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First Aid for External Bleeding in Cats

Learn what to do if your cat is bleeding.

Bleeding in cats requires first aid. Depending on the cause of the bleeding and where it is, different approaches will be necessary.

Steps to Take If Your Cat Is Bleeding

If you see blood coming from your cat, the first thing to do is restrain him so you can discover where the blood is coming from and its severity.

Use care approaching a cat that is bleeding, even if he is well-known to you. An injured cat may bite or scratch, even if he ordinarily wouldn't.

  • Place an Elizabethan collar on your cat if possible. This will help restrain him and make it more difficult for him to bite you.
  • Use clean gauze or a washcloth to apply direct, firm pressure to the spot that is bleeding. If the gauze becomes soaked, don't remove it, but add more on top of it as needed. Removing it can dislodge any clot that is forming and restart the bleeding. You can also use a sanitary napkin, which is highly absorbent, to apply pressure to a bleeding area. If you have no material available with which to apply pressure, use your fingers or hand.
  • If possible, elevate the area that is bleeding above the animal's heart.
  • Apply a bandage of rolled gauze overtop of the gauze you used to stop the bleeding, and tape it in place. Don't make the bandage too tight; you should be able to slip a Q-tip between the bandage and your dog's body.
  • Head to the veterinary clinic right away.
  • Watch for signs of shock, which is the collapse of the circulatory system. Signs of shock include being unaware of surroundings, having pale or white gums, and collapsing. If your cat stops breathing, perform rescue breathing. Use CPR if there is no heartbeat.

Do not use a tourniquet unless you absolutely must, in cases where it appears to be an immediate life or death situation and never around the neck, only on limbs. Interrupting the blood flow to this degree can cause severe damage to the limb and may cause the need for amputation. If you must use a tourniquet technique, use a strip of wide gauze, and don't make a knot. Tighten the gauze just enough to stop the blood flow and tie a bow. Loosen the tourniquet for a few seconds every few minutes to try and avoid permanent tissue damage from lack of blood flow.

If your cat is bleeding internally rather than externally, you will need to know the signs to look for. Learn more here: "First Aid for Internal Bleeding in Cats."

You can learn about first aid for other issues here: "First Aid for Cats: An Overview."

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