In our line of work, some of the most common questions we get asked are about first aid for pets. So, we decided to sit down with resident pet expert and veterinarian of 43 years, Dr Tim Stapleton, to help answer some of your most popular queries about first aid for our beloved four-legged friends.

Survival: In your experience, what’s the most common pet ailment you have witnessed?

Dr Tim: In my experience, the most common ailments pets present with are skin diseases and gastrointestinal illnesses.

Survival: What courses of treatment would you usually recommend for these types of conditions?

Dr Tim: It’s difficult to recommend general treatments for these conditions, as the causes and symptoms are numerous and each individual case is different.

However, keeping your pet’s diet consistent using good quality commercial dog food supplemented with fresh meat, vegetables, rice and pasta, along with occasional raw meaty bones, should help prevent any gastrointestinal issues. You should also avoid the sudden introduction of any high fat meals.

Skin conditions usually stem from primary allergies; the most common of which are fleas, plants and foods. Once a pet starts itching and scratching this can lead to secondary infection and other complications, so it’s best to seek advice early on.

Survival: What is one of the strangest pet first aid situations you have ever been presented with?

Dr Tim: The most bizarre pet first aid experience I encountered was a dog presenting with bizarre neurological symptoms. After close questioning of the owners, it was finally deduced he had raided the hash cookie jar!

Survival: How would you know if your pet has been bitten by a venomous snake?

Dr Tim: The symptoms will vary depending on the type of snake, degree of envenomation and location of the bite. General symptoms include:

  • Weakness
  • Muscle twitching
  • Collapse
  • Paralysis
  • Bleeding at the site
  • Blood in their urine
  • Pale membranes
  • Poor responsiveness to stimuli

Survival: What steps should you take if you suspect your pet has been bitten by a venomous snake?

Dr Tim:

  • 1. Transport to vet ASAP for administration of antivenom, calling vet immediately to prepare treatment.

In the meantime:

  • 2. Keep pet as calm as possible.
  • 3. Attempt to identify the snake.
  • 4. Apply a compression bandage, unless bite is on or near the face.
  • 5. Do not wipe venom from the site.
  • 6. If necessary, construct a makeshift stretcher and cover with a blanket for transportation.

Survival: Which item in the Survival First Aid Kits would be the most useful in administering pet first aid during a snake bite emergency?

Dr Tim: For the purposes of pet first aid, the most useful items would be the SMART bandage found in the Snake Bite Kit or the Pressure Bandages found in several of the other kits.

Q. Would you apply the SMART bandage to a pet in the same way you would a human?

Dr Tim: Yes, you would apply the bandage to a pet in the same way you would a person. If the bite is on a limb, make sure the whole limb is firmly bandaged.

Q. What’s the best piece of advice you can give people in caring for their pets?

Dr Tim: Ensure your pet gets regular exercise, has a good diet (don’t overfeed) and gets to regularly socialise with other pets. Also make sure you take your pet for annual veterinary checkups and vaccinations.

Close observation of your pet’s habits will help you detect when he/she is out of sorts. Loss of appetite can be an early warning sign that all is not well.


Got a pet first aid question for Dr Tim? Email: [email protected]

If you suspect your pet may be injured or ill, the best course of action is to have them checked by your local, qualified veterinary practitioner.