Being a pet owner is much like being a parent—by taking on a pet, you are taking on the responsibility of a vulnerable creature. In an emergency situation, it’s important to be educated and aware, so that you can quickly and effectively respond. Many emergencies are preventable if you can detect them early. Knowledge of basic first aid, preparedness, plus careful observation of your pet, such as changes in behavior or physical appearance, can be the key to saving your pet’s life.
First Aid Supplies
In order to ensure your pet’s safety, make sure to always keep supplies on hand. Gauze, adhesive tape, towels, or cloth can be used for wrapping wounds to control bleeding or muzzling an injured animal. In the event of the consumption of poisonous or harmful foods, Milk of Magnesia can be used to absorb poison, while Hydrogen Peroxide can induce vomiting. However, before treating an animal for poison, you should always contact a veterinarian or poison control center.
A digital thermometer to check your pet’s temperature should be a “fever” thermometer, since the temperature scale of regular thermometers doesn’t reach high enough temperatures for animals. An eyedropper is essential for giving oral treatments, and can also be used to flush wounds. A muzzle and leash should always be in your possession to protect and transport your pet. If a stretcher is needed, you may use a board, floor mat, door, towel, or blanket.
Basic First Aid Procedures
Unexpected accidents happen, and you can’t always get your pet to a vet quickly enough. It’s important to know basic procedures so that you can administer preliminary first aid to your pet before it’s too late.
For less obvious and critical injuries, check your pet regularly for nicks and cuts. Sometimes they can be difficult to spot if an animal has thick fur, so it’s important to spread the fur and check meticulously for wounds.
Poison and Other Critical Injuries
Poisoning, burns, shock, heatstroke, bleeding, broken bones, choking, seizures, or other critical medical accidents may need immediate treatment before you can get your pet to a veterinarian, so it’s essential that you know what to do. Many foods and household items are poisonous to pets, so make sure you know which of these pose a danger to your animal. If possible, collect any material your pet may have vomited or chewed to present it to a veterinarian in order to help find the proper treatment.
If your pet is experiencing seizures, keep it away from any furniture or household items that may hurt it. Do not try to restrain or hold down your pet until after the seizure ends. In the event of a fracture or break, muzzle your pet and transport it on a stretcher or blanket, being careful to support it completely.
Likewise, for a bleeding pet, muzzle it and cover the wound with a clean, thick gauze pad. Keep pressure on the wound in order to stop the bleeding.
A choking animal can be recognized by its difficulty breathing, excessive pawing at the mouth, blue-tinged lips or tongue, or unfamiliar sounds when breathing or coughing. A choking pet may bite, so use caution and try to keep it calm. If you can detect a foreign object in your pet’s mouth, try to remove it with pliers or tweezers, being careful not to push it further into the throat.
No Breathing or Heartbeat
If your pet is not breathing, or has no heartbeat, you may have to perform rescue breathing or chest compressions.
- To perform rescue breathing, close your pet’s mouth with your hand and breath into it’s nose until you see the animal’s chest expand and continue breathing once every 4 to 5 seconds.
- Once you’ve secured an airway, but your pet still has no heartbeat, you may begin chest compressions by laying your pet on its right side.
- Place one hand underneath its chest and the other over its heart.
- Press down gently and massage its chest. For larger animals, you can press down hard 80 to 120 times per minute. For smaller animals, you may cradle your hand around its chest and squeeze it between your thumb and fingers, pushing about 100 to 150 times per minute.
- You may alternate chest compression with rescue breaths until you can hear a heartbeat and your pet is breathing regularly.
Tips for Handling an Injured Pet
As loving and trusting as your pet is under normal conditions, injured animals can be dangerous. An injured animal becomes scared and confused, and can often react by bighting, scratching, or attacking those trying to assist, so keep your face away from an injured animal’s mouth. Proceed slowly and gently in the presence of an injured animal, being aware of any agitation or fear. If the animal is not vomiting, you may wish to muzzle an injured pet to make sure you won’t be bitten. Try to stabilize injuries before moving a wounded animal, and call your veterinarian or an emergency clinic right away. To transport your injured pet, keep it in a carrier, blanket, or box to reduce the risk of additional injuries or an attempted escape.
Pet owners know the massive responsibility placed in their hands when taking on an animal. If your pet looks like it’s suffering or in danger, you must know the basic procedures for administering first aid. In addition to the guidelines listed above, be sure to have your pet’s medical record on hand and keep the phone number of an emergency veterinary clinic and animal poison control center readily available. It’s easy to become panicked when your pet is in a dangerous situation, but as long as you stay calm and know the basics, you can make all the difference in your pet’s survival.