Preparing for the Emergency:
Hopefully your pet will never have cause for emergency medical treatment but it is important for all pet owners to be prepared "just in case".
Here are some ways you can be prepared for potential emergency situations:
- Know what is normal for your pet and monitor your pet's health on a regular basis to check for and identify any deviations from the norm.
- Keep your veterinarian's phone number and the number of the emergency clinic in your area in a location that all family members can access easily.
- Assemble a pet first aid kit suitable for home and travel. Be sure to learn how to use the individual components.
- Learn how to handle and transport a sick or injured pet.
- Learn basic facts about conditions that might affect your pet. For example, if you have a pregnant pet expecting a litter at home, learn about normal birth and how to recognize that there is a problem.
- Store poisons and medications out of the reach of pets.
- Do not administer any home remedies without first checking with your veterinary health care team. Some common over-the-counter drugs such as aspirin and paracetamol can be toxic to pets, as can many "Natural Remedies".
How to assemble a basic first aid kit:
A first aid kit for a large dog will differ from a cat kit in the sizes of the bandages and other items, but the basic components are the same. Your veterinary healthcare team may have a sample kit to show you, or a kit list they recommend so be sure to check with them first.
Your pharmacy and veterinarian have all of the supplies you will need. Select a storage container that allows you to organize your supplies neatly. A fisherman's tackle box or tool organizer will do. Keep the kit out of reach of children and check it regularly for expired or depleted supplies.
Some suggestions for your first aid kit:
- Protective gloves
- Digital / rectal thermometer
- Rubbing alcohol
- Lubricating jelly
- Antibacterial soap
- Sterile rinse solution (saline, used as wound flush or eyewash)
- Clean syringes (1ml and 5 ml)
- Pen light
- Blanket for pet transport
- Cotton towels
- Adhesive tape
- Gauze squares
- Gauze roll
- Stretchy bandage
- Non-stick sterile wound dressing
- Cotton wool roll
- Splinting item (e.g., a coffee stir stick or tongue depressor for small pets)
- Bandage scissors
- First Aid ointment or cream
Transporting an injured dog
After identifying an injury or illness, the next step is to safely transport your dog to the nearest veterinarian. Improper technique when transporting a patient can result in further injury or complications.
- Handle your dog as little as possible
- Make him comfortable by encouraging him to lay down and stay
- Rough handling may cause further internal bleeding, more damage to the soft tissue surrounding a fracture, and many other complications
- Lie your dog on his side - if he seems to resent this, or seems to have more difficulty breathing in this position, then leave him in whatever position is most comfortable
- Minimize movement - you can tape or tie the dog to a flat surface especially if there is a suspected back injury. Do not attempt to tape a struggling animal.
- Do not put pressure on the stomach - this is very important for the dog who is having difficulty breathing, has been vomiting, or has pain in the abdomen
- If the dog seems paralyzed or unable to get up, a spinal injury is suspected, and the dog must be immobilized to prevent further damage to the nerves - get a firm, flat support such as a piece of plywood - grasp the skin over the back of the neck and over the small of the back and gently slide the dog unto the support - try to keep the back and neck straight - tape or tie the pet to the support
- If your dog is unconscious, position the head in normal alignment with the body - it should not flex abnormally downward or extend excessively upward. Improper flexing or extending can cause decreased blood drainage from the brain and cause serious damage
- If your dog has vomited, or appears likely to vomit, then put the head lower than the level of the heart - this will allow any vomitus to run out of the mouth and not into the windpipe and the lungs - be aware that a dog with serious head injuries is likely to vomit even if unconscious
- Cover dog with a blanket - this not only has a calming effect, but also prevents heat loss
- You can also use a blanket to transport your dog if there is no sign of back injury - gently slide the dog to the center of the blanket, roll the edges to get a better grip, and gently lift the blanket and dog into the transport vehicle (this is usually a two person procedure)
Transporting an injured cat
Cats should be restrained in boxes, crates or a covered laundry basket for transport. Follow the guidelines for dogs if there has been trauma.