Building a first aid kit, caring for a wounded pet, and knowing when to get help.
By Rachel Halpin, DVM, DACVECC
Criticalist at Care Center and NVA Compassion-First Specialty Advisory Board (SAB) Vice-Chair
As a board-certified veterinary criticalist at a bustling 24/7 emergency hospital, I’ve seen my fair share of lacerations, heat strokes, broken bones, and many other emergent cases. As a pet owner, you probably already know that your pet can get themselves into all kinds of situations, which is why being prepared to take action when something does occur will be key to getting the best possible outcome.
First and foremost, have a first aid kit available.
First aid kits are one of the most essential items you can have. While there are many pre-made options available commercially, it’s also very easy to build one yourself – and you likely have many of the items at home already. Here’s what you need:
Be sure to keep your pet’s medical records easily accessible and discuss with your veterinarian ahead of time what the best way is to contact them in an emergency. If they are not readily available, discuss alternative emergency care facilities to utilize as a backup, especially if traveling out of town.
My pet is injured! What do I do?
The first thing you need to do when your pet has sustained an injury is to take a deep breath. You will not be able to properly care for your pet if you are panicked.
Keep in mind, pain makes even the most well-behaved animals unpredictable and anxious. Therefore, your goal is to minimize stress as much as possible to prevent injury to yourself or further injury to your pet. Provided your pet is not vomiting, applying a loose muzzle (e.g., with roll gauze or a small towel) will help to protect you and others from a bite. Small dogs or cats should be wrapped in a towel.
Depending on the injury there are a few immediate actions steps you can take:
ALL bite wounds need to be treated by a veterinarian as they are at a high risk for an infection. Veterinary care should be sought as soon as possible.
Always contact a veterinarian, ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center, or the Pet Poison Hotline for immediate assistance with an intoxication.
Regardless of the length of time, be sure to contact your veterinarian as soon as possible if this is the first time a seizure has occurred in your pet.
While a rare occurrence, it’s most common following aspiration of a foreign object (e.g. accidentally inhaled). It’s important to note that choking is different than coughing:
Easily occurs in temperatures over 80˚F, especially with Brachycephalic (short-muzzled) and Northern breeds, like Huskies and Malamutes. Signs of heat stress include heavy panting, exercise intolerance, weakness or wobbly gait, and collapse. If your pet is showing any signs of heat stress:
Even if your pet’s temperature is normalized with first-aid measures, heat stress can cause irreversible organ damage to the brain, liver, kidneys, and coagulation system, so be sure to get your pet checked out by a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Immediately transport to a veterinarian if facial swelling is severe or causing difficulty breathing.
When to get help:
Reading through this you’ve likely noticed by now that with each incident the recommendation is to seek veterinary help. As mentioned earlier, while there are early intervention first-aid measures you can take, ultimately your pet’s best chance lies with a veterinarian.