Your pet is a member of the family and that means their safety is a priority to you. Because of this, knowing how to be prepared in case of an accident or emergency is paramount. In this blog, we will answer your pet first aid questions, detail what supplies should be in your first aid kit, and how to respond in common predicaments.
It is important to note that pet first aid is most often just the first step to getting your pet to a medical professional. However, knowing what to look for and being prepared can lend your pet a lot of help with any pain or discomfort and may make the situation much easier to manage!
What Should be in Your Pet First Aid Kit?
The following list will cover all the most essential pet first aid kit supply items. In addition to these items, you will also want to have important contact information like vaccination records, your veterinarian's address/phone number, and emergency contacts.
Hydrogen peroxide (3%)
Nonstick bandages or strips of clean cloth
Adhesive tape for bandages (do not use human adhesive bandages)
Milk of magnesia
What is Normal Behavior?
The first step to knowing if there is a problem happening with your pet is all about their behavior. As they can't let us know how they are feeling, seeing irregularities in their demeanor is your first warning sign that something is amiss.
Your pet will be the most well-known to you! Being familiar with your pet's mannerisms and quirks is the easiest way to tell when something is bothering them. Many vets will teach that this tool is vital in an emergency situation so always be sure to trust your gut if something seems wrong!
What to Do in an Emergency?
How you react in an emergency situation can just be as crucial as any supply kit or other preparation.
The first thing you will want to be sure of is that you remain as calm and focused as possible. Of course, this may the most difficult part when your pet is in pain! But it is important to do so to accurately and quickly help your pet.
You will want to make sure your pet is kept warm (unless you are treating heatstroke) and still. Keeping your pet still especially is vital to prevent further injury.
Once your pet is safe and warm, you will want to contact your veterinarian or another medical professional to provide information on how to proceed in the situation.
Whether your veterinarian advises you to take your pet in to their clinic, to a safe spot, or to your home, you will need to be careful in transporting them. Unless it is unavoidable you will always want to do this with help of another person. For a small animal, carefully put them in their carrier but remove the top in case so you can observe how they are doing and get to them quickly if necessary. Be sure not to push the animal into the carrier. If you do not have a carrier try to make a makeshift carrier from a cardboard box or other materials if they are readily available. For a larger animal, try to create a makeshift stretcher. You will want sturdy material like wood if at all possible. If you are moving a large pet into a stretcher, crate or vehicle try to use a blanket or jacket to carefully transport them.
If your vet advises you to use supplies from a pet first aid kit or to perform any sort of first-aid, be sure to do so in a safe and comfortable spot where you can focus on your pet's needs.
How to Restrain an Injured Pet?
When you approach the animal you need to keep restrained and calm, you want to be as gentle and impassive as possible given the situation. This will help in what you need to accomplish and will make your pet more likely to calm down.
You also will always want to use the least amount of force necessary. This will prevent further injury and allow the animal to feel safe in your care.
If you can, muzzle your pet. Even the least likely animal to bite may when faced with pain and fear in an emergency situation.
How you hold your pet will depend on the injury. Regardless of their position, your goal will be to get them as close to the person handling them as possible. If they are able to stand or sit, you will want to place an arm under the dog’s neck with the forearm, holding the head. If they need to be laid down use the same technique to get them into a lateral position and gently hold their legs down to keep them in place.
Signs of Shock
You will want to observe any signs of shock your pet may exhibit in an emergency situation. Signs of shock include elevated heart rate, vomiting, rapid breathing, and pale gums or lips. You may also notice that your pet's feet or ears are feeling cold. Seeing your pet shiver/shake and become unresponsive may also happen if the shock persists.
If your pet is experiencing shock you want to help them warm up as they will be very cold. Cover your pet with blankets, clothing, or whatever you can find to help.
How to help a Bleeding Pet
Your objective will be to help prevent further blood loss as you get your pet to a veterinarian. Apply pressure to the external wound with a clean towel or cloth. Be sure any debris is cleared from the area first. If the cut is in a spot with plenty of movement taping of the towels or cloth may be necessary.
How to Help a Choking Pet
Never try to clear the airway, and learn animal CPR to keep the animal safe. Only attempt CPR if you have learned this prior.
Take the pet to emergency care, even if CPR helps the animal breathe again, to make sure the animal is safe. A vet is the best-trained person to make sure the animal does not have internal damage that caused the breathing issues.
How to help a Dog with Heatstroke
Heatstroke occurs when dogs are left in cars without adequate ventilation or when they spend too much time outside (especially on hot pavement) during warm weather. The warning signs will be excessive panting and stress signals.
Your goal will be to reduce your pet’s body temperature as quickly and safely as possible. You will use cool water to do this while you work on getting them to a vet. Leave the windows open as evaporation will help reduce their temperature. Avoid using ice/ice water because this could drop their temperature TOO quickly.
How to Help a Pet with Burns
You will want to cool the burn area with cold water right away. Cover the area with damp towels. You can apply a salve or other healing agent or get your pet to a vet if they require more care.
How to Help a Pet Eye Injury
Like human eyes, pet's eyes are an extremely sensitive part of the body. However, they are built much differently than humans and an injury to them can easily result in damage to the brain. Because of this, eye injuries are always best handled by a specialist.
In the meantime, you will want to keep your pet from trying to rub their eyes. Using a cone or makeshift cone can help with this.
How to help a Pet with Broken Bones
The most important thing to do in the case of a broken bone is to keep your pet immobile. You will want help transporting them when taking them to the vet so that you can move them without further irritating the injured area. Do not give the pet any medications or topical treatments unless directed to by your veterinarian.
How to help a Pet with Severe Vomiting or Diarrhea
Some pet owners try to wait out these issues to see if they improve. However, if the vomiting/diarrhea is severe/frequent it can lead to dehydration so it is best not to wait too long. Make sure there is plenty of fresh water available. It is important to know why the reaction is happening – take your pet to a vet and try to remember what the animal has eaten and if they’ve been near anything that could make a pet sick.