I can hear the peepers in the swamp next to my house and that must mean that spring is here. Everyone is starting to think about getting back to the outdoor activities that they enjoy — hiking, running, sports — all those fun things. Many times, our pets get to come along and participate as well. However, just like us, they can sometimes get hurt and it is important to know what to do when this happens. April is National Pet First-Aid Awareness Month, so here are some tips and techniques you can use when an injury occurs.
The first thing to remember when dealing with any pet which has been injured is that they are often scared and painful and may not act normally. Even a very docile pet can bite or scratch when you try to help them, so you need to protect yourself from being hurt. Wrapping a smaller pet in a towel or blanket will often make them feel more secure and safe. Larger dogs may have to be muzzled so they cannot bite. A fabric belt, scarf, bandana, rope, necktie or pantyhose can be quickly fashioned into a muzzle by looping it around the nose, tying it underneath and then tying it around the back of the head. A dog can breathe through his nose just fine with a muzzle on. The only exception to this is a dog suffering from heat stroke or heat exhaustion. Dogs need to pant to get rid of excess body heat since they cannot sweat. If it is a hot day, make sure you move a muzzled dog to a cool area immediately. Here are some common emergencies that need first aid. Remember, in any of these cases, the first thing you should do is call your veterinarian and get your pet there as quickly as possible.
Bleeding — This is very scary the owner, but most of the time, it looks worse than it is. Even a small amount of blood looks like a gallon when it’s all over your floor. Direct pressure is the best way to control bleeding. Take a clean cloth or gauze and press it firmly over the area. If the blood soaks through, don’t take off the material, just add another layer on top. Feet and ears notoriously bleed a lot because they are always moving. Placing a bandage on the foot or wrapping the ear on top of the head can keep things under control on the drive to your vet’s office.
Broken bone — If you think your pet has broken a leg, be very careful when moving him. You can use a blanket as a stretcher if he can’t walk, however, many times, dogs and cats will walk on the other three legs and carry the injured one, so let him find a comfortable position and transport him to your veterinarian for x-rays.
Heat stroke — This condition can be fatal if not treated quickly. Dogs with heat stroke have body temperatures that can soar to 106 or more and will pant extremely hard, have difficulty breathing, salivate and collapse. They should be moved to a cool area and bathed in cool (not cold water), then taken immediately to your veterinarian. Secondary effects of heat stroke may not appear for days, so intensive care is essential.
Hit by Car — There are a wide array of injuries that can occur when a pet is hit by a car. The most immediate issue can be shock. In shock, the body temperature and blood pressure drop, the gums get pale and the heart rate increases. Animals in shock need immediate treatment. The best thing to do after a major trauma is to call your veterinarian, manage any bleeding as described earlier and transport him carefully for treatment. Your veterinarian will be concerned first about stabilizing him and assessing the injuries, so IV fluids, medications for shock, x-rays, bloodwork and even ultrasound may be needed. It can be difficult to leave your pet for intensive care, but quick and thorough diagnostics and treatment are necessary. You can take comfort that the medical team cares about your pet and is there to help him.
Don’t let any of the situations described here dissuade you from having fun in the great outdoors with your pet. Go out there, have a good time and know that you are prepared for an emergency and we are prepared to take care of your four-legged family member.