other people’s pets, it is imperative that you or multiple persons on your team have some familiarity with pet first aid and that you go through the necessary training. While the hope is that you will never need to put those skills to use, you never know when they might come in handy, and being able to tell your clientele that you have certifications in pet first aid techniques can add tremendous value to your business. Not to mention the reassurance that it will give your clients to know that their pets are in capable and knowledgeable hands in the case of an emergency.

We have compiled a list of several crucial first-aid topics for any dog walker or pet sitter to be familiar with. In addition, we highly recommend getting professional training and certification in pet first aid techniques like CPR in order to take you and your team’s pet care game to the next level.


Checklist Of Information You Should Have For Every Pet In Your Company’s Care

There is some basic information you should have for every pet that enters your care - information that can be vital when it comes to their health and well-being and may impact what actions you take in an emergency situation. Below, we have compiled a quick checklist of what you know about a pet before going on that first walk or visit with them:

  • Vet information: For every single one of your clients, you should be sure to have a name, street address, and phone number for the veterinarian they use. You should also have the information for an emergency vet clinic in your area on hand to be immediately accessed should the need arise. Many veterinarians partner with an emergency clinic that they can recommend if they don’t offer the service the pet in your care needs themselves, as well. This can often be overlooked, but you should prioritize having this information on file and periodically ensure that it is up-to-date and accurate to prevent any potential mishaps.
  • Health and vaccine information: Make sure your clients give you detailed health information about their pets. It’s important to know if they have any particular health concerns you need to be aware of, like injuries, allergies, ailments, or any chronic or ongoing conditions. You should also ensure they provide you with any relevant history as it applies to surgeries or recovered conditions and if it impacts their current care. It is also a good idea to have a complete record of all vaccinations a pet has 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 that can make tracking vaccines easy and help remind you and your clients of upcoming expiration dates.
  • 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. They can be reached by phone at 888-4ANI-HELP (888-426-4435), and their website is
  • Pet First Aid Kit:  A readily available kit of essential supplies 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 for pets, such as CPR, wound treatment, insect or animal bites, and identifying signs of heat stroke, hypothermia, frostbite, or water poisoning. PetProHero is an excellent resource with online courses to take for pet first aid training.
  • Tick Removal: Ticks can be a significant issue for pets in some areas. Learning how to remove a tick from pets safely is especially important if you offer services in such an area.
  • Disaster Preparedness: Know what to do in the event of a tornado, hurricane, flood, fire, or earthquake and what special care or precautions pets may require.

Pet First Aid Kit

Know what to do in the event of a tornado, hurricane, flood, fire, or earthquake and what special care or precautions pets may require.

  • Leash
  • Muzzle
  • Water bowl
  • Disposable gloves
  • Tweezers
  • Ice pack
  • Scissors with a blunt end
  • Self-clinging bandages
  • Absorbent gauze pads, adhesive tape, antiseptic wipes
  • Pet safe wipes
  • Cotton balls or swabs
  • Towels
  • Mylar blanket — Useful on hikes
  • Ikea Bag — A lightweight, plastic blue IKEA bag that 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
  • Flashlight
  • Phone number and address of veterinarian and local veterinary emergency clinics



Heatstroke can be incredibly harmful to pets, especially dogs, who 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 and can even lead to death in extreme circumstances.

Pets are not able to regulate their body temperatures the same way that people are, so it is imperative to keep a close eye on your pet during hotter weather. This way, you can catch the early telltale signs of heatstroke. While it is recommended that you limit the amount of time pets spend outside on scorching days, if they need to be out for longer durations, ensure that they have access to plenty of fresh water and shade. You should also endeavor to never leave a pet alone in a car when it’s hot outside, even if it’s only for a few minutes, as cars can heat up and become dangerous to a pet’s health incredibly quickly in the sun.

Some of the signs that a pet may be experiencing heatstroke are related to their gums, so it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on the state of a pet’s gums. If their gums are an abnormal color, dry, sticky, or if you spot any bruising, they may be experiencing heatstroke. Other symptoms include elevated breathing, lethargy, seizures, and disorientation.

If an animal is experiencing heatstroke, you must immediately (and safely) reduce their body temperature. This can be done by pouring cool water over your pet or by applying cool, wet towels to their bodies. Don’t use ice water, however, as it could cause your pet to go into shock. If the pet isn’t cooling down, you should immediately visit a veterinarian.

For more information about heatstroke and how to treat it, we recommend looking at this article from VCA Hospitals.

Water Intoxication

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 it of sodium, which causes their organs to bloat and eventually shut down. Knowing the symptoms of water intoxication and how to treat it is essential. This is especially crucial on hot days or for pet care providers that offer hiking or swimming as part 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’s onset can happen suddenly, the best case for treatment is prevention.

If you offer swimming as part of your pet care services, keep track of their movements and ensure they aren’t taking in too much water as they swim. Similarly, when it comes to caring for pets on hot days, keep an eye on how much water they are drinking and make sure they aren’t overdoing it. In some cases, if the pets tend to drink a lot of water very quickly, you may need to fill up their water bowls in smaller amounts or withhold water for a little while to help them pace their drinking.

Should a pet drink too much water, you may be able to help them replenish sodium for their bodies by giving them electrolytes for milder cases of water intoxication, though it is highly recommended you take them to a vet, as it is crucial not to imbue pets with too much sodium, as it can cause neurological issues. If symptoms show no signs of improvement, then you should take the pet to a veterinarian. For more severe cases, you should take them to an emergency vet clinic immediately.

For more information about water intoxication, you can take a look at these articles from the American Kennel Club and ASPCA.



Household items, food, plants, or pesticides often cause pet poisoning. Whenever you are in an unfamiliar setting with a pet, be vigilant and mindful of where they might be sticking their noses and mouths. Pets habitually eat first and ask questions later, so it’s essential to be cautious when out on walks or in a client’s home.

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 that will provide information on some of the most common toxins pets encounter and what symptoms they may display if ingested. If you think a pet in your care is experiencing poisoning, take them to their veterinarian immediately. If the usual vet is unavailable, take them to an emergency veterinary clinic or call the Animal Poison Control Center instead.

In addition to having great resources on their website, the Animal Poison Control Center can be reached 24/7 by phone at 888-4ANI-HELP (888-426-4435).


Another thing that might come up while caring for a pet that you should be prepared for is choking. Some indications that a pet might be choking include them being in a state of panic, trying to paw at their mouth, and excessive coughing. In some extreme instances, a pet may also be unconscious. Should that be the case, you will want to 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, and that will do nothing but make the situation worse.

If you feel comfortable approaching the animal's mouth, open it with both hands and use your fingers in a sweeping motion toward the back of the mouth. If you cannot remove the obstruction or cannot see anything, you can either attempt the Heimlich maneuver yourself or seek immediate veterinary care.


Animals can go into shock when they experience blood loss or if they have received a sudden injury. Shock can occur even if an injury doesn't appear serious. The symptoms of shock can include 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. You should try to lay the pet on its right side and make sure their airway is clear. If there is bleeding, attend to that first. For more information on what to do if a pet is bleeding, see this great article from the VCA Hospitals: First Aid For Bleeding In Dogs. 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 improve or if the injury is severe, seek out 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. Seizures can look incredibly scary, and it is easy to panic and be overcome with feelings of powerlessness. The most important thing for you to do when a pet in your care is experiencing a seizure is to stay calm and keep them from harming themselves on anything that could be dangerous, like running into a sharp corner or falling off of stairs or furniture. Once the seizure has started and they are lying down, try not to move the animal unless absolutely necessary. Seizures can cause long-term damage to a pet, and keeping them as safe as possible while it’s happening is vital.

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 a vet visit.

For more information on what typically happens during a seizure in pets and how they are treated, the VCA Animal Hospitals has a helpful guide here.

Blood Loss

If a pet is bitten, scratched, or cut and is experiencing blood loss as a result, 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.

Tick Removal

If you live in a wooded area or spend a lot of time caring for pets outside, performing regular tick checks on the animals under your care is a good idea. The Humane Society has an easy-to-follow guide for taking care of ticks:

  1. The first step is to perform a scan of the pet’s body. Use your hands to check for any bumps or swelling gently.
  2. Ticks come in many varieties, so become familiar with the ticks in your area to make the proper identifications. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a guide for identifying different types of ticks and more detailed information on the different tick-borne diseases here. While wearing gloves, use a pair of tweezers or a tick remover 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. You should take the pet to a veterinarian if you cannot remove the full tick.
  3. 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 signs of symptoms or infection.
  4. Keep your pets safe from future tick bites by checking them often and using 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 offer your clients peace of mind. You can talk to your veterinarian to find a local class or training. A few online certifications are also available through the American Red Cross and PetTech.

Disaster Preparedness

Have a plan ready for fires, tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes, and other emergencies—especially important if you offer overnight pet-sitting services in disaster-prone areas. Ensure all your clients have their pets microchipped, and always wear a collar with an ID tag or phone number engraved on it.

It is also a good idea to have a plan in place for how pets will be transported during 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 the American Humane’s Pet Disaster Preparedness fact sheet.


Stay Safe!

You can never be too safe when your business involves caring for someone’s furry baby or best friend! Take the time to educate yourself and your staff on first aid topics. Your clients will appreciate it and feel reassured at leaving their precious pets in your hands. Having a reliable and responsible pet care ethos is always the best practice and does great things for your 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, and adding first aid expertise as another feather in your cap is a great way to earn that reliable reputation!

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 information on the subject to ensure you are ready for any emergencies.

Happy sitting!

Make sure to check out our Time To Pet Academy and Blog for more great resources.

Additional Resources

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