First let me apologize for the delay between these First Aid posts! We have had a very busy few weeks, including a few emergency patients of my own. It seemed ironic that I was delayed in posting about Pet First Aid because I was too busy delivering first aid!
In my last blog post I described how to make your own Pet First Aid Kit, now it is time to learn how to use it! Just like in human first aid, it would be impossible for me to cover every possible scenario in which your pet could be injured, so I will just cover some of the more common conditions I have seen in practice. I have also included this link to a great Pet First Aid App for your phone or tablet, which can be used in an emergency and covers a huge number of scenarios. The App also allows you to enter your closest vet clinic to have on emergency stand by.
Before I discuss some basic Pet First Aid I would like to mention this little disclaimer, which is hopefully obvious. First aid CAN’T replace veterinary attention!!! If your pet is bleeding, having trouble breathing, has had a seizure or any other injury or serious illness it is paramount that the first aid you administer is only to help keep your pet aliveuntil you can get to the vet.
I would also like to mention that you should ALWAYS consider placing a muzzle on your pet if they have a painful condition, even the nicest dog may bite when in severe distress and discomfort.
Flush burnt area with cool water for 30 seconds to two minutes. For thermal burns apply cool-pack to area. Seek veterinary attention.
Identify the snake if you can – hopefully I am stating the obvious… DO NOT TOUCH THE SNAKE! A simple photo or description may help your vet identify the snake. Keep your pet as calm as possible, and carry them if you are able, this will reduce the venom spreading through the body. A pressure bandage can be applied if a leg has been bitten and may help reduce venom spread. Vetwrap or gauze bandage can be used to apply even and gentle pressure over the entire leg. Start 5-10cm above the bite site and wrap down the leg all the way to the toe nails, try to overlap the bandage by 50% with each wrap. DO NOT apply a tourniquet as this may restrict blood flow to the limb causing further damage. But if you are close to the veterinarian this may just be time wasted as anti-venom is the only thing that can save a pet from a serious snake bite!
If your pet is calm you can wipe the mouth out with a damp cloth to remove any residue toxin in the mouth. Obtain the packaging of the substance if possible and call the vet to seek advice, as all toxins are different. It is important to call the vet BEFORE attempting to make your pet vomit – some toxins are caustic and may burn the oesophagus.
Dogs love sticking their noses into other animal’s business, and sometimes that results in a bee sting to the face! This can cause severe swelling of the muzzle, and even the throat. If your dog has mild swelling , or you are a long way from the vet but your pet can still swallow, you can give them an antihistamine. It is important to seek veterinary attention if your pet is having trouble breathing or there is swelling of the throat or tongue, as this may obstruct their airways.
Antihistamines Dog’s can take include:
- Loratadine (claratyne) at a dose of 10mg per 20kg (up to 20mg max dose)
- Chlorpheniramine at a dose of 4mg per 10kg (up to 8mg max dose – this is also safe in cats)
- Zyrtec at a dose of 10mg per 10kg (up to 20mg max dose)
Heat stroke is very common in the summer months; excessive play, lack of shade and high outside temperatures can be a recipe for disaster. The symptoms of heat stroke include lethargy, panting, vomiting, collapse and your pet will feel hot to touch (NOTEpets always feel warmer than us as their body temperature is naturally higher). If you are concerned your pet has heat stroke you can put a wet towel over their body and offer small volumes of water. It is important not to let your pet drink excessively if they are suffering from heat stroke and dehydration as this may change the concentration of electrolyte in their blood stream too quickly and lead to serious conditions such as seizures. Seek veterinary attention as soon as possible, and try to prevent heat stroke in summer by encouraging rest during the hottest periods of the day, and ensuring your pet always has access to water and shade.
External Bleeding and Open Wounds
If your pet has a wound that is bleeding or open the first step is to calm your pet and consider placing a muzzle on them. Once calm you can apply a handful of gauze swabs over the wound and apply firm pressure for two minutes to stem the bleeding. If the bleeding continues after two minutes apply a non-stick dressing (such as melolin) followed by a handful of gauze swabs to the wound. If the wound is on the body or neck you may be able to hold the swabs in place with a gentle vetwrap bandage – it is important you do not restrict your pets breathing with a bandage! If the wound is on the leg follow the same instructions but wrap the leg with gauze or vetwrap starting at the wound and going up to the next joint and then down again to just above the toe nails. Seek veterinary attention immediately.
It is important not to touch a seizuring pet as they may accidentally clamp down on you with their teeth, and it can be almost impossible to stop until after the seizure ends. If your pet is in immediate danger (on a road, near water etc) you can use a thick blanket to protect yourself while you move your pet away from danger. If possible remove any objects that may harm your pet. Time the seizure and take not of what your pet is doing, if possible take a video as it will assist the vet in diagnosis. If your pet seizures for over five minutes move them to the car as safely as possible and seek veterinary attention. Seizures deprive the brain of oxygen and long seizures can cause life-threatening hyperthermia (high body temperatures). When your pet stops seizuring they will likely be dazed and confused, seek veterinary attention as soon as it is safe for you and your pet for further diagnostics and treatment.
Not breathing or No Heart Beat
A pet that is in respiratory or cardiac arrest is a true emergency – stay tuned for my next post on Pet CPR.
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