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Common Hazards

Some helpful information & advice

Abdominal Distension

My pet’s abdomen is swollen – what should I do?

There are many causes of abdominal distension. A good rule to follow is: the more quickly the distension seems to occur, the more serious it is likely to be. If you’re worried that your pet may have abdominal distension, it should certainly be examined by a vet.

If your dog (especially large breeds) develops a rapidly swollen abdomen, often accompanied by attempts to retch or vomit, it should see a vet immediately. These signs could mean your dog is getting a gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV – a twisted stomach). In these cases, dogs require prompt surgery to correct this life-threatening problem.

Blood Loss

My pet has had an accident and is bleeding heavily – what should I do?

If your pet is losing a lot of blood he or she should see a vet straightaway. Stopping the blood loss is vital to prevent shock and stabilise your pet.

If you find yourself in this situation, cover the site of blood loss with a clean towel or cloth and apply firm but not excessive pressure. Bring your pet to the vet immediately.

Burns & Scalds

My pet has been burned or scalded – what should I do?

The most common burn a pet is likely to suffer is a thermal burn from something hot, such as boiling water or from a fire. Other burns a pet may sustain are chemical burns or sunburn.

If your pet suffers a thermal burn, prompt cooling of the burn area with a cool, clean, wet cloth can prevent the burn penetrating into the deeper tissues. But also bring your pet to the vet straightaway.

If your pet suffers a chemical burn, any chemical visible on the skin should be washed off with lukewarm, flowing water. Then bring your pet to the vet immediately.

The best treatment for sunburn is prevention. One of the commonest sites for sunburn is the ears, especially when the ear tips are white, and the face in general. High factor sun creams can be used to prevent sunburn. Animal-specific sun creams are available.

Cat Bites

My pet has been bitten by a cat – what should I do?

Cat bites, usually to another cat, are a common injury in veterinary practice. They occur when cats fight one another, usually over territory. While these are not a life-threatening emergency, your cat will need treatment.  

Cat’s mouths are full of bacteria. When these are passed into the skin by a bite, they can form large, painful abscesses. This can lead to high fevers and a depressed, lethargic cat.

Your cat should see a vet within the first 24 hours after a bite, where treatment with antibiotics and painkillers will be needed. If a particularly large abscess has formed, your cat may require sedation to have the abscess lanced and flushed out.

A final word on cat bites – neutered cats are less likely to fight than unneutered cats, especially males. This is another reason why we always advise having your pet neutered.

Eye Injuries

My pet has got an eye injury – what should I do?

If your pet injures his or her eye in any way, they should see a vet as soon as possible.

Fits & Seizures

My pet is having a fit or seizure – what should I do?

If your pet has a seizure, seek immediate veterinary advice. Some seizures are very short and it may be safer to bring your pet to the vet once the seizure has finished. If your pet is having continuous or cluster seizures, we can advise you on the safest way to transport your pet to the vet for treatment to stop the seizures.

When your pet is having a fit, remove all objects from around him or her to avoid injury. Be careful in disturbing any animal that is fitting, as they are often not aware of their surroundings and even a usually placid dog can bite without realising what they are doing.


I think my pet has heatstroke – what should I do?

Heatstroke is a true emergency and requires immediate veterinary attention. It occurs when a pet loses the ability to cool down, usually in very hot weather. Unless the pet is cooled down quickly, the persistently high body temperature can cause organ damage and lead to death.

If you suspect your pet has heatstroke, cover him or her in a cool wet towel and bring them to the vet immediately.

Open Wounds

My pet has an open wound – what should I do?

An open wound may present with bleeding or no bleeding. If your pet has a bleeding wound, follow the advice on blood loss and come to the vet immediately.

If there is no bleeding, the wound will still require prompt attention. Many wounds risk contamination with bacteria. The earlier a wound is decontaminated and treated, the better the chance of healing without infection.

Some wounds require suturing, while others are managed open. In some cases, dressings and other preparations are used to promote healing.


I think my pet has been poisoned – what should I do?

If your pet ingests something poisonous, prompt treatment is needed. Very often, making the pet vomit up the toxin is all that is needed. If some time has passed since the toxin was ingested, making the pet vomit may not be an option. Your pet may require a drip or other supportive treatment while his or her body eliminates the toxin.

While it is vital that your pet gets to a vet as quickly as possible, we always ask you to bring any obvious packaging relating to the toxin to your appointment. We are backed by the excellent Veterinary Poisons Information Service, so if we know what the pet has ingested, we can call them for the best possible advice.

They give us all the information they have on the toxin, allowing us to target treatment and maximise the chances of your pet making a full recovery.


What is shock – and what should I do if my pet is suffering from shock?

Shock is a life-threatening medical condition, where the pet’s body has an inadequate flow of blood to the body's tissues, which can cause major damage to organs. A pet in shock needs to get medical help immediately, as shock can worsen rapidly and even kill the pet.

Causes of shock include blood loss, allergic reactions and severe fluid loss due to other illness. If you suspect your pet is suffering from shock, he or she should see a vet immediately.

Stings In Dogs

My pet has been stung – what should I do?

Most stings that our pets receive just cause localised swelling, redness and discomfort. A sting is basically a localised allergic reaction. In these cases, your pet will require treatment by a vet the same day. Very rarely, a pet may suffer from anaphylaxis as a result of a sting. This is a severe generalised allergic reaction affecting multiple bodily systems. This can occur very rapidly. Signs may include rapid breathing, pale gums, rapid and dramatic swelling of the affected area or throat and a fast heartbeat.

If left untreated, anaphylaxis can progress to shock, so your pet should see a vet immediately.