National Pet First Aid Awareness Month
April is national pet first aid awareness month. While many of us have a basic knowledge of how to control bleeding or perform CPR on a human, very few pet owners are knowledgable about what to do if an accident occurs and your dog or cat needs immediate medical care. Could you get your beloved dog to the vet in time? Increase your pet’s chances of surviving an accident by learning basic pet first aid.
If you’re new to pet first aid, or afraid you’ll not be able to recall what to do should an actual pet emergency occur, The American Red Cross has put together a Pet First Aid App you can keep on your phone for reference.
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The ASPCA also has a mobile Poison Control App for Pets.
These two apps could prove to be invaluable should a pet emergency occur.
As pet parents, it’s a good idea to keep a few emergency contact numbers on hand at all times. You can post these on the fridge door, in your wallet, by the phone, or anywhere you can access them quickly in an emergency.
You’ll need the business number and after-hours emergency numbers for your veterinarian, as well as the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Hotline (888- 426-4435). There’s a fee if you call the ASPCA hotline, but they’re a great resource to have in an emergency. You’ll also want the number of a nearby, reliable friend who can serve as an extra pair of hands in a pet emergency.
It’s also a good idea to keep a few basic items ready to go at a moment’s notice, like a makeshift muzzle (a necktie will work in a pinch), your dog’s travel crate, and a list of any medications your pet takes.
The very first thing to do in any emergency situation is to secure the scene of the accident. Remove any threats to yourself and your pet immediately. This may include muzzling your dog, as injured dogs can bite even those people they know and love when they are hurting. Just remember, if you’re injured, you can’t help your dog. Secure your own safety, and that of your dog as soon as possible.
The ABCs of Pet Care
In human first aid classes, we’re taught to asses the ABCs- Airway, Breathing, and Circulation. The same principal applies to your pet.
If your pet is unresponsive, you should first check his Airway. Did he choke on a piece of plastic bag? Is something lodged in his throat? Did he bite a bee causing his throat or tongue to swell enough to block his airway? All these emergencies and more can result in a pet emergency. Check to see if your dog is still breathing, and if his heart is still beating. If his airway, breathing, or circulation are compromised, you’ll need to start Pet CPR. You may need to sweep his airway with your finger to clear a lodged object or perform the Heimlich maneuver if necessary. If he’s bleeding, you’ll need to put a compress over the wound, and splint any broken bones before moving him.
The best way for pet parents to be prepared for a pet first aid emergency is to take a class offered by The American Red Cross or your local veterinarian. Practicing CPR in a non emergency situation better prepares you for the real thing, should you ever have to use it. You can also gain a basic knowledge of pet CPR by watching informational videos, like the one below.
Pet First Aid
Putting together a pet first aid kit is very similar to the one you make for human emergencies. You can order a ready-made kit, or make your own. Be sure to include a necktie, dishtowel, or similar soft cloth item to use as a muzzle, or purchase a muzzle to put in your kit. Your dog may lash out in fear and pain. Securing his muzzle keeps you both safe in an emergency.
Include non stick bandages, self cling gauze, and paper tape to dress wounds in an emergency. If your dog ingests a poisonous substance, you’ll need to call Poison Control and administer whatever they recommend before leaving for the vet. Things like activated charcoal, hydrogen peroxide, milk of magnesia, and syrup of ipecac can all be used to treat poisonings. You may also want to include a pet thermometer to help you determine if your pet is too hot or too cold. This may be something the vet asks you over the phone during your initial emergency call.
Items that are useful in an emergency can also include splint supplies, compresses, antiseptic spray, antiseptic wipes, gloves, tweezers, eyedroppers, plastic syringes for giving oral medication, clean towels, blankets, sugar packets, and a bottle of Rescue Remedy.
When an Emergency Occurs
- Secure the scene, remove any physical threats to your or your dog (disconnect the electricity if he chewed a cord, put the car in park, secure any aggressive animals, etc.)
- Stay calm
- Muzzle your dog if necessary
- Check Airway, Breathing, and Circulation
- Control any profuse bleeding
- Call for help
- Start CPR if necessary
- Administer any first aid recommended by the veterinarian
- Splint any broken bones before moving your dog
- Get your dog to an emergency clinic as soon as possible
Just remember, accidents happen, but knowing what to do when your pet is injured can save his life. If reason fails you and you don’t know what to do, try to stay calm, call for help, and stay with your dog.