Pet First Aid

on Monday, 06 April 2015 Posted in VetNotes, Cats, Dogs, General

    As a veterinarian, I tend to split my days between wellness visits and sick patients, with the occasional emergency sprinkled in. Many times with emergencies, the owners attached to the patient are distraught and sometimes panicked. The feeling of helplessness when their beloved pet is injured or sick can be overwhelming. Hopefully, I can share some tips and hints that can help during these sticky situations.                      




First – stay as calm as possible. Animals are sensitive to emotions as well, and when their owners are anxious, so are they. Always remember that even the most loving pet may bite if they are very painful. If your pet has been injured, it is very important to be cautious when moving them. A soft muzzle can be made using a strip of fabric (a belt from a robe works great) and wrapping it once around the pet’s muzzle, then tying it behind the head. This may help avoid making the situation worse by incurring a bite while trying to tend to your pet.

   Know the information for your closest emergency clinic and keep that information handy. Buffalo Ridge Animal Hospital is open 24 hours, with doctors present around the clock to help your pet. Program our number and address into your cell phone so it can be easily accessed. Many cell phones can then use the address directly from your contact list to find the clinic by GPS. Call ahead to any emergency clinic you use so they know what your emergency is and that you are on the way – this will allow the staff to prepare for your arrival and have necessary medications or treatments ready.

  Assessing your pet’s vital signs at home can really help you know if they are sick. Are they breathing rapidly or taking labored breaths? Do they seem sluggish or weak? What about body temperature? Dogs and cats have higher normal body temperatures than people, but if their temperature is above 104 degrees, then they need to be examined by a veterinarian. Unfortunately for you and your pet, the most accurate way to check their temperature is rectally. Again, get help, go slow, and be careful. If you think you cannot do this at home, but are worried about fever, then taking your pet to the vet and allowing “the professionals to do it” is a great option.

 If your pet has an open wound or is bleeding, use gauze to cover the area, and a small ace bandage can be used to cover the site during transport to your vet. If the animal is very painful, do not attempt to bandage them, just try to apply light pressure and get them immediately to a vet.

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  There are some great resources available on the web regarding pet first aid and emergency care. The Red Cross now has a Pet First Aid app available through the Apple App Store or Google Play. It has how-to videos and step-by-step instructions for the top 25 most common emergencies. This is a GREAT resource and I highly recommend it. You can even program in the phone number to the clinic, and allows you to add in each pet’s medical records for easy access. It is $0.99 and well worth it! It’s also important to bookmark the ASPCA Poison Control website - This site has a wealth of information for pet owners about toxic foods, plants and household substances.


   When in doubt, call your vet! We are here to provide care, information and education.  Sometimes the best option is just to have your pet seen and evaluated to ensure they are going to be ok. All our patients are important to us and if you are concerned, then so are we.  I would much rather be able to give a client good news that their pet is going to be just fine, than to have to explain that we should have seen them sooner to provide better care. Stay informed about your pet’s health and keep your veterinarian up to date if there has been a change – you are an important part of your pet’s health care team!

Dr. Kelly Vernon is the Veterinary Medical Director for Buffalo Ridge Animal Hospital.