in case of emergency: pet first aid tips

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Sheltie getting paw wrapped | Pet first aid tips
Posted by Dr. Rebecca Jackson on Apr 05 2016

In a perfect world, our four-legged family members would never experience pain, illness or injury. Unfortunately, our pets can be afflicted with illnesses and injuries that are all too real.

In a previous blog, we explained how to build your own pet first aid kit, which is important to have on-hand for unforeseen emergency situations. But even if you’ve built a kit – do you know how to use it?

What to do during an emergency

The most important thing to remember in a pet emergency situation is to stay as calm as possible (your pet will feed off of your emotions), and to keep yourself and your pet safe. When injured or feeling really crummy, even the sweetest pet may bite and/or scratch.

This is not a reflection on their personality. Just like you and I, when your pet is sick or injured, they are most likely scared and in pain; biting and/or scratching may be the only way they know to tell you how bad they are feeling. So, be careful! Protect yourself and your pet. We don’t need both of you heading to the emergency room.

Okay, so remaining calm, take a moment to assess the situation:

What to do if your pet is bleeding

Is your pet bleeding? If so, use the clean cloths, towels and/or gauze (depending on the severity of the bleeding) in your emergency kit to apply direct pressure, and adhesive tape to hold the temporary bandage in place while you transport your pet to the vet. Just don’t tape too tightly! You don’t want to cut off circulation to the area; you just want to make sure the bandage stays in place as best as possible.

I do not recommend trying to investigate the area too closely. Just try to control the bleeding in order to transport your pet to the vet. Your vet will be able to sedate/anesthetize your pet and explore the damage in a controlled and clean environment with the proper instruments to handle whatever situation they find.

What to do if your pet has been poisoned 

Did your pet get into something they shouldn’t have, such as your medicine chest, cleaning cabinet or perhaps the candy dish? There are many common household toxins to pets.

First, try to identify what exactly your pet ate. If possible, grab the packaging from the product and call your veterinarian or the Poison Control Hotline at 855-764-7661 (there may be a charge for this phone call, but it’s worth the information). They will be able to guide you on the best course of action. 

Be warned: Do not assume that inducing vomiting is always the best course of action. Some toxins can do even more damage if vomited.

If your vet is unavailable, the Poison Control Hotline is your best course of action. If you can quickly and safely get your pet to your vet or an emergency vet, that may be your best option.

Don’t delay! In a toxin ingestion situation, time is your worst enemy! The sooner your pet is seen and treated, the better their chance of recovery. In times like these, knowing your best friend has pet insurance that covers emergency visits allows you to focus on getting them the best care as quickly as possible.

What to do if your pet is having a seizure

Is your pet having a seizure for the first time? Be careful! Seizing animals are unaware of what and/or who is around them, and they can accidentally hurt you if you try to hold them down while they are seizing.

Try to make sure your pet is in a safe place by clearing anything that could injure him if he hits it, and try to track how long the seizure lasts. Call your vet or an emergency vet, and they will be able to guide you on the next steps.

Is your pet just “off” and you aren’t exactly sure what is going on? You can always take their vitals (heart rate, respiratory rate and temperature) so that when you call your vet you can give them these important pieces of information.

When it is all said and done, the most important things to remember are:

1. Make sure you and your pet are safe from harm.

2. Don’t try to do too much. Your goal is to make your pet safe to travel to your veterinarian.

3. Keep your first aid kit up to date. Make sure your pet’s vaccine and medication list is up to date AND make sure you take this information with you to the doctor.

4. Hopefully, all of your hard work will prevent you from ever having to use your first aid kit!