By Kayla Reiff
Accidents happen to everyone, including your pets. For example, would you know what to do if your dog ate some leftover Easter chocolate? What if your cat started seizing right in front of you? By remembering and following some basic first aid steps, you may avoid feelings of panic during events like these – and potentially save your pet’s life until you can get to a veterinary hospital. It is extremely important to remember that any first aid that is administered to your pet should immediately be followed by professional veterinary care.
In case of an emergency, a pet first aid kit should contain just about everything one would need to help an injured or distressed pet. Some major pieces to keep in your family’s personal pet first aid kit include:
- A copy of your pet’s medical records
- Your veterinarian’s phone number: Neffsville Veterinary Clinic (717-569-5381)
- Phone number for an emergency veterinary clinic: PETS Emergency Treatment and Specialties (717-295-7387)
- Animal Poison Control Center phone number (Fees may apply): 888-4ANI-HELP / (888-426-4435)
- Gauze Roll – for wrapping wounds or muzzling the injured animal
- Nonstick bandages, towels, or strips of clean cloth – to control bleeding or protect wounds
- Adhesive tape or vet wrap for bandages (DO NOT use human bandages (ex. Band-Aids®) on pets)- for securing the gauze wrap or bandage
- Milk of Magnesia or Activated Charcoal – to absorb ingested toxins ***ALWAYS CONTACT YOUR VETERINARIAN OR LOCAL POISON CONTROL CENTER BEFORE INDUCING VOMITING OR TREATING AN ANIMAL FOR POISON.***
- Hydrogen Peroxide (3%) – to induce vomiting ***ALWAYS CONTACT YOUR VETERINARIAN OR LOCAL POISON CONTROL CENTER BEFORE INDUCING VOMITING OR TREATING AN ANIMAL FOR POISON.***
- Digital Fever Thermometer – to check your pet’s temperature. Do not insert a thermometer into your pet’s mouth- the temperature must be taken rectally (you will need a “fever” thermometer because the temperature scale of regular thermometers doesn’t go high enough for pets
- Eyedropper (or large syringe without needle )- to give oral treatments or flush wounds
- K-Y Jelly (or generic version) to protect wounds and eyes
- Saline Solution – for cleansing wounds (saline sold for use with contact lenses works well for most purposes)
- Muzzle (in an emergency a rope, necktie, soft cloth, nylon stocking, may be used) – to prevent bites. If your pet is vomiting, do not muzzle it
- Clean Towels – to restrain cats, cleaning or padding material
- Spare Collar and Leash – to transport your pet if capable of walking without furthering an injury
- Stretcher (in an emergency a door, board, blanket, or floor mat may be used) – to stabilize the injured animal and prevent further injury during transport
- Location of a Pet Carrier (for cats and small dogs)
When handling an injured pet, even the most normally mild-tempered companion may try to bite or scratch you. They are likely to be in pain, scared or confused – and that can make animals unpredictable or dangerous. While your first impulse might be to hug or kiss your pet to comfort them, it might only scare them more or cause them pain. It is therefore recommended that you keep your face away from their mouth during this stressful time. When checking out your pet for injury, be gentle and move as slow as possible. If your pet becomes more upset, stop and just focus on driving them carefully to the veterinarian.
Some common problems that can be helped through first aid may include but are not limited to:
- Choking – If a pet is actively choking, symptoms may include difficulty breathing, pawing excessively at the mouth, making choking sounds when breathing or coughing, and/or they may have blue-tinged lips or tongue. If you can see a foreign object when looking into your pet’s mouth, gently try to remove it, being careful not to accidentally push it further down into their throat. If you cannot reach it easily, take your pet to the veterinarian immediately. If you are unable to remove the foreign object or if your pet collapses, place both hands on the side of your pet’s ribcage and apply firm, quick pressure. You may also lay your pet on their side and strike the ribcage firmly with the palm of your hand 3-4 times to sharply push air out of their lungs and push the object out from behind with it. Repeat this until you have dislodged the object or until you arrive at the veterinarian.
- Not Breathing – If you notice that your pet is not breathing, open the airway by gently holding the tongue and pulling it forward out of the mouth until it is flat. Look into the throat to see if there are any foreign objects. If there is no foreign object obstructing the breathing, begin performing rescue breathing by holding your pet’s mouth closed with your hand and breathing directly into its nose until you’re able to see the chest expand. Once the chest expands, continue administering one rescue breath every 4-5 seconds.
- Seizures – If your pet is having a seizure, clear the area of other pets, furniture, and other objects that may cause injury. Do not attempt to subdue your pet or startle them out of the seizure. Time any and every seizure had by the pet (they typically last 2-3 minutes) and when the seizure has ended, keep the pet warm and quiet while you immediately contact your veterinarian.
- Uncontrollable Bleeding – If your pet has a wound that will not stop bleeding, first apply direct pressure with a clean towel or cloth for at least 3 minutes before checking to see if the bleeding has stopped. If not stopped, take your pet to a veterinarian ASAP. Severe bleeding can very quickly turn life-threatening. Wounds that continue to bleed through layers of bandages or cloths should have more layers of towel/cloth/bandage added on top of the previous ones. If they are removed, it may disturb the formation of blood clots that could stop the bleeding.