Pet First Aid Awareness

Pet Health and Safety  •   Pam Karkow  •   Apr 13, 2018

You know the usual suspects to watch out for when it comes to your pets and springtime--dehydration, heat stroke, and snake bites, to name a few--but did you know your pet can get sunburned?  Do you know what to do if your dog is stung by a bee?  Let’s brush up on procedures to follow in a pet emergency and talk about some cool tools you can use to make handling pet emergencies a breeze.


Sunburn: I remember when my friend rescued a white boxer, and told me she had to be careful walking him in the middle of the day because he could get sunburned.  Wait, what?  Dogs can get sunburned?  Having had thick-haired dogs my whole life, I never even considered the fact that dogs could receive a sunburn.  Certain breeds--bull terriers, pit bulls, dalmatians, french bulldogs, greyhounds, and boxers--are more susceptible to sunburn.  Dogs with short hair and white fur are also more prone to sunburn, which explains why I never worried about it with my golden retrievers.  Turns out, I should’ve been worrying about just the same.  According to Richard Goldstein, DVM, and chief medical officer of the Animal Medical Center in New York City, it is very important to put sunscreen on any dog who is going to be exposed to the sun for a good amount of time.  Goldstein warns, “A dog’s skin can be damaged by the sun just like our own, so they require the same protection against the development of sunburn and skin cancer.”  In addition to the risk of sunburn and skin cancer, dogs exposed to too much sun can also suffer from hair loss and scaly skin.  Best to be prepared and always sunscreen your pup before heading out.  When choosing a sunscreen for your dog, it is safest and most effective to use one designed for canine use.  If you cannot find dog sunscreen, you may use a broad-spectrum (at least SPF 15) sunscreen designed for children.  But read the ingredient list carefully.  Dogs may lick the sunscreen and accidentally ingest it, and some sunscreens contain zinc oxide and para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), which are toxic to dogs.  To be on the safe side, run any sunscreen you plan on using on your dog by your vet, to check effectiveness and safety.

Bee Stings: The first thing you need to do is remove the stinger.  While it may be second nature to grab the tweezers, experts caution that using tweezers can release more venom into the wound and/or pinch your pup’s skin.  In the feature The Vets Will See You Now in the March 2018 Real Simple magazine, Kurt Venator, DVM, suggests dragging a credit card along your pet’s skin until the stinger pops out.  If your dogs seems itchy or irritated by the sting, you may give him oral Benadryl (Venator recommends one milligram per pound of body weight twice a day, but you should consult your vet first), or cover the sting with a washcloth soaked in three parts baking soda and one part water.  You may also consider adding an ice pack (in increments of 10 minutes) to soothe the itch and reduce any swelling.  Make sure your dog is not licking the area or developing hives or excessive swelling.  If he is having difficulty breathing, take him to the vet immediately, as this is a sign of an anaphylactic reaction.  He may need a shot of steroids to recover.

General Pet Emergencies: There’s an app for that.  The Pet First Aid App offers step-by-step instructions, videos, and images for more than 25 common first aid emergencies.  Click here for the top five features of the app.  You can find it in the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store.  Simply search for American Red Cross, then scroll down until you see Pet First Aid by American Red Cross.  Need a first aid kit?  Here is a link for your dog and one for your cat


Armed with this knowledge and your first aid kits, you’ll be ready for anything springtime throws your way this year!

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Pam Karkow

About the Author
Pam Karkow

Hi, I'm Pam. List maker, note taker, and avid reader. I'm married to my college sweetheart and we have three amazing kids, all of them boys. We also have one furry child, a golden retriever rescue dog. I have been blogging for PetPartners since 2015, and I love researching and writing tips about how to be a better pet parent. I spend most of my time sharing my adventures at, where I share the ways I am learning to be a better wife and mom--to my two and four-legged children.