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How to approach sick and injured animals

Learn the best way to approach an injured animal.
Image of a dog with a band-aid on its head and a bandage on its leg.
Injured animals are unpredictable and potentially dangerous.

Always consider this when planning your approach. Never approach a horse, even one you know is usually friendly, from behind. While scruffing is not generally recommended for cat welfare, if this is the only way you can safely capture them to provide assistance then it should be considered. Dogs may require a muzzle depending on their reaction to your approach.

Approach calmly and quietly from an angle they can clearly see you from. Talk to them in a quiet calm voice as you approach, being as non-threatening as possible (this will often mean getting lower or approaching sideways for a timid animal).

Approach if possible, with a large towel or blanket. This can be used to protect yourself if an animal does try to defend itself, but is also very useful for initially taking hold of a scared animal. Gently, if possible, place the towel/blanket over their face from behind their head.

This can help protect you from a cat bite for example and help with leverage to handle them, but by covering their eyes you are likely to find that most animals will become more compliant. Most animals are less likely to take excessive action (i.e. are more likely to engage a “freeze” response rather than fight or flight) when they are unable to see.

Continue to speak calmly, and don’t make sudden movements. If, for example, you need to check an animal’s injured leg, don’t suddenly touch the leg without warning as this may give them a fright or sudden pain. Instead, run your hand from where you are holding them down the body to slowly get to the part you want to examine so they know you are going to do so.

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Basic First Aid for Animals and Pets

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