Imagine playing at the dog park with your furry best friend when all of the sudden he collapses and doesn’t appear to be breathing…Would you know what to do? Many people wouldn’t have any idea, except to try to make it to the vet before it’s too late. Take the time to make sure you know what to do if your dog or cat comes into any harm, make sure you have all emergency phone numbers posted in your home and saved in your phone, and put together a basic first aid kit for your pet.
Always make sure that you are careful of your own safety when you are helping your injured animals. You will want to consider using a muzzle for many injuries because your pet may be scared or disoriented and attempt to bite you.
Some of the most common issues that pets run into are:
POISONING: Signs of your pet being poisoned can include drooling or foaming at the mouth, seizures, strange behavior or mental state, and bleeding internally or externally. Some common causes of pet poisonings are cleaning products, fertilizers, plants, chemicals, antifreeze, xylitol, pest poisons, medications, and some common foods (see my previous blog on poison prevention for more information). Read the product label for anything that your pet has gotten into and follow the instructions for human poisoning (i.e. wash your pet with soap and water at exposed area, or flush eyes with water, depending on the instructions) and collect any vomit to take to your vet.
CHOKING: Symptoms of choking include difficulty breathing or pawing at face/mouth, choking noises, and blue lips/tongue. Your pet may bite out of fear while choking, so be careful and keep your face out of danger. Try to spot a foreign object in your pet’s mouth or throat and try to pull it out, but do not push it further in. If you can’t get the object out quickly, rush straight to your vet-there is no time to lose. You can also attempt a pet Heimlich maneuver by lying your pet on his side and applying firm quick pressure to the side of your pet’s rib cage with both hands to cause air to sharply push out of the lungs and dislodge the object blocking the airway. You can also pick your pet up and hold him upside down with his back to you, clasp your hands just below his rib cage and thrust sharply four or five times.
NOT BREATHING: Have someone call a vet while you attempt pet CPR. Pull your pet’s tongue out of his mouth to open his airway and check for any foreign objects (see above). Hold your pet’s mouth closed and put your mouth over his nose and complete rescue breaths until you see his chest rising. Do this every 5 seconds. After this, you can start chest compressions. Lay your pet on his right side on the ground so you can access the heart on the lower left, behind the elbow of the front left leg. Press down firmly about 1 inch for medium dogs, more for larger dogs, and less for smaller dogs. For cats, compress the chest by squeezing it between your thumb and fingers with your thumb on the left side of their chest. Do the compressions 80-120 times for larger animals and 100-150 times for smaller animals. Alternate between the rescue breathing and chest compressions. Continue this until your pet starts breathing on his own or you reach the vet and they can take over.
SEIZURE: Try not to restrain your pet and keep hands away from his mouth. Time the seizure. Afterward, keep him warm and quiet until you are able to talk to your vet.
CUTS/BLEEDING: Apply pressure to bleeding site with gauze or a towel for three minutes at a time until blood starts to clot. If blood does not clot quickly, you can apply a tourniquet and get your pet to the vet immediately as excessive bleeding can be life threatening.
BURNS: Flush burned area with large quantities of water, then apply ice compact to the burned area. You may want to muzzle your dog for your own protection.
FRACTURES/BREAKS: Try to stabilize your pet on a board/cot or use a towel or rug to carry him. You may want to muzzle your pet, and get him to a vet to set any bones.
HEAT STROKE/HEAT EXHAUSTION: Symptoms of overheating include your pet collapsing, body temperature of 104 or higher, bloody diarrhea, vomiting, wobbling, excessive panting/difficulty breathing, redness in mucus membranes, and increased salivation. DON’T LEAVE YOUR PET IN THE CAR ON WARM DAYS!! It quickly gets hot in a car, faster than you think. Move your pet to a cool or shaded area immediately. Put a cool, wet towel around his neck and keep it wet with cool water. Pour cold water over his body and sweep it off with your hands over and over. Take your dog to the vet. Read more about the effects of heat exhaustion in dogs here.
You should definitely consider building a basic first aid kit for your pets. You can add in anything that you want, but here are a few basics to start with:
A wound spray like Zymox topical spray, which is what I use. This will come in very handy for cuts and scrapes. Zymox is non-toxic and even safe if licked. It will also clean the wound and speed up healing.
Bandages that self-cling, gauze and bandage scissors.
Eye and ear rinse and dropper to help flush out any contaminants.
E-collar to prevent licking and biting at wounded area.
Muzzle and leash-because your dog may be acting extra cranky when injured and in pain, or extra skittish and try to bolt.
Shop Dog First Aid
Hydrogen peroxide is good to keep on hand to induce vomiting. Don’t do this unless you have been advised by your vet or an emergency poison control hotline to do so. Some poisons cause more harm if they are regurgitated.
Finally, you should keep your regular veterinarian’s as well as your local 24/7 emergency veterinarian’s phone numbers posted on your refrigerator and saved in your phone. Also, keep the Pet Poison Helpline number handy: 855-764-7661. They are available 24/7, but will charge you a $49 fee. This fee will cover follow-ups and multiple phone calls. Find more information at petpoisonhelpline.com. You can also look for the Pet First Aid App by the Red Cross to download to your smartphone.
Please note: This article is for informational purposes only. This is not intended to prevent, diagnose or cure any disease or injury.