Hi my friends,
I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving with lots of good food. And speaking of good food, what would you do if your pet ate something that was not good for him or her? And what would you do if your cat had a seizure or your dog fell down the stairs and started limping? These are certainly scary thoughts, but panic is contraindicated in these situations. Having a first aid kit and some basic knowledge of pet first aid care can prepare you for a pet medical emergency and might save your pet's life.
Let me start out by saying that any first aid administered to your pet should be followed by immediate veterinary care. First aid care is not a substitute for veterinary care but it may save your pet's life until your pet receives veterinary treatment. So here are the important things you need to know about pet first aid. We can break it down into two parts, supplies and procedures.
Lets start with the supplies. Every first aid kit should have certain supplies in it. Most human kits have some of the same supplies. So that is where you can get them to stock up your pet's kit.
Since I am a big fan of lists, I will give you a list of what should be in your pet first aid kit.
Phone numbers: Make a list with important phone numbers of your regular veterinarian, a pet emergency clinic in your area, and the Animal Poison Control Center.
Gauze Pads: You need gauze pads to cover wounds.
Gauze Wraps: Gauze wraps can be used as a muzzle, to secure the gauze pads, and as a sling to keep a limb in place.
Small towel: It can be used as a muzzle, protect wounds, calm your pet, and control bleeding.
Adhesive tape: You need that to secure gauze wraps.
Milk of Magnesia: This is used in absorbing poisonous substances from the system. Ask your veterinarian for the proper dosage.
Hydrogen Peroxide: This is used when you want to induce vomiting. Once upon a time they sold Syrup of Ipecac at drugstores which works very well with inducing vomiting but it soon became the drug of choice for people suffering from bulimia and it is now no longer available over the counter. Again, ask your veterinarian on the proper amount for the body weight of your pet.
Tweezers: You use them to remove splinters or foreign objects.
Scissors: Use them to cut gauze, tape, and matted fur.
Antiseptic wash and wipes: To clean wounds. It is best to use a non-stinging antiseptic such as chlorhexidine or betadine.
Styptic pencil: You can use a styptic pencil or styptic powder to stop minor bleedings.
Thermometer: It is used rectally. Never put a thermometer in your pet's mouth. The normal
body temperature of a cat is 101.5 F and of a dog is 102 F.
Large syringe without a needle: You can use it to flush wounds or to give oral treatments.
Muzzle: Even if your pet is a sweetheart, when in pain or in shock, the sweetest pet can be unpredictable and bite out of fear. You can also use a towel or a necktie but make sure you leave an opening for the nose so your pet can breath. Importantly, do not use a muzzle if your pet is vomiting.
Leash: You need that to keep your pet from taking off on you. Even if your dog usually follows you without a leash, in an emergency situation your dog might take off.
Stretcher: That can be anything from a board, a floor mat, a door, to a blanket, depending on the size of your pet. It has to be something that you can use to carry your pet to the car if your pet is immobilized.
Here are a few guide lines on how to handle an injured pet before we go on to the basic procedures of pet first aid. A pet with an injury or pain can experience a lot of fear and thus can be unpredictable. Even though your first instinct is to hug your pet in order to calm it down, you should never put your face close to the mouth. If necessary, apply a muzzle to your pet's mouth and leave the nose uncovered so your pet can breath. Remember to never apply a muzzle if your pet is vomiting. It is best to work in a calm and gentle manner. If your pet shows signs of agitation, stop whatever you are doing and stay calm. Contact your veterinarian, an emergency clinic, or the Animal Poison Control Center as soon as possible. If you are doing any first aid procedures, have someone else do the phone calls while you are helping your pet. First aid procedures are not a substitute for veterinary care. So please, follow up with a visit to your vet or during an emergency, visit the nearest pet emergency clinic. When transporting your pet to a clinic or veterinarian, do so in a calm and gentle manner. It is best to transport a pet in a confined space, such as a carrier. It is a good idea to always have a copy of your pet's medical records on hand. If you have to go to an emergency clinic or a veterinarian on call, you can bring the copy of the records along. This way the treating veterinarian knows about the pet's medical history and any lab work or procedures that have been done recently.
So here are some of the most common emergency situations and a description of basic first aid procedures you can perform to help your pet in distress.
Poison and toxins: Call the Animal Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435 immediately or have someone call while you are assisting your pet. When giving information to the APCC know the specifics regarding your pet such as breed, sex, age, weight, symptoms, substance ingested, amount, and length of time ago. Also collect any discarded material such as vomit, feces, or urine. Read the label of the container the toxin was in. Often they tell you what to do about superficial contact or what to do if swallowed. Bring your pet to the nearest pet emergency clinic or your local veterinarian immediately.
Seizures: Keep your pet away from any objects that can injure it but do not restrain your pet. Most importantly, keep your fingers away from the mouth. Time the seizures. The average seizure lasts between two and three minutes. Any seizure over five to seven minutes is of great concern. If a seizure lasts longer than five minutes, bring your pet to the nearest emergency clinic immediately. After a shorter seizure, keep your pet in a quiet, warm, and comfortable place to sleep it off. Follow up with a visit to your veterinarian.
Fractures: Put a muzzle on your pet because fractures can be painful and a pet in distress can be unpredictable. Place your pet on a flat surface that you can also use for transport to the veterinarian. Make sure you secure your pet to the surface when transporting so it doesn't fall off. You can try to splint the broken limb but only if you can get your pet to see a veterinarian right away. The fracture needs to be properly aligned by a veterinarian or otherwise it will not heal correctly and your pet will end up limping. If it is a compound fracture (part of the bone exposed), do not push the bone back in. Cover it up with a gauze pad to keep it clean and seek veterinary care as soon as possible.
Bleeding (external): Put a muzzle on your pet. Apply several gauze pads with moderate pressure to the wound for at least three minutes. If the bleeding stops, apply a new gauze pad and secure with a gauze wrap and medical adhesive tape. If the bleeding is severe and on a limb, you can also apply a tourniquet between the body and the wound. You can use a necktie for this. A tourniquet should be loosened for about 30 seconds every 15 to 20 minutes. It is important to mark down the time that you applied the tourniquet and also the times that you loosened it because a tourniquet should not be kept longer than two hours. When applying a tourniquet, bring your pet to the nearest emergency clinic immediately.
Bleeding (internal): Be familiar with the symptoms of internal bleeding. The symptoms are: bleeding from the nose, mouth, or rectum. Bloody cough or blood in urine. Also pale gums, rapid pulse and/or collapse. If you suspect your pet having an internal bleeding, keep it quite, warm and bring it to the nearest emergency clinic immediately.
Burns: Again, put a muzzle on your pet because burns can be very painful and agitating to your pet. A chemical burn can be flushed with water. To a severe burn, you can apply a compress soaked in ice water for several minutes. After several minutes soak the compress again and apply anew. When transporting your pet to the veterinarian, cover the burn area with sterile gauze to keep it clean. Seek veterinarian care as soon as possible.
Chocking: Know the signs of chocking. Your pet might have difficulty breathing or make chocking sounds. It might also paw at the mouth constantly. The tongue and lips can show a blueish tinge. Try to look into the mouth by pulling the tongue towards the front of the mouth. If you see the obstruction, use tweezers or pliers to remove it and be careful not to stuff it down further. If you cannot remove the obstruction, place your pet on it's side and apply quick and firm pressure in the rip cage area. Use good judgement on the amount of pressure according to the size of your pet. If you are still unsuccessful, transport your pet to the nearest emergency clinic immediately.
Heat stroke: The most important rule of pet companionship is: Never leave your pet in a car on a hot day. A car can get very hot in a very short time and it only takes a few minutes for your pet to become overheated. Heat stroke can be a life threatening situation. Bring your pet out of the sun and to a shaded area. Put a cold, wet towel around your pet's neck and head while leaving the nose free to breath. Re-wet towel every few minutes. You can also gently pour water over the abdomen and between the hind leg area. Bring your pet to a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Shock: The symptoms of shock are as follows: weak pulse, shallow breathing, nervousness, and dazed eyes. If your pet shows any or all of these signs, keep your pet confined to a quite and warm place such as a pet carrier. The head should be level with the rest of the body. Seek veterinary care at the nearest pet emergency clinic immediately.
Not breathing: I know it is hard but try to remain clam. Call your veterinarian over the speaker phone or have someone else call while you are attending to your pet. Grasp your pet's tongue and pull forward in order to check for foreign objects. If the trachea is clear, close the mouth and hold it close while you breath into the nose until you see the chest rise. Repeat the mouth to nose breathing every four to five seconds until your pet breathes on its own or your pet is seen at the emergency clinic.
No heart beat: Again, try to remain clam and call your vet over the speaker phone or have someone else call while you are helping your pet. Place your pet on its side on top of a firm surface. Secure an airway and begin rescue breathing as described above. After four to five breath, start chest compressions. The heart is located in the lower half of the chest on the left side, behind the elbow of the front leg. This is the area where you apply the compressions. You do that, on a medium or large size dog, by placing one hand underneath the chest and the other hand above the chest and compress both hands at the same time. On a cat or small size dog, you have to cradle your hand around the chest and squeeze the chest between the thumb and fingers. A compression consists of a quick push down and a quick release. Use good judgement of the amount of pressure to use according to the size of the pet. Since cats and dogs have a more rapid heart beat than people, you should do about 100 compressions per minute. It is best to do this procedure with two people since you have to alternate between breathing and chest compressions. Give five chest compressions and on the 5th release, give one breath. When the chest goes down after the breath, start with compressions again. Continue until the heartbeat is restored and your pet breathes on its own or until you arrive at the emergency clinic and the veterinary takes over.
As you can see, with the right supplies and some basic knowledge of pet first aid, emergency situations can be handled calmly and with confidence. And most importantly, remember that pet first aid can save your pet's life but is not a substitute for veterinary care.
So, stay safe my friends,