Hoping for the best, but preparing for anything

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Even if we can’t predict when emergencies will arise, we can do our best to be prepared for them as best as we can. It’s especially in the best interest of our furry family members, who may have trouble understanding what’s happening during an emergency situation and could end up in more danger as a result. First aid is an integral part of emergency preparedness. As pet parents, we don’t want to think about our beloved pet being hit by a vehicle, or experiencing a severe allergic reaction, or other miserable circumstances but it is better to be prepared on the off chance something does happen. We all know our pet’s temperament and behaviors, so you can prepare based off your dog's individual risk factors. Below, we’ll give you a basic overview with tips to keep your pet safe until danger has passed and you can get them to a veterinary clinic for an evaluation.

Your goals in providing first aid to anyone are to:

  • Ensure survival,

  • Reduce pain and discomfort,

  • And to minimize risk of permanent injury.

To achieve these goals, you’ll need to try your best to keep calm during any emergency. Breathe slowly and think quickly. If possible, and safe, get help from someone else nearby who can help restrain your pet while you care for them, provide transportation, or otherwise be of assistance.

As soon as you get a chance, contact your veterinarian to alert of them of the situation. NOVA Pets can be reached at (703) 378-979 (pro tip: save that number in your phone if you haven’t already!). While caring for your pet, take note of any suspected injuries, and keep your pet as still as possible if you think they may have sustained internal or limb injuries. As soon as you can bring your pet to the vet, do so! Remember to drive carefully and with consideration for how your pet and their possible injuries could be affected by the commute.

Shock often arises after acute injury or other emergencies. Shock is characterized by a steep drop in blood pressure, rapid breathing, paleness, shivering, skin being cool to the touch, and either agitation or unresponsiveness. If you suspect your pet may go into shock try to keep them calm and in a quiet environment, and try to help their body conserve heat by wrapping them in a blanket, article of clothing, or whatever might be readily available in your situation.

It might be helpful to use the “ABCs” of first aid:

  • Airway

  • Breathing

  • Cardiac function.

Check your pet’s airway to make sure that there are no obstructions. You may even gently cup a finger into the pet’s mouth and attempt to clear any lodged objects. Be careful though! You pet may bite you while in a state of panic. In the case that your pet appears to not be breathing and they are unconscious, try gently pumping the chest with the palm of your hand, at the same time feeling just behind the elbow to detect a heartbeat or pulse. Close the pet’s muzzle with your hand and blow into the nostrils. This is best accomplished by covering the pet’s nose with your mouth. Again, we must warn you that injured pets may bite you out of fear. If you are unsure about the health or vaccination status of the injured pet, avoid contact with bodily fluids and blood. Lastly, in regards to cardiac function, if you are unable to detect a heartbeat or pulse or if it appears weak and slow, try pressing on the chest with your palm. Five (5) rapid chest compressions followed by one to two (1-2) deep breaths is a simple form of animal cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). For some online training, check out the Red Cross web course on cat and dog first aid!

Below are a few specific and somewhat common emergencies you could encounter and brief summaries of how to respond.


Once you notice that your pet is bleeding you need to assess the severity. If bleeding is severe try to stop it by applying a dressing, whether you have gauze or just a piece of clothing. It will be to your advantage if you’ve already prepared a pet first aid kit because you’ll have sterile gauze readily available. If the bleeding persists and is soaking through the bandage, don’t waste any more time because this is a medical emergency. Go to the vet as soon as humanly possible! Most bleeding wounds will require medical or surgical treatment. If the wounds are treated within four (4) hours, they can often be sutured. Deep cuts treated after four hours have an increased risk of infection and complication.

Burns and scalds

Cool the burned area with cold water as quickly as possible. Cover the burned area with damp towels. If the injury is due to a caustic substance, rinse the injury with cold water for fifteen (15) minutes and contact your veterinarian for further advice.

Eye injuries

Injuries to the eye are always very painful. If a foreign body (grass awn, stick, etc.) can be seen, it may be possible to remove it by gently rinsing the eye with eye wash or contact lens saline solution. Seek veterinary advice as soon as possible.


Seizures have many causes, ranging from eclampsia (milk fever) to epilepsy. If due to eclampsia, remove the puppies from the mother immediately. All dogs that have had a recent seizure should be kept in a dark, quiet, confined area until medical help can be sought. Contact your veterinarian immediately.

Heat stroke

This most commonly occurs in hot weather when dogs are left in cars without adequate ventilation. Body temperature rises dramatically. Clinical signs are excessive panting and obvious distress quickly followed by coma and death. Reduce the pet’s body temperature as quickly as possible using cool water and keep the dog wet during transport to the veterinarian. Keep the car windows open. Evaporation will also help reduce body temperature. Avoid using ice or ice water because this may drop the temperature too quickly and cause additional complications.

While this blog post isn’t a complete emergency preparedness guide, we hope you now have a better idea of how to approach emergencies. Always know that NOVA Pets makes it our mission to keep pets safe, healthy, and happy. Whether you find yourself in an emergency with your pet, need a boarding solution during natural disasters, or whether you simply need an annual exam for your pet, we’re here for you. Stay safe!

Nova Pets Health Center

3935 Avion Park Court, Suite A102

Chantilly, VA 20151

For general information, questions, appointment requests, call us at:

Clinic: (703) 378-9791
Fax: (703) 997-7786
Email Us: info@novapets.com

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Sunday Closed

Monday 7:00am - 6:00pm

Tuesday 7:00am - 6:00pm

Wednesday 7:00am - 6:00pm

Thursday 7:00am - 6:00pm

Friday 7:00am - 6:00pm

Saturday 8:00am - 12:00pm