What do I do if a pet is ill or injured?

The pet’s well-being is paramount. Should the pet in your charge become ill or is injured immediate veterinary care is to be sought. Also see ‘What is the best way to transport an injured pet?.

  1. Contact the Pet Owner and/or their emergency contact by phone to advise them of the situation.
  2. Obtain instructions and permission from the Pet Owner and/or their emergency contact regarding what actions they require you to take.
  3. In the case of a serious emergency take the pet to your nearest vet, otherwise to the Pet Owner’s preferred vet clinic. If the emergency occurs outside of business hours, you should take the pet to your local emergency vet clinic.  We recommend that you look up the details and write them down so that you have them on hand and also key them into your mobile phone.  It’s also a good idea to learn the shortest route to your nearest vet and to a 24-hour emergency facility if one is available in your area.
  4. In the case of a serious emergency, phone the vet on the way and let them know you are on the way.
  5. Inform “Don’t Fret Pet!” by email (emergency@dontfretpet.com.au) as soon as possible with “EMERGENCY” in the subject line, explaining what happened, what action has been taken and whether or not the pet is fine or still in a critical condition.
  6. Keep the Pet Owner up to date via phone or email at all times.



  • Severe bleeding or bleeding that doesn’t stop within five minutes. You should apply pressure with a clean cloth or towel on your way to the vet.
  • Choking, difficulty breathing or non-stop coughing and gagging.
  • Bleeding from nose, mouth, rectum, coughing up blood, or blood in urine
  • Inability to urinate or pass faeces (stool) or obvious pain associated with urinating or passing stool.
  • Severe vomiting or diarrhoea – more than two episodes in a 24-hour period or either of these combined with obvious illness or any of the other problems listed here.
  • Swollen or distended abdomen, with or without productive vomiting
  • Restlessness, panting, inability to lie down comfortably, unsuccessfully attempting to vomit, and abdominal distention
  • Refusal to drink for 24 hours or more.
  • Inability to urinate or defaecate, especially if straining. (Cats may repeatedly go to the litter box, lick at the genital area, and/or vocalise)
  • Injuries to the pet’s eye(s)
  • You suspect or know the pet has eaten something poisonous (such as antifreeze, xylitol, chocolate, grapes, raisins, rodent poison, snail bait, human medication, chemicals etc.). If the item was in a packet or container take that with you to the vet so that they can see exactly what the pet has ingested.
  • Seizures and/or staggering
  • Fractured bones, severe lameness or inability to move leg(s)
  • Trauma such as being hit by a car, a fall from a height or being heavily struck by an item, even if the animal is NOT showing any ill effects.
  • Collapse/inability to stand or walk
  • Loss of balance or consciousness, convulsions or seizure activity
  • Bite wounds from another animal.
  • Snake bite.
  • Paralysis tick attachment.
  • Heat stress or heatstroke – they may be panting heavily or appear weak.
  • Exposure to snakes or ticks

Where do I find emergency vet details?

Remember that it is important to note down your nearest 24/7 emergency vet and to put that number and address into your mobile phone or somewhere easily accessible.

Contacting vets in an emergency:
If you have an emergency with a pet you are caring for we recommend that you telephone the vet on the way to advise them of the emergency so that they will be expecting you.

After the emergency:
Once the pet’s condition has been stabilised, they may be hospitalised at the emergency vet until their usual veterinary clinic is open.  You will need to be available to transfer the pet to their own vet.

What should I do in non- life-threatening situations?

In the situation whereby a pet is showing signs of being unwell or perhaps a slight injury (e.g. limping after a long walk), veterinary advice should be sought. Where possible, speak with the pet’s own vet as they will have the history of that pet and be able to determine if this is a new event or if the pet has suffered from the problem before.

Alternatively, if you need veterinary advice for non life-threatening issues when caring for a pet, you can book an online chat or video consult with www.onlinevet.com.au who are available 24/7.  As at 04/2019, the cost is $45.00 – $69.00, depending on the time of day, and you will have a one-on-one consultation with an experienced vet.

What can I do to prevent a dog escaping from my home?

Hopefully this will never happen and we cannot stress how important it is to follow the prevention steps to minimise the possibility of a dog escaping from your home as it is better to do all you can to prevent an escape rather than have to deal with the trauma of a missing dog.

Prevention is always the first action…

  1. Always ensure that your fences are in good condition with no gaps. It is essential to check underneath to be sure there is no easily dug soft soil as well as in the corners where fences meet.
  2. Make sure you don’t park anything close to your fence that a dog could use as a stepping stone to vault over the top.
  3. Buy padlocks for your side gates so that nobody can open them and let the dogs out.
  4. When the dog arrives, attach a tag with your phone number during the handover time so that, should the dog find a way out straight after delivery, at least it has your number attached. Leave the tag on until the owners arrive to collect their dog.  Also, remove any tags that have the owner’s number as it isn’t good if a finder is calling their number if they are uncontactable. (Don’t forget to re-attach these shortly before the owner arrives to collect their dog.)
  5. As the owner is leaving get them to say the words that they normally say to their dog when they are going out. It may help the dog to understand that they are only being left temporarily and, therefore, they may settle down more easily.
  6. Do not accept delivery of a dog and then go out and leave it. Try to make sure that you are home for the first few hours after it arrives.  It may feel insecure in its new environment and cause damage to your property, bark incessantly or attempt to escape.
  7. If possible, take the dog for a walk around the neighbourhood soon after it arrives so that it can becomes familiar with it and also bond with you.
  8. Always lock your front door. It is too easy for a dog to dart out if someone comes to your door and walks straight in.
  9. When opening the front door ensure that the dog is either on a lead or temporarily, safely enclosed in another room. Dogs can dart through a very small gap and can move a lot more quickly than you think.

What should I do if a pet I am caring for escapes?

  1. Inform the pet owner and/or their emergency contact about what has happened as soon as possible and keep them up to date throughout the process of searching for the pet;
  2. Call all of the following to help find the pet:
  • local council pound
  • local vets
  • local shelters
  • RSPCA in your state
  1. Search nearby areas as soon as possible – take a leash and some treats with you in case you need to entice him/her to come back to you. If the pet has a favourite toy take that with you as well, especially if they have one that squeaks or jingles as they may hear that sound and come running to find it.
  2. If possible, leave the gate open in case the pet wanders back when you are out searching.
  3. If you don’t find the pet within a couple of hours inform “Don’t Fret Pet!” via an email to emergency@dontfretpet.com.au. Please put “MISSING PET” in the subject of the email and provide us all details about how the pet escaped.
  4. Join any lost dog Facebook groups for your area and share a photo and any details about the pet that will help anyone to identify it as well as where it was last seen. If you don’t have a photo ask the owner to email or SMS one to you.
  5. Put up posters with a photo of the pet, its name, where and when it was last seen and your contact information. Put them on telephone poles, at your local grocery store, coffee shops, etc.
  6. You can register with Lost Pet Finders who will then send out SMS’s to people in the area who are registered with them.
  7. Contact the RSPCA in your state. The RSPCA in each state provides different lost and found services.  Click on the one in your state for more information:








RSPCA Darwin

It is important that you keep looking and continue to call the pounds and shelters as they are only legally required to hold stray animals for eight days.  As proof of registration is necessary for council pounds you may need to take something in writing from the owner.

What is the best way to transport an injured pet?

Cats should always be transported in some form of covered box or crate.

In the situation whereby a pet is injured and needing to be taken to the vet, care must be taken as to how you transport the pet as incorrect handling could result in further injury.

Remember ‘Less is Best’ – so only handle the pet where absolutely necessary AND as gently as possible.

The pet will know what is most comfortable for them but if able to without causing pain or stress have the pet lay down and stay.

As the actual injuries may not be fully known always err on the side of caution and presume there is a possible spinal injury.

Minimising movement can prevent further injury. If the pet is calm you can try securing them to a flat surface with tape or tie. Do not persist with this action if the pet is struggling. At all times try to keep the back and neck straight.

Should the pet be unconscious be sure to position the head in the normal position with the body.

Keep the head lower than the level of the heart as this will prevent any vomit to run out of the mouth, avoiding it flowing into the windpipe and lungs.

Covering the pet with a blanket will help them to remain calm.

How can I give CPR to a pet?

Providing CPR to an animal can be the difference between them making it through a trauma or not.

Attending a professionally run first aid for pets course will not only help you be prepared for any emergency but will also gain you a ‘First Aid Badge’ on your listing which will help you to stand out amongst the other Pet Service Providers.

Click here for an excellent brief tutorial on how to apply CPR to a dog.  We recommend that you view this if you are going to be caring for dogs with any service.

How do I assemble a first-aid kit?

It is advisable to have a fully stocked pet first aid kit on hand.  Items will differ depending on the type of pet you intend to care for however, some basics will be the same for any pets.

We remind you that, if you are unsure about a pet’s condition, you should either go directly to the nearest vet or, if you need veterinary advice for non-life threatening issues, you can book an online chat or video consult with www.onlinevet.com.au who are available 24/7.  As at 04/2019, the cost is $45.00 – $69.00, depending on the time of day, and you will have a one-on-one consultation with an experienced vet.

You can assemble your own with this list to assist you or you can purchase a pre-assembled first aid kit.

  • Phone numbers for the pet’s vet, the closest vet and the nearest emergency-veterinary clinic (along with directions!)
  • Self-cling bandage (bandage that stretches and sticks to itself but not to fur—available at pet stores and from pet-supply catalogues)
  • Muzzle or strips of cloth to prevent biting which some pets will do when frightened or injured.  Don’t use this if the pet is vomiting, choking, coughing or otherwise having difficulty breathing)
  • Protective gloves
  • Absorbent gauze pads
  • Adhesive tape
  • Antiseptic wipes, lotion, powder or spray
  • Blanket (a foil emergency blanket)
  • Cotton balls or swabs
  • Gauze rolls
  • Ice pack
  • Scissors (with blunt ends)
  • Sterile non-stick gauze pads for bandages
  • Sterile saline solution (sold at pharmacies) or table salt for flushing wounds
  • Splinting item (e.g. a wooden stirring stir stick for small pets)
  • Tweezers
  • Towels or a foil blanket for wrapping the pet to retain vital body heat and prevent hypothermia associated with shock
  • A pillowcase to confine a cat for treatment
  • Bubble wrap – an ideal material to place under an injured animal since it is clean, soft and waterproof. It can also be used as padding under a splint or bandage.
  • A pet carrier

All the supplies you will need can be purchased from pharmacies, vets and online pet supply sites.  It is advisable to obtain a storage container that allows you to organise your supplies neatly.  A fishing tackle box or tool organiser work well.  Keep the kit in an easily accessed position but out of reach of children.

The task of creating a first-aid kit can be reduced by purchasing one pre-assembled from the Animal Welfare League https://awl.org.au/support-us/shopping/pet-first-aid-kit.

What can I do to prevent emergencies?

It is impossible to prevent all emergencies but the following contains information on what you can do to minimise the risk of emergencies.  Pets, especially young pups, are naturally inquisitive and will, at any opportunity, get into things that they were not supposed to eat.  You can print out an excellent sheet to keep on hand at http://www.aecvets.com.au/docs/Common-Pet-Toxins-NATIONAL.pdf

Ensure that pets cannot access any of the items listed below.  If a pet does ingest something that you are concerned about, you should contact their vet, your closest vet or, if outside of business hours, the nearest emergency vet or www.onlinevet.com.au, who are available 24/7, as soon as possible to see whether treatment is required.

Advise the vet of the pet’s weight, what they have eaten, how much they ate and when it was eaten so that they can provide you with the best possible assistance.

All toxic foods, poisons and medication, both human and pet, must be kept in a closed cabinet preferably above a height that a pet can reach as some have been known to open cupboards or drawers.

What items should I keep out of reach of pets?

Food items that are toxic to pets

  • Chocolate (the darker the chocolate the more toxic it is)
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Grapes, raisins, sultanas
  • Yeast dough
  • Chewing gum
  • Xylitol – anything that contains xylitol (the artificial sweetener)
  • Mouldy foods – make sure they can’t access your compost bin
  • Absorbent pads found under meat

Plants that are toxic to pets

You can download an information sheet at http://www.aecvets.com.au/docs/Common-Plants-Toxic-to-Dogs-and-Cats-NATIONAL.pdf however here is a list of the plants that are listed as toxic.

  • Lilies
  • Marijuana
  • Cyclamen
  • Sago Palms
  • Tulips/Narcissus bulbs
  • Azaleas/Rhododendrons
  • Oleanders
  • Kalanchoe
  • Yew
  • Chrysanthemums
  • Amaryllis
  • Autumn Crocus
  • English Ivy
  • Peace Lilies
  • Wandering Jew – this is not toxic but some dogs are allergic to Wandering Jew and will develop a rash.
  • Rhoeo or Moses in the Cradle – not toxic but many dogs are allergic and develop a spotted rash


Keep all medication, both human and pet, in a closed cabinet preferably above a height that a pet can reach as some have been known to open cupboards or drawers.  If you have any human guests staying with you remind them to also store any medication out of reach of pets.

Many medications that are used safely in humans can be deadly when consumed by pets.  Less than one regular strength paracetamol tablet can be fatal to a cat.  One regular strength ibuprofen tablet can cause stomach ulcers in a 5kg dog.  Aspirin can lead to liver and kidney failure.


Poisons designed to kill insects, rats and foliage can be poisonous to pets too.  The following items should be kept out of reach of pets (and children), preferably locked in high cupboards.  Do not use any of these when minding a pet in your home.  Seek immediate veterinary attention if any of the following are consumed.

  • Ant killers
  • Cockroach baits
  • Moth balls
  • Rat poison
  • Snail pellets
  • Weed killers

Alcohol and cigarettes

Some pets will drink alcohol that is within their reach so keep any glasses of alcohol out of their reach.

Cigarettes and cigarette butts may also be attractive to some pets. These contain varying amounts of nicotine and butts have about 25% of the total nicotine content.  Symptoms associated with nicotine ingestion are fast breathing, drooling, vomiting, diarrhoea, twitching, depression, a fast heart rate, shallow breathing and can progress to collapse, coma and death.  Seek veterinary attention immediately.

Other household items that can cause harm to pets

  • Pieces of cloth such as socks, underwear, ribbons etc. These can become caught up in the intestines and cause serious problems.
  • Personal items such as tampons and sanitary pads and condoms
  • Batteries
  • Cleaning products – these often contain acidic or alkaline ingredients, which can cause caustic or corrosive lesions in the stomach or intestines.
  • Fertilisers
  • Turpentine and methylated spirits – these products are extremely irritating to the skin and footpads and can also affect the breathing and brain. The best method of removing paint thinners is by bathing with a dish washing detergent and cool water. Further treatment may be required. Consult your veterinarian if you have any concerns.
  • Soaps and shampoos – can cause mild gastrointestinal signs
  • Mothballs – Naphthalene is the most common active ingredient found in mothballs. Most common signs seen with mothball ingestion include vomiting, anaemia, lethargy and seizures. Hepatitis is a rare effect and if seen would occur 3-5 days post exposure. Treatment of mothball ingestion includes early decontamination. Consult a vet if the pet consumes mothballs.
  • Anti-freeze – seek veterinary advice immediately.


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