By Dr. Mary Fuller for Vetstreet

Just the thought of something happening to your pet is enough to get your heart thumping in your chest. Despite your best intentions, accidents can and do happen. But if you're prepared, your pet has a better chance of making it through a crisis situation.

In any medical emergency, the best course of action is to bring your pet to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Since time is of the essence, don't waste precious moments surfing the Internet for suggestions or trying to handle the situation yourself. And never give any medication to your pet unless you get the green light from your vet.

It's always good to know some key first aid techniques, but keep in mind that you should only use them to stabilize your pet until you can get to a veterinary hospital. That said, here are five common emergency situations -- and the simple steps you can take to help your pet.

Scenario: Poisoning
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If you suspect that your pet has eaten something toxic, call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Pet Poison Hotline (888-426-4435) immediately. Unless instructed to do so by a veterinarian, never induce vomiting. Many toxins are corrosive, and vomiting may damage the esophagus or cause choking.

Should your veterinarian instruct you to induce vomiting, he will provide you with a recommended dose of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide, based on your dog's weight. (Do not use salt or syrup of ipecac.) Take your dog outside or cover the floor with newspaper. Measure the dose and use an eyedropper to administer the hydrogen peroxide into your dog's mouth. If your pet does not vomit within five minutes, repeat the dose one more time.

Since there are no at-home products that can be used to induce vomiting in cats, you'll need to take your feline to a veterinary clinic for treatment. In either case, get your pet to the veterinarian as soon as possible.

More from Vetstreet:
How to Prepare Pets for Potential Disasters
The ER or Not? How to Quickly Decide
Top 10 High-Maintenance Breeds

Flickr photo by Greg Dunlap

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