First Aid for Pets

First aid is a subject that everyone will be familiar with. We all deal with it every day, whether it is as simple as applying a plaster or as life-saving as bringing an asthmatic their inhaler.  However, first aid for pets is a subject that is less familiar for some!  There are many similarities that cross species, including humans, but some big differences.  Did you know that TCP will strip the skin of many mammals?  Or that some antiseptic creams contain too high a concentration of minerals and actually poison some birds and reptiles?  These are the fairly minor parts of first aid and most of us will attempt something with relative confidence with minor injuries.  Are you prepared for the bigger problems?

We are here to help!

We have tried to put together some information on the pages included here to guide you through some of the more dramatic presentations, and how to deal with them. These pages will be up-dated and others will be added over time. If there is anything you really want to know about, why not contact us so we can put something together for you?

Our First Aid information pages

Minor scalds and chemical burns

Flushing your pet’s mouth (to remove unwanted substances)

How to apply a poultice (if your pet has a splinter, abscess etc.)

How to flush your pet’s eye

Dealing with minor wounds

Supporting cracked or sore skin

Bleeding from blood feathers in birds

Poisons (from foods to fertilisers and human medications)


We have provided a list of some items that are safe to use and those to avoid below, using a traffic light system, and hope this proves helpful.

Some safe first aid items for use

Micropore tape:

This is safe in most species and will come off easily when soaked

Melonin dressings:

These are non-adhesive and should not stick to fragile tissues

Vaseline or petroleum jelly:

Vaseline provides an excellent barrier but should only be applied to clean tissues.

Bandaging materials:

There should always be a layer between any wound and the bandage to prevent the bandage sticking. Bandages should be loose enough to get two fingers underneath in most cases. If a bandage is used to stop bleeding, it should be applied tightly but veterinary assistance should be sought immediately. Leaving a bandage in place that is too tight can result in the death of tissues around it, and even in the loss of a limb!

Salt water:

1 teaspoon of salt in a pint of water is plenty

Manuka honey:

Manuka is an excellent anti-bacterial dressing but should only ever be applied to a clean surface. It is very sticky and will bind any dirt in place! The wound should be cleaned once to twice a day, then a thin layer of honey applied.

Items to use with care

Many of the below items can be used on some species and not others. They should only be used in small amounts. Please call us for advice if you are unsure.


This can be used in dogs and cats in small amounts. Sudocrem contains zinc-oxide which is highly toxic to birds. Zinc-oxide is also toxic to dogs and cats if ingested in large quantities, but applying a thin layer of sudocrem to sore or irritated skin is generally safe and can be beneficial.


Savlon is generally safe, but only a thin layer should be used.


TCP should not be used on mammals or reptiles, but can be used on birds at a dilution of 1 part TCP to 5 parts water.

Items to avoid

Elastoplast or plasters:

These can strip the skin from many reptiles, birds and small mammals. Primapore-style plasters may be suitable for dogs and cats, providing the hair has been removed so the plaster sticks to skin. An alcohol solvent such as surgical spirit should be used on the sticky edges of the dressing prior to removal.

Cotton wool on open wounds:

Cotton wool will stick to anything wet so will actually make wounds worse. It may be soaked in warm salt or plain water prior to use to reduce sticking.

Any medicated cream

Tea tree oil, cream or washes:

Tea tree products are far too strong for the skin of our pets and can cause serious damage.

Your own medications:

Many human medicines do not work the same way in pets as they do in us and can cause serious harm or loss of life.

Any house cleaning fluids or disinfectants, any washing powders:

These can cause severe burns both internally (if licked) and externally.

Non-prescription medications

NEVER give ibuprofen to an animal! It can cause massive bleeding in the intestinal tract, kidney failure, large ulcers to develop in the stomach and it can (and does) kill.

NEVER give paracetamol without getting advice from a veterinary surgeon first. Paracetamol is safe for some species but deadly in others, and the dose is very tightly regulated.

NEVER give your pet aspirin (unless it is being used as part of a treatment regime formulated by your veterinarian). It can cause severe bleeding.

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