When an emergency strikes, are you prepared? Most people know some basic first aid to help family and friends, but many don’t know where to start when it comes to their furry friends!
April is Pet First Aid Awareness Month, so now is a good time to learn the skills that you would need to help your pet in case the two of you find yourself in an emergency situation.
First, stay calm. Your pet may be in serious distress, but it is important to remain calm. Minimize your pet’s movements and contact your veterinary hospital for instructions. There are steps you can take while waiting for instructions or while on route to the hospital. If you are alone, try to get help from a neighbor or friend.
- Bleeding: Apply pressure using a bandage, piece of clothing, or towel. If the bleeding continues and soaks through the wrapping, don’t waste time – seek veterinary care right away! Many wounds that are treated quickly can be sutured (stitched up), but if you wait too long, more extensive surgery or a blood transfusion may be required. Excessive bleeding is life-threatening.
- Bites from cats, dogs, or other animals: Apply pressure to the wound. Seek veterinary care to prevent infection even if the wound seems minor or the bleeding stops quickly. Infection from bite wounds is common and can set in quickly. Your pet may require antibiotics.
- Seizures: If your pet has a seizure do NOT restrain him. Protect him from injury by placing blankets or towels as needed to cushion him from hard surfaces. Keep him in a quiet, dark area after the seizure. Your pet can accidentally bite you while having, or right after having, a seizure, because he does not have control or is confused and may not know who you are. Contact your veterinary hospital immediately for instructions.
- Eye injury: If your pet gets debris, such as sand, dirt, or bits of grass, in his eye, you may be able to remove it by gently rinsing the eye with warm water, eyewash, or a saline solution. Contact your veterinarian as soon as possible to have the eye examined – the cornea may be scratched. Corneal scratches are painful and can lead to eye infections.
- Heat stroke: NEVER leave your pet alone in your car, especially on a sunny or hot day. If you suspect your pet has heat stroke, as quickly as possible reduce your pet’s body temperature using cool water and keep him wet during transport to your veterinary hospital. Do NOT use ice or ice water to cool your pet. Heat stroke is a medical emergency and immediate treatment by your veterinarian is needed.
- Insect stings: If you suspect your pet has been stung by a bee, there are steps you can take to minimize the reaction. Try to locate the stinger and carefully scrape it away using a credit card. Make a paste out of baking soda and water to soothe the area. To reduce swelling, apply ice or a cold wet towel to the area. If your pet develops more serious symptoms, such as severe swelling, itchiness, hives, swelling of the face, difficulty breathing, vomiting, or diarrhea, seek immediate emergency veterinary care. These are signs of an allergic reaction.
- Frostbite: Until you can get indoors, or wherever it is warm and dry, do NOT try to warm the affected areas unless you can provide continual warmth. Additional exposure to cold, after warming, will severely injure the tissue. Move your pet, as soon as possible, to a warm dry area. Wrap your pet in warm towels or blankets and place hot water bottles wrapped in towels against your pet’s body. Do NOT rub or massage the affected areas. Keep your pet wrapped in towels while traveling to your veterinary hospital.
For more in-depth pet first aid training, such as rescue breathing, CPR, and treatment for shock, consider taking a Pet First Aid course. Organizations such as The Red Cross, St John’s Ambulance, and Walks N’ Wags offer such courses in North America. Some organizations even offer courses for those adventurous types that go back country camping with your dog. Access to veterinary care will be delayed in these instances and it is important to know what to do if you have an emergency in the wilderness.
If your pet has been involved in an accident or emergency, take your pet to your veterinary hospital or emergency clinic for an examination. Even if he appears to be fully recovered, it is important that your pet be thoroughly examined for injuries that may not be outwardly apparent.