As pet owners, we are responsible for the care and well-being of our beloved animals. There are few things more frightening and anxiety-inducing than seeing your pet suffering from injury or illness. As pet parents, we want to do whatever we can to alleviate their suffering.
Pet emergencies are never a nine-to-five phenomenon, they do not take time off for holidays, and often occur suddenly. Most pet parents have experienced a pet emergency in their lifetime and most will tell you that they always seem to occur outside of normal veterinarian business hours. That is why it is important that we be prepared for any pet emergency that might arise.
Here are some tips that can help you be prepared for the next pet emergency:
1) ALWAYS INVOLVE YOUR VETERINARIAN!
There is nothing more important when faced with a pet emergency than contacting your veterinarian. If your pet requires your immediate attention have someone else contact your vet while you tend to the animal.
2) HAVE A PET EMERGENCY FIRST AID KIT
Having the necessary tools to treat and comfort your pet in an emergency can help you to feel more prepared, reduce your stress levels, and help ease your pet’s anxiety. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, a basic first aid kit should include the following items:
- A list of emergency phone numbers (I.e. regular veterinarian, emergency veterinarian, Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435)
- Your pet’s medical records (including medications and vaccination history)
- Gauze for wrapping wounds or muzzling injured animals
- Nonstick bandages, towels, or clean strips of cloth to control bleeding or protect wounds
- Adhesive tape for bandages for securing gauze wraps or bandages (NEVER USE HUMAN ADHESIVE BANDAGES ON PETS!!!)
- Milk of magnesia and activated charcoal to absorb poison (ALWAYS CALL YOUR VETERINARIAN OR LOCAL POISON CONTROL CENTER BEFORE INDUCING VOMITING!!!)
- Hydrogen peroxide (3%)
- Digital thermometer to check your pet’s temperature (you will need a fever thermometer to accommodate your pet’s higher body temperature)
- Eye dropper or large syringe (without needle) to give oral medications or flush wounds
- Muzzle to cover your pet’s head and avoid injury (NEVER MUZZLE YOUR PET IF THEY ARE VOMITING!!!)
- A leash to safely transport your pet
- A stretcher or sling for safe transport of larger animals or pet’s who may exacerbate an injury by walking on their own
- Additional items you might want to include are a flashlight, tweezers, cotton balls, scissors, and antibiotic ointment
3) KNOW BASIC PET FIRST AID
- Poisoning And Exposure to Toxins – Most things that are poisonous to humans are also poisonous to pets. Cleaning chemicals, rodent and pest poisons, and antifreeze are good examples. It is important to keep in mind that pets can be poisoned by certain foods and common house and yard plants as well. The AVMA brochure Household Hazards provides an overview of foods and common household items that may be dangerous for your pets.
- Toxin Exposure – If your pet’s eyes or skin has been exposed to a toxin like a commercial cleaning product, check the product’s label for instructions on treatment. What the label recommends for humans is likely the same treatment for pets.
- Toxin Ingestion – If your pet has swallowed something toxic, contact your veterinarian or poison control center immediately. Knowing what toxin your pet has ingested is vital. Be prepared with a name and description of the toxin, how much your pet ingested, and the amount of time since the toxin was ingested.
- Seizures – If your pet is experiencing a seizure keep them away from any objects that might cause injury (I.e. furniture) and do not attempt to restrain your pet. Time the seizure. Seizures typically last 2-3 minutes. Once the seizure subsides, keep your pet as warm and quiet as possible and contact your veterinarian.
- Fractures – If your pet experiences a bone fracture muzzle them and lay on a flat surface for support and arrange for an emergency visit to the vet. While transporting your pet use a stretcher or sling and keep the animal secured during transport.
- External Bleeding – If your pet is bleeding externally muzzle your pet and press a clean, thick gauze pad over the wound. Apply pressure with your hand until the blood begins to clot. This may take several minutes. The best practice is to apply constant pressure for three to four minutes and then check for clotting. If the wound is still bleeding repeat as necessary.
- Severe Bleeding – If the bleeding is severe and on the pet’s legs, apply a tourniquet between the wound and the body using gauze or an elastic band. Next, apply a bandage and pressure over the wound. Loosen the tourniquet for 20 seconds every 15 to 20 minutes. Severe bleeding can be life-threatening – get your pet to an emergency clinic immediately.
- Choking – If your pet has swallowed something that is obstructing their airway it can quickly become a life-threatening situation – get to the vet immediately. Aside from choking sounds, your pet may exhibit blue-tinged lips and tongue, pawing at the mouth, and labored breathing. If when inspecting the animal’s mouth you can see a foreign object attempt to remove it gently with pliers or tweezers being careful not to push the object further into the animal’s throat. If you cannot remove the object or your pet collapses, place both hands on the sides of your pet’s rib cage and apply firm, quick pressure to try to dislodge the object. Keep applying this technique until the object is dislodged or you reach the veterinarian’s office.
While we hope that you never have to manage a pet emergency, being prepared can help you to manage the situation more effectively and with a greater sense of control.