1. Know the location of your nearest ANIMAL EMERGENCY HOSPITAL
Drive to the location so that you know which side of the street it is on and where the entrance is. This is not something you want to be thinking about when your pet is in trouble — you want to know how to get there quickly! Best to ask your vet for a recommendation to a facility that is open 24/7. If it’s not a true emergency — but you know the problem can’t wait until your vet is available — better to drive a further distance for better quality care. If you live in or near Orange County CA, I strongly recommend Advanced Critical Care and Internal Medicine (ACCIM) in Tustin.
2. Learn basic pet first-aid skills:
For cuts to the skin, you can help stop or control the bleeding by applying direct pressure with a clean gauze (or washcloth) for 5 minutes. Seek veterinary care immediately if the bleeding does not stop.
For burns, gently flush with cool water. Cover with a non-stick bandage (Telfa pad in your first aid kit) and help prevent more tissue damage by applying a frozen bag of peas (makes a great ice pack for people too!) to the area. Seek veterinary care immediately to reduce the chance for infection and address the need for pain control. Ouch!
For heat stroke, provide immediate cooling measures to all 4 paws, belly, armpits, and the groin by flushing these areas with cool water and get prompt medical attention. Heat stroke can occur if your pet’s body temperature reaches above 104°F. The most common cause of heat stroke is when dogs are left in parked cars on very warm days. Without proper shade and ventilation, it takes only 10 minutes for your car to become a death trap! If you see a dog in an unattended car with the windows rolled up on a warm day — be a doggie angel and call the police!
When you must leave your dog outside, always be sure there is adequate shade and fresh water available. Be aware that elderly dogs with compromised mobility can sometimes fall and not be able to move into a shaded area or get to an available water source — they, too, can be victims of heat stroke.
If you suspect poisoning, call your veterinarian and ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435) — a fee may be charged. You may be advised to dilute the poison (for caustic substances) OR induce vomiting.
3. Assemble a basic pet first-aid kit
|Courtesy of Sunny-dog Ink|
|A comprehensive first-aid kit with its own travel bag. Available from Sunny-dog Ink.|
Besides knowing what to do, you must have the tools for the job all in one place. Precious time is wasted looking for the materials needed, so at the very least, assemble the following:
- Make a temporary bandage by stocking up on 4 x 4 gauze squares to cover the wound, followed by gauze rolls to circle the area, and ideally secure the bandage using self-adhering bandage rolls called vet wrap (will not uncomfortably stick to the hair). Ask your friendly vet to supply you with a few rolls.
- 3% hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting. If you witnessed or know your dog has ingested something harmful within the last 60 minutes (raided the See’s candy box, gobbled down rat or snail bait, discovered a bottle of prescription meds and thought they were treats!), induce vomiting and call your vet. Start with 1 tablespoon per 15 lbs of your dog’s body weight. (1 tablespoon equals approximately 3 teaspoons). Repeat this dose once again if your dog does not vomit within 5 minutes. Example: if your dog weighs 20 pounds you will administer 4 teaspoons—that’s roughly one teaspoon per 5 pounds.
If you are using a syringe to administer the hydrogen peroxide, one teaspoon is the ballpark equivalent of 5ml (milliliters). One tablespoon is the ballpark equivalent of 15ml. Note: milliliter (ml) is the liquid equivalent to cubic centimeter (cc). So, just remember that 1cc = 1ml.
- Ask your vet for 6ml and 12ml non-needle syringes to administer emergency liquids like hydrogen peroxide or other over the counter remedies like Pedialyte (for mild dehydration), Kaopectate* (for mild diarrhea) and Pepto-Bismol* (for mild gastrointestinal upsets). *Do not give to cats! Please check with your vet before trying home remedies. Your pet could require veterinary attention depending on symptoms and duration of illness.
- Saline eye solution (same stuff contact lens users buy). Generously rinse out eyes to remove soap, dirt and dust particles. Also good to flush out and clean small wounds. If eye remains red or your dog is squinting — there may be damage to the cornea — see your vet ASAP.
- Use non-needle syringes to administer liquid medications or fluids — ask your vet for a 6ml and 12ml syringe and be sure to say, “Thanks Doc!”
- Digital thermometer (your dog’s temperature should range between 101 – 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit). Use a little lubrication for comfort (K-Y jelly or Vaseline) and insert rectally approximately one inch into the rectum. Tip: Practice your technique (giving your dog a tasty treat) before you actually need to do this! If you are not getting a number (within the range above) on a healthy dog — you may need to ask a skilled vet tech for a live demonstration. It’s important to know your dog’s body temp!
- Benadryl for bee stings and minor allergic reactions: 1milligram (mg) per 1 pound of your dog’s body weight. Can be repeated every 8 hours as needed. Can be a useful after-hours treatment for itchy dogs until you can call your vet. Buy it over the counter in 25mg capsules, tablets or liquid. Be sure you are buying only diphenhydramine hydrochloride (trade name Benadryl) and not a cold remedy with other drugs added for congestion and coughing.
- Good old fashioned aspirin (never give aspirin to cats unless under the direction of your vet) can be used for minor pain or discomfort — until you can call your vet. Cannot be used together with other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory prescription meds, like Rimadyl, Deramaxx, or Metacam. Never give your dog human ibuprofen products — can cause serious gastrointestinal bleeding. Use plain aspirin and give with food (can cause stomach upset) at a dose of one adult tablet (325mg) per 40 pounds of body weight twice a day. Example: a 60 pound dog dosage would be 1 and a half (1.5) tablets twice a day.
- Cold pack to reduce swelling from insect stings or minor injuries (I keep a bag of frozen peas in the freezer — just be sure someone doesn’t eat them!)
- Tweezers to remove ticks or foreign objects from the skin.
- A well fitting muzzle — because even the calmest animal may bite when in pain! Injured pets often need to be muzzled before being moved or handled.
For a comprehensive first aid kit with its own travel bag, I recommend SUNNY-DOG INK PET FIRST-AID KITS. Get yours at www.sunnydogink.com.
|Courtesy of Sunny-dog Ink|
|Denise Fleck with Haiku|
Last week, I had the opportunity to meet (and share a delightful lunch!) with Denise Fleck, a certified CPR and Emergency First-Aid Instructor. Our meeting spurred this post and a few questions I had for Denise. I learned a lot and was surprised by some of her answers:
What is the most common pet emergency you deal with?
CHOKING. Dogs like to put things in their mouths and anything they find on the floor is fair game, so I insist that people “get down on all fours” and look at their homes and yards from their pet’s perspective. Additionally though, choking can occur from food or toys, so it’s important to learn how to perform both the Doggie Heimlich and Chest Thrusts for when your four-legged friend gets into trouble. A large number of my students have successfully used these techniques and saved the day for their dogs! Unfortunately, I’ve also had students come to my class who beforehand did not know what to do and actually watched their dogs die in front of them from a choking incident.
What do dog owners express to you as their biggest worry?
PANICKING. Sure, when an emergency happens, some people take on our animals’ “fight or flight” response, but it has been my experience that when people actually participate in a Pet First-Aid Class, watching demonstrations and doing hands-on skills practicing, they gain the confidence to react. In class we use stuffed animals and CPR mannequins (it would not be good for our healthy pets to experience some of the trauma we’d put them through) which helps to make a “brain-to-hand” connection and allow us to go on “auto-pilot” should we need to use these skills in real-life. Don’t think your emotions won’t come to the surface once the animal is out of trouble or has been taken to a veterinarian, but the important thing gained in class, in addition to skills, is the ability to react quickly, confidently and calmly.
What advice do you give your students?
1) PERFORM A WEEKLY HEAD-TO-TAIL CHECK-UP OF YOUR DOG
In other words…Really Get to Know Your Pet! Get acquainted with his body and habits. The more you know what is normal for him, the more quickly you’ll be alerted to something that is not quite right and hopefully prevent a problem from becoming worse. Each week, look straight into your pet’s eyes (for redness, discharge, cloudiness, and eyelid tumors) and perform a body scan from ears to rears, looking for lumps, open sores, redness, dry skin, and hair loss. Check under the hood (inside mouth and under tail) for inflamed gums, foul odors, and abnormal body discharge.
2) VISIT YOUR VETERINARIAN ANNUALLY
Pet First-Aid is not a replacement for competent veterinary care. You must become a team with your vet for the sake of your pet! Veterinarians are the experts and your dog should get an expert opinion each year to assess overall health issues. Professional eyes, hands, and ears should give your dog the once over and suggest any necessary tests that even your diligent care can’t find or determine.
3) LEARN CPR AND EMERGENCY FIRST AID
Breathe into your pet’s nostrils (if he is not breathing) and compress his chest (if you cannot find a pulse) with the heel of your hand or several fingers — alternating 2 breaths between chest compressions depending on size of the animal (5 compressions for animals 20 lbs and under; 10 compressions for up to 50 lbs; 15 compressions for 50 lbs and over). Proper CPR techniques can keep pets alive on the way to the animal hospital.