No matter how careful we are as pet owners, dogs and cats sometimes still manage to cut themselves, get overheated and eat things they really shouldn't. In honor of National Pet First Aid Awareness month, we at Paw Nation want to help you be prepared should trouble strike.
We asked Dr. Elisa Mazzaferro, Director of Emergency Services at Wheat Ridge Animal Hospital in Colorado, and the official veterinarian of Animal Planet's Puppy Bowl VI what she recommends you do in these five common situations:
1. Treating A Cut or Scratched Paw
"One of the most important things clients can do if injury is on the animal's paw is to put pressure on it with a clean towel and bring the pet into the nearest veterinary hospital," Dr. Mazzaferro tells Paw Nation. Don't apply a tourniquet because it can decrease blood supply to the injured limb and be dangerous. And you should probably avoid rinsing a wounded paw in water. "Sometimes that will release a blood clot that's formed." says Dr. Mazzaferro.
2. Evaluating Vomiting and Diarrhea
"If your pet's vomiting or diarrhea occurs more than just a couple of times, or if there is blood in it, or any suspicion of the dog or cat having gotten into a toxin, the pet needs to be seen by a veterinarian right away," says Dr. Mazzaferro. Otherwise, if vomiting occurs just a couple of times, withhold food and water for at least six hours and see if the condition subsides. "If they continue to vomit or become lethargic, or if they're a puppy or a very small, toy breed dog, I would bring them into a vet because they can dehydrate quickly," says Dr. Mazzaferro
3. Dealing With Heatstroke
Heatstroke is especially a risk during summer months. Signs include panting, increased respiratory sounds, collapse, seizure, vomiting and bloody diarrhea. "Get the animal away from the heat immediately," says Dr. Mazzaferro. "Soak towels in room temperature or tepid water -- not cold water or ice – and place the wet towels over the dog and put a fan in the room to allow ambient cooling." Put the towels over the dog's torso, over their back, chest and abdomen. "The mistake people make is dousing the animal in ice-cold water, and that can actually cause the blood vessels in the skin to constrict and it could cause the animal's core temperature to rise and make the temperature worse," says Dr. Mazzaferro. "The most important thing is to get the animal to the vet. They may need intravenous fluids if they're severely dehydrated."
4. Handling Household Toxins
"Chocolates, onions, raisins, grapes, various plants, as well as household chemicals are commonly ingested by animals, or people give their pets over the counter medications, such as Tylenol or Advil or Aleve, and all of these can be very, very toxic or fatal to pets," says Dr. Mazzaferro. If you suspect your pet may have ingested something toxic, the best thing to do is to call the ASPCA National Poison Control Center, a 24-hour hotline at (888) 426-4435 and take your pet immediately to a veterinary hospital. (FYI, a $65 consultation fee may be applied to your credit card for the ASPCA Poison Control service.) Don't try to induce vomiting without professional advice, it can be dangerous.
5. Responding If Your Pet Is Hit By a Car
Quick thinking and knowing what to do can help save your pet after an accident. "If the injured animal is not able to move," says Dr. Mazzaferro, "put them on an immobile surface, like a flat board or big, giant piece of plywood and strap them down so that if they have a spine injury or neck injury, they won't further injure themselves." Then get the pet to the nearest veterinary facility. "Even the nicest pet can lash out when they are injured and in pain," says Dr. Mazzaferro. "People can use a towel over the animal's head or use a pair of nylons to put around the animal's muzzle and tie it shut, so that the person helping the pet keeps from getting bitten."
In general, one of the best things you can do, says Dr. Mazzaferro, is to take a basic pet first-aid course. "I think every pet owner should know the Heimlech maneuver and that's something you would learn in a first aid class," she says. The American Red Cross offers Pet First Aid classes at their locations across the country, so check their Web site to find your local Red Cross chapter.