Basic Pet Safety & First Aid

It has happened to almost every pet owner at some point or another. Something happens with your pet and all you can think is, “what do I do?” This could be anything from your pet eating something they shouldn’t, getting themselves injured, choking, or maybe they just don’t seem all that well. At Peak City Puppy, we believe in preparing for the inevitable. At some point in your pet’s life, they will need some sort of first aid administered – either by your own hand or by a veterinarian.

We have created a list of basic pet safety and first aid to know and have on hand should you ever need it.

Poison bottles with Poison symbol and Skull and Crossbones.

Poisoning & Toxin Exposure

Animals are curious creatures and they like to explore their surroundings. Smell and taste are two critical senses for animals and these are often used in exploration. The biggest way to care for poisoning or toxin exposure is to prevent it. Place poisonous chemicals out of reach or closed away where they can not be reached. This includes household cleaners, soap, detergent, gardening chemicals or pesticides, paint, vehicle fluids, or anything that you wouldn’t want to consume yourself. You should also store poisonous foods away or out of reach. 

The following foods are poisonous or dangerous for dogs to consume and you should contact your Veterinarian and/or Animal Poison Control immediately:

  • Onions, Garlic, Chives
  • Chocolate (especially dark chocolate)
  • Macadamia Nuts
  • Corn on the Cob
  • Avocado
  • Artificial Sweetener (Xylitol)
  • Alcohol
  • Cooked Bones (especially chicken bones)
  • Grapes & Raisins

The following foods are poisonous or dangerous for cats to consume and you should contact your Veterinarian and/or Animal Poison Control immediately:

  • Onions, Garlic, Chives
  • Chocolate (especially dark chocolate)
  • Artificial Sweetener (Xylitol)
  • Alcohol
  • Grapes & Raisins
  • Tea, Coffee & Energy Drinks
  • Cheese & Milk
  • Fat Trimmings
  • Raw Meat, Eggs, or Fish

If you believe your pet may have consumed something poisonous or toxic contact Animal Poison Control immediately and then follow up by contacting your Veterinarian. You should add this phone number into your phone to have in case of an emergency:

Animal Poison Control: (888) 426 – 4435

Taking Temperature

Just like humans, dogs and cats can get sick, get too hot, or be too cold. When they do, a sign of illness can show through an elevated or lowered body temperature. Below is a video to help show you how to take your pet’s temperature.

Cat Temperature: 100.5 – 102.5°F is normal.

Dog Temperature: 99.5 – 102.5°F is normal.


In hypothermic pets, the body is too cold and cannot warm itself up. Hypothermic pets may shiver, be lethargic, and have pale gums (from vasoconstriction, or constriction of blood vessels to preserve heat). Contact your veterinarian if your pet’s temperature is below 99°F as this could be a sign of hypothermia. Here are safety tips to help prevent hypothermia:

  • Small breeds, puppies, senior dogs, or dogs with thinner coats are more at risk of being cold when temperatures go below 45°F
  • Dogs with arthritis are more likely to have movement problems with lower temperatures
  • Unless your dog is a cold weather breed, or has lots of fur, put a coat on your dog if temperatures are below 32°F (freezing)
  • Good rule of thumb is: the lower the temperature, the less time your pet should spend outside
  • When returning inside give vigorous rubs to help promote circulation and friction to create warmth, and/or wrap your pet in a blanket


In hyperthermic pets, the body is too hot and cannot cool itself down. Hyperthermic pets may be lethargic, have deep red gums (from vasodilation, or dilation of blood vessels), and pant excessively. Contact your veterinarian if your pet’s temperature is above 104°F as this could be a sign of hyperthermia. Here are some safety tips to help prevent hyperthermia:

  • Small breeds, puppies, breeds with shorter snouts, senior dogs, or dogs with heavy coats are more at risk of being hot when temperatures 
  • Take shorter walks in hotter weather and seek shade
  • Spend less time outside, especially in the sun, if your pet has thicker fur or darker colored fur
  • Good rule of thumb is: the hotter the temperature, the less time your pet should spend outside
  • When returning inside give your pet cool water, place them by a fan or air conditioner, or give them cool towels submerged in icy water (apply to the back and head)

Heat Stress, Exhaustion & Stroke 

Living in the south, we are more likely to experience hyperthermia (overheating) or heat related issues with our pets, especially dogs. Heat related issues vary in severity and there are three main types: heat stress, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Dogs can become hyperthermic (overheated) through exertion, but they can also become hyperthermic without exertion – it is entirely dependent on the dog. Here are the symptoms for each and some solutions:

  • Heat Stress – Heat stress is the lowest form of hyperthermia and is characterized by excessive panting, cheeks pulled back, excessive tongue protrusion with a flattened end, dark red mucous membranes (i.e. inner cheek, lips, gums), and lethargy or delayed response.
  • Heat Exhaustion – Heat exhaustion includes all of the signs seen in heat stress with very excessive or uncontrollable panting. It also includes symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, stumbling, and unfocused eyes.
  • Heat Stroke – Heat stroke is the most severe form of hyperthermia and can be fatal. Heat stroke has all the signs of heat exhaustion and includes changes in consciousness, stupor, seizures, head tremors, or even coma. 

If you feel your dog has heat stress and especially if you think your dog has heat exhaustion, you can help bring your dog’s temperature down by:

  • Filling a pool or tub with cool (but not cold) water and submerging your dog’s body
  • Use a hose or towels soaked in ice water to cool them off; focusing on the groin, armpit, and jugular (main arterial regions)
  • Placing the dog in shade, by a fan, or by an air conditioning vent

Stop actively cooling your dog when their temperature reaches 103°F as cooling too much, too fast, can lead to hypothermia.


Choking incidents can happen at any moment. Training your dog to not pick up food or toys will go a long way towards preventing choking incidents. However, these things cannot always be avoided and that is why it is best to be prepared. Here are some tips to help prevent choking:

  • Watch for chicken bones on walks – not only are chicken bones a choking hazard but cooked chicken bones are brittle and can break causing internal damage
  • Pick up and put out of reach any children’s toys or objects small enough your pet could try to swallow (this includes wash cloths)
  • Keep an eye on your pet (do not leave them unattended) any time they chew on sticks, dental treats, rawhide chews, or other treats in which they could potentially choke

Below is a video for how to give your pet the Heimlich or dislodge objects from your pets throat/mouth:

Pet First Aid Kit

Here is a list of basics you should keep on hand in the event of emergency with your pet:

  • Rolled Gauze
  • Self-Adhesive Tape (never get tape that can stick to your pet’s fur)
  • Trauma Pad or ABD Pad
  • Pet Thermometer
  • Unscented Baby Wipes
  • Iodine Prep Pads
  • Tweezers
  • Sting Relief Pads
  • Rubber Gloves
  • Instant Cold Pack
  • Muzzle (even the most even tempered of dogs can bite if they are wounded and scared)

Pet First Aid App

We highly recommend downloading the American Red Cross Pet First Aid App. This app is excellent for new and experienced pet owners. You can use it as a reference guide or in case of emergency.

Click here to download the Pet First Aid app.

The Pet First Aid App includes information and guidance for bleeding, burns, allergic reactions, breathing problems, choking, cpr, drowning, electric shock, frostbite, heat related emergencies, hypothermia, poisoning, wounds, smoke inhalation, and more. There is also a guide to “Know What’s Normal” which includes breathing rate, capillary refill, temperature, pulse rate, and more.