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Some Basic Pet First Aid

August 07, 2008  |  Difficulty: Easy


Just in case your pet gets into trouble, it’s good to be prepared should he need your help!

Since pets can get into all sorts of trouble, especially if they are left roaming, you need to be able to provide some basic pet first aid. Pets can easily get injured in a fight, by eating poison or develop hypothermia or heatstroke due to the weather. The American Animal Hospital Association recommends an immediate visit to the vet or animal hospital if your pet is suffering a serious injury or illness. However, there are many things you can do to stabilize his condition quickly while you transport him immediately to the vet or animal hospital.

  1. Bite wounds and bleeding injuries: Asses the animal for biting and muzzle him if necessary. Check the wound for debris and flush with large amounts of saline, hydrogen peroxide or water. Wrap large open wounds with gauze and apply pressure to bleeding wounds. Vet tip: never use a tourniquet on a pet as their limbs are too small. Wear gloves when treating wounds to avoid infection.
  2. Breathing problems: See if your animal is choking and try to determine if you can remove the object. Use a small flashlight to look deep into his throat. Try to use tweezers or pliers to remove the item. If he is not breathing, move him to a firm surface, left side up and check for his heartbeat (where his elbow touches his chest). If you hear a heartbeat, you can breathe for your pet by closing his mouth and breathing directly into his nose until you see his chest expand. Repeat 12-15 times per minute. If you feel no pulse, try to massage his heart area in between breaths. Be very careful on smaller pets as they have delicate rib cages and you can cause more harm than good trying to resuscitate your pet.
  3. Burns: These can be chemical or electrical and you’ll smell the burning fur and flesh plus you may see signs of blistering, swelling and redness of the skin. Chemical residue must be brushed off first so inspect the area before you act as water can activate these toxins. Flush the burn with large amounts of cool, running water and apply an ice pack wrapped in fabric over the area.
  4. Vomiting and diarrhea: Keep your pet hydrated with water or ice cubes but withhold food for 12-24 hours. Usually diarrhea clears up on its own. If not, a trip to the vet is in order to rule out parasites, poisoning or other serious illnesses.
  5. Bone fractures: Any limping and whining is a surefire symptom of a broken limb.  Check for bleeding. Splint the limb as best as you can with a tongue depressor and some gauze wrapping. – do not push or pull at it because pet limbs are tiny by human standards and can be seriously injured more.
  6. Heatstroke: If you notice lethargy or vomiting, or your pet collapses due to heat exposure, place your animal in a tub of cool (not cold, as this can cause shock) water or gently soak him with a garden hose and wrap in a cool wet towel until his rectal temperature reaches 103 degrees F.
  7. Poisoning: Vomiting, convulsions, excessive salivation, weakness, whining and pain are all symptoms that your pet has ingested something poisonous. Do not induce vomiting as many of these toxins can cause further damage to digestive tissues.  Call your local poison control center for further steps.

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