Highlights from Pet Emergencies: How to Respond Quickly to Save Your Pet’s Life

Many Emergencies Can Be Easily Prevented

After working in emergency pet medicine, I realized that many owners just didn’t know how to respond to specific emergencies, such as toxicities from food or medications. Helping pet owners learn how to handle life threatening situations has been my motivation for years.

Other emergencies can be prevented by following leash laws, teaching your dog basic training, puppy/kitten proofing your house, making sure door latches are secure, and electrical cords are tucked away.

According to the American Animal Hospital Association, “1-out-of-4 more pets would survive a medical emergency, if just one first aid technique was applied care.”

Moving/Transporting

Moving pets incorrectly can cause pain and sometimes permanent damage. Use extra care when moving animals with traumatic injuries, such as getting hit by a car. The key is to move the animal as quickly and smoothly as possibly. You want to lay your pet on the right side so that no pressure is applied to the heart. Feet should be facing away from you, and you should hug them into your chest. If there is blunt force trauma, the spinal column could be damaged. If you move the animal too roughly, you could cause more damage to the spine. Hugging them into the chest will keep the spinal column secure.

For a larger animal, you’ll want to use a stretcher if the animal has experienced blunt force trauma. Household items can be used as a stretcher, such as the crate tray from your dog’s crate or a folding table. You can also put the animal on a blanket and slide them to the vehicle to go to the veterinarian.

Triage

Triage is prioritizing medical needs. How quickly does the animal need to go to the vet? There are a series of observations to consider when assigning priority to emergency victims. There are obvious emergencies, strong potential for emergencies, and non-emergency triage.

Vet wrapping bandage around a Chihuahua’s injured leg

Pet First Aid Kit

Proper first aid cannot be administered without some necessary supplies. The kit should be portable and have appropriate size materials, especially bandage materials. Also, make sure to replace items after use.

Allergic Reactions

These can be mild, such as itchiness, to major. Anaphylactic reactions occur when the face swells, and the throat can swell shut. If your dog has an allergy, it’s best to eliminate the allergen to prevent a reaction. If a severe reaction occurs where your pet has difficulty breathing, seek veterinary care immediately.

For allergic reactions, having cold compresses available to put on the skin can help lessen the effects of the reaction. You can also take a washcloth, wet it, and then put in a Ziploc bag before applying to the pet’s skin. Contact your vet immediately if you have tried a cold compress, and the symptoms have not subsided within a few hours.

Burns

All burns should be taken seriously, and you should contact your veterinarian immediately. Burns are handled best by washing with cool water or spraying the area with saline.  It’s best to not cover any burn wounds with bandages for the wound to heal properly.

Positions for Choking Animals

Animals can choke on all sorts of objects. Be very careful with animals that are choking as they will be afraid. The dog or cat will be pawing at their face and struggling to breathe. Gently take your hand and pull the tongue to the side in dogs or front for cats, take your pinky and do a finger sweep side to side. Never put your entire hand in the mouth as you risk pushing the blockage further.

If you’re unable to get the object out with a finger sweep, then you’ll need to do what resembles the Heimlich maneuver for your pet. For small animals that you can hold in your arms, use the back blows technique. Take the palm of your other hand to hit between the shoulder blades four times. This will push the air out of the lungs. Always push your hand forward toward the head as opposed to straight down, and make sure the head is facing down. For large dogs, use four quick thrusts up on the abdomen.

Thermoregulatory Emergencies

If you suspect that the animal is experiencing hyperthermia or hypothermia, first take your pet’s body temperature. Human thermometers are okay to use, but pet thermometers are recommended. In dogs and cats, you’ll put the thermometer in the rectum. Have a friend help hold your pet while you take the temperature. Normal temps should be 100.5 to 102.5 for dogs.

With hypothermia, the body temperature is too low. You’ll want to warm the animal up as quickly as possible. You can use a heat pad that has been wrapped before putting on the animal or a Mylar survival blanket. As you start to warm the animal up, take its temperature every five minutes. If the temperature does not get back to normal range in an hour, seek veterinary help.

For hyperthermia, take your animal’s temperature. Make sure you offer cool (not cold) water to the animal that’s overheating. You can take an ice pack and put it under the ears, behind the hind legs, or under the stomach. Take body temperature every five minutes to ensure the pet’s temp is within normal range.

dog on cruise ship

Poisoning

The ASPCA provides a free poison control app that is very useful and categorizes poisonous items by species. You can use this tool to look up how dangerous a toxin is and what the symptoms are if your dog has been poisoned.

In your first aid kit, you want to have hydrogen peroxide. Two tablespoons per fifty pounds of body weight will help induce vomiting. If the toxin is a chemical, you don’t want to induce vomiting but rather use activated charcoal.

Bleeding

If your pet has a bleeding wound, always apply pressure first with a cotton ball or gauze pad. Keep pressure applied for at least five minutes. If the gauze gets soaked with blood, don’t take it off. Apply a new piece of gauze. Don’t put any disinfectant in the wound; this can make the bleeding worse.

Bandages

Bandages are great for protecting wounds and supporting limbs. There are lots of different types of bandages. Having a variety available is important.

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation

Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart and lungs stop working. Check the A, B, Cs first – airways, breathing, and circulation. If your pet is not breathing and you can’t feel a pulse, you can assume your pet is in cardiac arrest.

There are four different positions to place a dog based on shape and size. You’ll have to determine which position works for your pet’s chest size. You will want to compress thirty times then use mouth to snout resuscitations for two times and then repeat.

Pet Emergency Education classes are offered live and on-demand at petemergencyacademy.com.

Q and A in word bubbles

 

Amy’s Responses to Unanswered Questions

I have an 8-mo. old golden retriever who has recently been heavily panting in the middle of the night. We’ve tried giving him water and turning on the ceiling fan, but it’s happening on and off all night long. Is he over heating?

The best way to determine is to take his temperature. If the body temp is within normal range, he could be possibly experiencing anxiety, or if he is displaying other signs of distress. If so, let your vet know.

My cat recently had some allergy issues from the pollen during his leashed outdoor time. What do you recommend helping cats?

If it’s an allergen to outdoor pollen, take them to the vet & they may prescribe allergy medication. These would need to be prescribed by a veterinarian, similarly to us receiving a prescribed inhaler. If the cat has severe allergies to outdoor, limit their ability to go outside.

If a dog gets into chocolate, and you give peroxide right away and they don’t throw up, do you give more or go to the activated charcoal?

Good question! I usually do Hydrogen Peroxide, if they don’t vomit after 10 minutes – I try it one more time. If still no vomiting, I move to the activated charcoal.

My cat has asthma-like breathing issues. Is there a homeopathic remedy (She occasionally takes a round of steroids)?

Asthma in cats is quite common! There are veterinarians that actually specialize in this condition.

Maybe I missed it, but I did not see any of the alternative compression methods in the video other than left side 302. I would love to see a video of the other techniques you discussed. Although I have a dog this would work for, I am interested in seeing egg shaped chests, round chest large dogs etc.

We do cover this our full CPR and certification program! You are welcome to attend a full certification class at PetEmergencyEducation.com.

Why is chocolate bad for dogs?

Chocolate has certain ingredients within chocolate that can prevent certain parts of the body from functioning properly. The toxicity can get worse with the more chocolate consumed.

My dog has 2 torn ACLs. He is 9 and goes to the chiropractor every 3 weeks. What is your opinion on braces, hydrotherapeutics?

Physical therapy is excellent. Hydrotherapy is excellent; I have seen a lot of great results. For braces, I can’t really comment on that – I would recommend asking your vet or an orthopedic specialist.

How do you get a cat to take fish oil when she will not touch it even on her food?

You can give fish oil with an oral syringe and put it in the corner of their mouth & they will usually lick the rest of it up. Be cautious in case the cat does want to bite.

Are soft puffy spots on dogs cancerous?

This would be a question that would best be directed for your veterinarian.

Which certification class do you recommend for store employees to take?

Our K9 and Feline First Aid Certification class would be great! It’s all encompassing!

I have a deluxe 1st aid kit for humans.  Do I need a separate kit for my dog or just make sure I have basics covered?

I would highly recommend having a separate Pet first aid kit for your animals. Some items could possibly be interchangeable, such as bandages, but that is just about the only item that might work for both humans and animals.

If a cat eats something that makes them sick what can we do at home?

See if their behavior changes, are they lethargic? Are they still wanting to eat? What is their normal routine? What is their temperature? If they have a fever, or you don’t see behavioral improvements, go see your vet.

Is coconut oil ever useful for dry or irritated skin (like from licking, or scratching)?

This would be a question that would best be directed for your veterinarian.

What’s the best way to respond to a seizure? Should you let it finish before going to vet?

Yes, you want to let the animal finish seizing, and time how long the seizure lasts from start to finish. I suggest calling the vet before you head to the emergency clinic. Some vets may suggest keeping the pet at home if it wasn’t too serious, rather than moving them.

What can you do if your cat has very dry skin and hair?

That could be food related or related to the environment. It’s not uncommon to see itchy or dry skin. You could try an oatmeal or an itchy/dry skin shampoo. You can brush them to help stimulate the natural oils in the skin. Supplements may also be a good option for your pet. If it doesn’t get better, or gets worse, speak to your veterinarian.

What allergy pills or creams are ok to give to pets and are there are any that are off limits or not recommended?

This would be a question that would best be directed for your veterinarian.

How do you know if your dog has a blockage in their stomach?

Animals that have a blockage or bloat usually displays in a painful stomach, if the pet hasn’t pooped, etc. You want to seek out your veterinarian to determine the severity of the possible blockage. You don’t want to wait too long if you possibly suspect a blockage.

My collie has allergies. He’s 99lbs and he licks his paws raw at times when allergies are bad. Is Benadryl ok to give?

This would be a question that would best be directed for your veterinarian.

My Westie is 15. How often should her anal glands be expressed?

Every animal is different. Anal glands are expressed naturally during a bowel movement. But if you’re noticing your pet scooting around, it might be time to have them expressed. Some dogs need to get them done monthly; some dogs only need to have them expressed only every few months to a year.

Is there anything different in your wilderness first aid kit than the regular first aid kit?

Yes! The wilderness kit has more outdoor supplies like extra whistles, a leash, a splint, etc. to help if your pet gets injured on a trail or in a remote area. The full list of what’s included in each kit is included on our site, petemergencyeducation.com

Have you had experience with airlines specific for animals? There used to be planes that only transfer pets in the US?

I don’t have any experience with specific airlines. I know that some airlines actually take Pet CPR Certification classes to help keep pets they are transporting safe. Speak with the airline’s customer service about their process for handling pets on a flight.

Where is the pulse on a dog located?

The pulse is on the inside of the hind leg, this is the femoral artery.

My mini schnauzer, 4 months old, loves the raw goat’s milk from Hollywood Feed.  My vet tells me that dogs cannot digest milk after they have been weaned.  I like that the milk helps with the tear stains that Molly has.  Should I wean her from the goat’s milk?

Hollywood Feed recommends raw goat’s milk as a healthy supplement to a dog or cat’s diet. Raw goat’s milk is typically more digestible than cow’s milk as it contains less lactose. Raw goat’s milk is actually great for a dog or cat’s digestive system as it contains billions of probiotics in addition to vitamins and minerals. Read more about all of the benefits of raw goat’s milk here.

Is there any way to download this presentation or at least the slides to keep as handouts?

A recording will be available at hfu.hollywoodfeed.com!

Are toads toxic when their mouth foams?

Yes! There are a lot of toxic toads out there! They excrete a chemical in their skin and can be toxic if it comes into contact with your dog.

How long do you continue CPR before stopping if can’t get to vet?

About 20 minutes.

Do you recommend Pepto-Bismol for diarrhea?

This would be a question for your veterinarian.

My dog had a torn ACL on his back leg how. Am I keep it healthy and won’t tear again?

Dogs that have torn ACLs need to keep their activity limited so they aren’t playing too aggressively.

What is the best way to remove ticks? We live in Florida and go for walks at State Parks quite often?

You want to grab ticks at the very base where the head is and pull straight out. You can also use forceps or tweezers. Be sure you are removing the head of the tick, as well.

Can you do anything for a cat with asthma if you don’t have an inhaler?

There are other treatments for asthma that you can speak to your veterinarian about. You might try to eliminate extra allergens like pollen, dust, etc. to see if that helps their system.

What are the key steps if your canine gets bitten by a poisonous snake like a Copperhead?

With a snake bite, let it bleed so that the venom bleeds out. Do not suck out the venom, place an ice pack onto the puncture, and keep the pet calm so that their heart is not pumping quickly & moving the venom throughout their body more quickly.

Is styptic powder better used to stop bleeding in small cuts rather than large ones? Can it be too deep?

For wounds, you need blood stop powder – it’s different than styptic powder. Blood stop powder will help to clot the wound.

What can you do relieve car motion sickness?

This would be a question that would best be directed for your veterinarian.

Is there such a thing as a dog consuming too much water? My dog LOVES water and cannot get enough of it, especially in the summer.  Any harm to this?

There are conditions where an animal can become over-hydrated. Their body cannot process too much water too quickly. It’s hard to say if your specific pet is consuming too much water because I am unsure of the pet’s size.

Is Benadryl safe for the dog for allergies to take children medicine and how do I get one of the first aid kits?

This would be a question for your vet, and you can order a pet first aid kit on our website at petemergencyeducation.com.

I have a 5yo rescue who never learned Sit Stay Come. Can he even be trained what type of trainer should I look for?

Yes! Pets can absolutely learn new commands at any age.

 

 

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