We love our pets. We take them to the vet for annual wellness checkups and do everything we can to keep our pets healthy, safe, and happy. Appropriate training, socialization, exercise, and playtime are scheduled activities. Unfortunately, unexpected events occur. It is estimated that 92% of all pets will experience some type of emergency situation during their lifetime. Pet parents should always be prepared for a pet emergency with a pet first aid kit.
Without warning, a pet can fall down stairs or dart in front of a car. They can sneak into the kitchen and taste chocolate, antifreeze, sage palm, household cleaners and many other common life threatening substances that taste yummy to a dog. It is essential to refresh our knowledge of important first aid basics that can save a pet’s life until vet care is available.
Although first aid may help save your pet’s life until you can get them to a veterinarian, it is not a substitute for veterinary care. Any first aid administered to your pet should be followed by immediate veterinary care.
When an emergency arises, you need to know how to help keep your pet safe and have a first aid kit handy. According to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), the application of just one pet first aid technique applied prior to getting emergency veterinary care would save 1-out-of-4 more pets.
An injured pet is probably scared and confused. He or she has suffered an unknown insult to their body. Always be very careful when administering first aid to the pet to avoid getting bitten. Fear can make even the gentlest pet unpredictable and dangerous. Your first impulse may be to comfort your pet with a hug or gentle stroking. However, these advances may frighten him or her more, causing the pet to react negatively.
Examine your pet’s injuries slowly and gently. Always keep your face away from your pet’s mouth and pause if they become more agitated. Consider muzzling your pet to reduce the risk that you will be bitten, but NEVER muzzle a vomiting pet.
You should always have a first aid kit available- ideally in your home and another in your car. You can become a bit rattled when your pet is injured so include the phone numbers of your veterinarian, the emergency veterinary clinic, and the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888-4ANI-HELP or 888-426-4435, there may be a fee for this call). The kit should also contain a copy of your pet’s medical records. Take them with you so they are readily available for the veterinarian or emergency veterinary clinic.
Try to stabilize your pet before moving them. Bleeding can be slowed by holding gauze pads over the area. If blood soaks through, do not remove the gauze, just add more gauze. If possible, splint broken bones.
Call your veterinarian or emergency veterinary clinic before you transport your pet. Describe your pet’s condition so they can be ready for you when you arrive. Keep your pet in a small area during transport. This will reduce the risk of additional injury. A small dog or cat can be placed in a pet carrier or wrapped in a towel or blanket. Larger dogs can be placed on a blanket, board, throw rug, or similar item to act as a stretcher.
Loving your pet includes being prepared in case he or she is faced with a physical emergency. Know how to handle an injured pet and always have a first aid kit handy. For when there is no emergency, help keep your pet healthy with a daily dose of NuVet Plus and NuJoint Plus.
Basic supplies for your pet first aid kit
● Absorbent gauze pads
● Cotton balls or swabs
● Nonstick bandages
● Gauze rolls
● Adhesive tape
● Antiseptic wipes, lotion, powder or spray
● Instant ice pack that activates by squeezing
● Hydrogen peroxide (to induce vomiting—use only when directed by a veterinarian or a poison-control expert)
● Digital thermometer (temp should not rise above 103°or fall below 100°)
● Petroleum jelly to lubricate thermometer
● Rubbing alcohol (isopropyl) to clean thermometer
● Sterile saline solution
● Eye dropper or large syringe without needle
● Scissors with blunt ends
● Muzzle or 2”x3’ long piece of fabric
● Blanket – can be used as stretcher
● Non-prescription antibiotic ointment
● Penlight or flashlight
C. Sue Furman, Ph.D. spent 40 years at several major universities including the University of Maryland, School of Medicine and Colorado State University, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biological Sciences teaching future physicians and veterinarians and conducting research involving nerve and muscle. Learn more about Dr. C. Sue Furman here.