April is National Pet First Aid Awareness Month – a time we encourage people to learn about pet first aid and providing proper emergency care to their animals.
To many people, pet first aid may not seem like a super interesting topic. That is until your dog or cat suddenly chokes on a toy or is hit by a car and you have no idea what to do.
It is important to remember that our pets are surrounded by health hazards and these hazards can lead to serious accidents at times.
It is good to stay optimistic because these terrible things are not likely to happen frequently. However, when it comes to your furry family member’s health, one shouldn’t care about the odds but rather their safety. What you do or don’t do in the initial moments of an accident can often be the difference between your animal living or dying.
While it’s always a good idea to see your vet if your pet gets sick or hurt, there may be times you’ll be required to give them immediate first aid assistance while on your way to the vet.
How to Keep Your Pet Safe
Prevention is the Best Option
In a perfect world, we would never need to perform first aid on our pets. Unfortunately, the world is not perfect. Luckily, there are preventative measures that everyone can take to help keep their pets safe and healthy.
Here are a few preventative steps you can take this Pet First Aid Awareness Month:
- Place all kinds of potential poisons out of your pet’s reach.
- Always give fresh water to your pet, specifically during walks.
- Remove any potentially dangerous items from your yard, such as shovels, insecticides, etc.
- Take your pet for their annual or bi-annual checkups.
- Do not skip on preventative medicine, such as flea, heartworm, and tick medications.
Always Have a Pet First Aid Kit Ready
If you have a first aid kit available for use on humans that has gauze, gloves, peroxide, and bandages, then you only need to add a few more things to make your pet first aid kit complete.
Here are a few things we recommend adding to your pet first aid kit:
- A muzzle
- A flashlight
- Wound wrap
- Dishwashing soap
- Styptic powder
- Saline eye solution
If you already have a pet-ready first aid kit but haven’t checked on it for a while, you might want to make sure that all supplies inside haven’t expired. You should also know how to use the items in your first aid kit and perform crucial procedures like CPR and the Heimlich maneuver.
In the following section, we will help you get a hang of these important skills. Couple this information with helpful tips from your veterinarian to keep your pets safe and out of danger.
Pet First Aid Basics
Please remember that veterinary care cannot be replaced with emergency pet first aid. However, it can greatly help in saving your pet’s life before you can make it to your veterinarian doctor.
With that said, let’s have a look at how you can ensure your pet’s safety when the need arises.
Exposure to Toxins and Poisonous Substances
Generally, anything that is harmful for human beings is harmful for pets as well. This includes things like:
- Cleaning products
- Rat poison
However, there are common food items that we consume that can potentially be dangerous for our pets. These can include:
- Apple seeds
- Moldy foods
- Peach pits
- And many more!
If your pet’s eyes or skin are exposed to a toxic product, check out the product label for instructions. If the label advises to wash your hands with soap and water if you’re exposed, do the same with your pet’s skin. Remember to not get any soap or water in their eyes, nose, or mouth.
Similarly, if the label tells you to flush the eyes or skin with water, it’s best to do it as soon as possible if you can do it safely and call a vet immediately.
If possible, have the following info available before you reach the emergency:
- Species, age, breed, sex, weight
- Name of the substance in question and the amount the animal was exposed to
- The product container or packaging
Additionally, collect any vomit or chewed-up substance that your pet may have, place it in a sealed bag, and take it with you when going for the treatment.
If your pet is having seizures, you should:
- Keep them away from any objects that might hurt them
- Not try to restrain them
- Time the seizure
Once the seizure has stopped, keep your pet warm and contact the veterinarian immediately.
Symptoms of internal bleeding include bleeding from the nose, mouth, and rectum. Your pet could also be coughing up or urinating blood. Additionally, you could see pale gums, rapid pulse, weakness, and collapse.
In cases of internal bleeding, keep the animal warm and get them to the vet immediately.
- Muzzle the pet.
- Keep pressure over the injury and press a thick gauze over it. It will take a few minutes for the bleeding to stop. Therefore, avoid checking every few seconds whether the bleeding has stopped or not, and keep on holding the pressure for a minimum of 3 minutes.
- If the bleeding is severe, tie a tourniquet between the body and the wound. Then follow the previous step and get to your veterinarian as soon as possible as excessive bleeding can be dangerous.
If the burns are chemical:
- Muzzle your pet.
- Flush the burn immediately with lots of water.
If the burn is severe:
- Muzzle the animal.
- Apply ice water and compress to the affected area.
In the event of a possible bone break, do the following:
- Use a muzzle and swaddle your pet to avoid further movement.
- Place your pet on something that can be used as a stretcher. This could be an ironing board or any firm surface as a stretcher. You can also use a blanket or a throw rug as a sling.
- If possible, leave the bandaging and splinting to the vet as doing it yourself may cause more harm than good.
If Pet is Not Breathing
If your pet is not breathing, the first thing you need to do is stay calm. If possible, have another person contact the vet while you check on your pet:
- Check to see if your pet is unconscious.
- Open their airway by gently pulling their tongue forward until it’s flat. Take a look at their throat and see if any foreign objects are blocking the airway.
- Carry out rescue breathing by closing your pet’s mouth and breathing with your mouth directly into their nose. All this while, keep their mouth closed with your hand. Keep on breathing in until you see their chest expand. Once that happens, continue the rescue breathing every 4 to 5 seconds.
If Pet Has No Heartbeat
Before you begin chest compressions, determine if the pet is breathing and that their heart is beating. If you do not see your pet’s chest moving and cannot find a heartbeat, begin CPR with chest compressions.
- Lay your pet on its right side and place one hand over its heart with the other one underneath its chest for support.
- For medium-sized dogs, press down gently on their heart (about one inch). Press a little softer for smaller animals and harder for larger animals.
- For cats and other smaller animals, place the heel of your hand around the animal’s chest so your thumb is on the left side of the chest and your fingers on the right. Compress the chest by pressing it between your thumb and fingers.
- Press down about 80 to 120 times each minute for larger animals. For smaller animals, press down 100 to 150 times per minute. Remember to let the chest come back fully before compressing again.
- Don’t perform chest compressions and rescue breathing simultaneously. Alternate the two or work together with another person so that one performs each method for 4 to 5 seconds and stops long enough to provide the other person a chance to give one rescue breath.
- Continue this procedure until you can hear a heartbeat and can regularly feel your pet breathing. You should check for breathing every 2 minutes in the process. Or, if you have arrived at a vet clinic, let them take over the resuscitation attempts.
As warm weather approaches, cases of heatstroke and heat exhaustion are on the rise. Here are a few signs of heatstroke:
- Red gums
- Loss of consciousness
If you notice your pet exhibiting any of the aforementioned symptoms, follow these steps:
- Remove the pet away from heat and into a shaded area.
- Place a cool, wet towel around their neck and head. Do not cover their mouth, nose, or eyes.
- Remove and towel and wring it out. Rewet it and wrap it every few minutes as the animal cools down.
- Keep some water running over the pet’s abdomen area and hind legs. Meanwhile, use your hands to massage their legs and sweep the water away as it absorbs the body’s heat.
- Transport the pet to a vet clinic quickly.
Symptoms of choking can be:
- Difficulty breathing
- Excessive yawning
- Blue lips or tongue
- Choking sounds when breathing or coughing
What you should do:
- Be extremely cautious. A choking pet can bite at any time during its panic.
- Keep the pet warm and take it to a veterinarian.
- Check the animal’s mouth for any foreign objects. If you see one, try to gently remove it with tweezers or pliers. However, be extremely careful while doing this to not hurt your pet in any way. If the object is not easy to reach, instead of spending a lot of time trying to remove it, get your pet to the vet quickly.
- If you are unable to remove the object and your pet collapses, place both hands on the side of their rib cage and apply firm and quick pressure. Or, lay them on their side and firmly strike the rib cage with your hand 3 to 4 times. This is done with the hopes of trying to push air out of your pet’s lungs sharply and push the object out from behind. Keep repeating this until the object is pushed out or you reach the vet’s office.
Symptoms of shock include nervousness, dazed eyes, shallow breathing, and a weak pulse. It is typically followed by an incident of extreme fright or injury.
If your pet is in shock, do the following:
- Keep them restrained and warm.
- If they are unconscious, keep their head level with the body.
- Take them to the nearest vet immediately.
First Aid When Traveling with Pets
Pet emergencies can happen anywhere. A few simple steps can help prepare you for emergencies no matter where they arise.
When traveling, pack your first aid kit – preferably in travel-size – along with an antidiarrheal medicine. Ask your veterinarian to suggest one suitable for your pet.
Additionally, you should also make sure to have all the important phone numbers available readily. This could include the phone of your vet doctor, the national animal poison control hotline, and a 24-hour emergency veterinary clinic in the state you’re traveling to.
Your pet should also be wearing an ID tag at all times along with a travel tag. This collar or tag should contain information on where you are staying while traveling.
When away from home, you should also perform a daily health check on your animal. Reach out to the local veterinarian if any health concerns arise.
Be Your Pet’s First Responder
The National Pet First Aid Awareness Month is another opportunity for pet owners to learn the basics of pet first aid and make their animal’s life a little more secure.
Please remember that pet first aid is not a substitute for veterinary care and should be followed by immediate help from the doctor. It is only there to save your pet’s life until they receive the proper veterinary treatment.
We hope this blog post gave you valuable insight on how you can keep your pets safe and take care of their healthcare in case of an emergency. We truly hope you never need to use first aid. However, it’s always a good idea to know how to, just in case.
Rover’s Recess will make sure to keep your pet safe even when you are not there to perform your first aid duties for your pet. Since 2007, our CPR and pet first aid certified staff has provided pet care services to dedicated pet parents like yourself.
Don’t hesitate to give us a call or schedule an appointment for all your pet care needs and wants. We will be more than happy to serve you and your little companion!