Pet first aid is a critical part of responsible pet ownership. Every pet owner should be familiar with basic first aid in emergency situations. But, says dog and cat health nutrition manufacturer and distributor, Royal Canin®, first aid should be immediately followed by a visit to your veterinarian. Veterinary treatment, after the basic first aid that you administer, may just save your pet’s life.
Royal Canin South Africa’s Veterinarian and Technical Manager, Dr. Michelle Harman, says that when pets are in pain they are also scared and confused. Handle them carefully as your approach may frighten them further and cause even the gentlest of pets to bite or scratch. When in pain pets become unpredictable, and your first impulse to comfort them may only scare them.
Let’s face it, injuries are a part of our lives and our animals’ lives too. Royal Canin® gives advice when being faced with an injured pet:
- In all instances, see your vet without delay.
- Stay away from the pet’s mouth, especially your face and hands.
- Examine your pet slowly, even gentle touching may cause pain. Stop at any sign of discomfort.
- Take note of any vomiting, bleeding or external indicators of injury – you will need to report these to the vet.
- If you suspect a broken leg or fracture and the pet allows you, stabilise the injury by trying to immobilise the area with a rolled up newspaper or magazine ‘splint’ secured by bandages to keep the leg stable.
- If you cannot move a large dog, ask someone to help you slide a double-folded blanket under your pet, roll him gently onto it and ‘stretcher’ him to the car.
- In the case of bleeding wounds, apply firm, consistent pressure with a clean towel or cloth (not cotton wool) for at least a minute or two to slow down or stop the bleeding. Do not remove any objects from the wound. Do not apply a tourniquet. Do not spray anything into or on the wound.
- If your pet is burned, apply as much cool water onto the burn as often as you can. Do not apply ice to burn wounds. Get to your veterinarian.
- Call your veterinary practice to let them know you are on your way. If your emergency occurs after regular hours, take your pet to the nearest after hours/emergency centre.
- Keep pets in a confined space when travelling to avoid further injury. Pet carriers are ideal. For larger dogs, use a board (ironing board, block-mounted poster or similar) or wrap the pet in a blanket.
- Drive slowly and carefully to your veterinarian.
A common risk is choking. Animals will paw excessively at their mouths and make choking or coughing sounds. You may notice a blue tinge to the lips and tongue, which indicates that not enough oxygen is reaching the body. Stay calm and seek veterinary care right away.
If the pet cannot breathe properly (bone, ball or foreign object blocking the airway), check if you can see the obstruction in the mouth and remove carefully, taking care not to push it down the throat blocking the airway even more. If you cannot reach the object, get to your veterinarian without delay.
If your pet is not breathing because of choking or near-drowning, place your hands on either side of the rib cage and apply a quick burst of pressure, or lie your pet on one side and strike the ribcage firmly with your palm to sharply push air out of the lungs: hopefully the object (or water in the case of near-drowning) follows. Remember that the pressure applied must be appropriate to the size of the pet, for example, do not apply the full, sharp pressure of your hand to a cat, a puppy or small dog, the same as for a Great Dane or German Shepherd.
Artificial Respiration (AR) or ‘Rescue breath’ is necessary when your pet stops breathing as a result of choking or near-drowning. First ensure that there is nothing in the mouth and the airway is open (remove any saliva, blood or vomit by scooping it out), lie the pet on his side and extend his head and neck to ensure an unobstructed airway. Pull the tongue as far forward as you can, close the mouth and lips and blow firmly into the nostrils. You should see the chest expand. Repeat every 5 seconds until the pet begins breathing by himself or until you reach a veterinarian.
Cardio-Pulmonary Respiration combines chest compressions with artificial respiration. Do not attempt chest compressions if a heartbeat is felt! Do the same as for AR above in checking the airway, clearing the mouth, extending the tongue, etc. Lie the pet on his right side and compress over the heart by pressing your palms down on the chest and applying moderate pressure over the heart area. The ratio should be 2 – 3 compressions to one breath. The same would apply to small dogs or cats but you need to be careful to use two finger compressions and smaller breaths to accommodate their smaller chests and lungs. Continue with CPR until you reach a veterinarian.
Poison is, unfortunately, a reality either from food or toxic sources like rat poison, battery acid, certain plants and chemicals. If you suspect poisoning, do not wait. Get your pet to the closest veterinarian in the shortest time possible. Symptoms may include twitching uncontrollably, vomiting, bleeding from the mouth or anal area, collapse and unconsciousness. Time is crucial in seeking help for any suspected poisoning case.
The following details will be needed on arrival at the vet:
- Precise details of product or substance consumed as well as quantity (if known)
- How long ago the food or substance was consumed
- The packaging of the substance (if available)
Royal Canin® recommends a basic pet first aid kit. Many items are available at your local pharmacy and may be added to, depending on the needs of your pet. It is suggested that the following is in your Pet First Aid Kit:
- Telephone numbers of your veterinarian and nearest 24-hour animal hospital.
- Medical records of the pet.
- Spare lead and collar. (NB: Do not muzzle your pet in the case of vomiting).
- Various sizes of non-stick crepe bandages (these can double as a muzzle if necessary).
- Sterile gauze.
- Adhesive tape to secure bandaging.
- Activated charcoal or milk of magnesia to absorb poison (ONLY use if instructed by your veterinarian).
- Syringe for oral treatments.
- Mild or diluted antiseptic solution to clean wounds.
- Saline solution or eye wash
- Small pair of scissors (blunt tipped)
- Pair of sterile gloves for the owner
- Bottle of water
- Cotton wool
- Electrolyte solution
The old adage of “Be Prepared” is definitely applicable to all pet owners. Ensuring that you have the necessary items and actions are available at your fingertips, allows for better preparedness and faster action if an emergency arises.
A member of the Pet Food Industry of South Africa (PFI), Royal Canin is represented globally in many countries on their pet food forums and plays a major role in helping to raise the quality and food safety standards worldwide.
For more information on any Royal Canin® canine or feline health nutrition foods, contact them on 0860 630 063 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.