We love our pets. We take them to the vet for annual wellness checkups and carefully keep them current for heartworm protection and flea and tick safeguards. We do everything we can to keep our pets healthy, safe, and happy. Appropriate training, socialization, exercise, and playtime are scheduled activities. Unfortunately, unexpected events occur. It is estimated that 92% of all pets will experience some type of severe medical emergency situation during their lifetime.
Without warning, a pet can fall down stairs and break a bone or a dog can have a seizure. Darting in front of a car can cause serious injuries including loss of blood. Chocolate, antifreeze, sage palm, house hold cleaners and many other substances taste yummy to a dog but are life threatening toxins. April is designated as National Pet First Aid Awareness month to remind us to refresh our knowledge of important first aid basics that can save a pet's life until vet care is available.
First aid may save your pet's life until you can get him to a veterinarian, but it is not a substitute for veterinary care. Any first aid administered to your pet should be followed by immediate veterinary care.
When an emergency arises, you need to know how to handle an injured or ill pet, and you should have a first aid kit handy. According to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) the application of just one pet first aid technique applied prior to getting emergency veterinary care would save 1-out-of-4 more pets.
An injured pet is probably scared and confused. He has suffered an insult to his body that he does not understand. Be very careful to avoid getting hurt or bitten. Pain and fear can make even the gentlest pet unpredictable and dangerous. Your first impulse may be to comfort your pet with a hug or gentle stroking. These advances may frighten him more or even cause him pain.
Perform an examination of your pet's injuries slowly and gently. Always keep your face away from his mouth. Pause if he becomes more agitated. You may want to muzzle your pet if he is not vomiting. A muzzle reduces the risk that you will be bitten, but NEVER muzzle a vomiting pet.
You should have a first aid kit available. It is a good idea to have one in your home and another in your car. You can become a bit rattled when your dog is in pain so include the phone numbers of your veterinarian, the emergency veterinary clinic, and the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888-4ANI-HELP or 888-426-4435, there may be a fee for this call). The kit should also contain a copy of your pet's medical records. Take them with you so they are readily available for the veterinarian or emergency veterinary clinic.
Try to stabilize injuries before moving your pet. Bleeding can be slowed by holding gauze pads over a wound. If blood soaks through, do not remove the gauze, just add more gauze. Splint broken bones if possible.
Call your veterinarian or emergency veterinary clinic before you transport your pet. Describe your pet's condition so they can be ready for you when you arrive. Keep your pet in a small area during transport. This will reduce the risk of additional injury. A small dog can be placed in a pet carrier or wrapped in a towel or blanket. Larger dogs can be placed on a blanket, board, throw rug, or similar item to act as a stretcher.
Loving your pet includes being prepared in case he suffers a severe medical emergency. Know how to handle an injured or ill pet and have a first aid kit handy.
Basic supplies for your pet first aid kit
Sue Furman, Ph.D, has published two books and a DVD on canine massage and teaches classes in pet massage, acupressure, first aid and CPR. See her schedule and submit questions at HolisticTouchTherapy.com.
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With a Ph.D. in Biological sciences from the University of Texas in Austin and a masters in Zoology from Southern Illinois University, Dr. Sue is devoted to the care and massaging of pets. Read her articles here.