There are times in all of our lives when emergencies throw everything into chaos. This is especially true when it comes to our beloved pets, who are unable to tell us how they are feeling and what may be aggravating or hurting them. There is no more helpless feeling than trying to figure out why your pet is ‘off’ and feeling out of sorts. Still, there are things that you can do to help alleviate an emergency situation.
Don’t panic! Assess the situation
If your pet is out of sorts and clearly feeling unwell, take a few calm moments to observe closely what seems to be going on. Panic on your part will do nothing to help him. Is he uncomfortable and restless? Is your pet looking at a particular part of its anatomy? Is he vomiting or exhibiting signs of diarrhea? If your pet has been injured, gently inspect the injured area, if possible, and try to observe whether there is a deep gash, a bite mark or a broken bone. Check your pet’s gums by briefly pressing down on them – if they are gray or if the pink colour doesn’t recover quickly your pet may be in shock. Are his pupils dilated, or normal? Make a note of all symptoms, call your veterinarian and describe the situation clearly and calmly.
Put together a pet First Aid kit
The kit should contain basics such as:
- Hydrogen peroxide for cleaning wounds
- Sterile bandages in various sizes
- Benadryl for insect bites
- VetWrap (a self-sticking bandaging wrap)
- A small pair of scissors
- Styptic powder
- Syringes of various sizes
- Tongue depressors
Pro tip: It is also a good idea to keep a couple of old socks in your doggy first aid kit, for use over a bandaged damaged foot. You can keep a bandaged foot dry by putting a plastic bag over the sock and attaching to the leg with adhesive tape.
You should also have some method of muzzling your pet if he is injured – even the most caring animal may snap at you if he is in extreme pain. The simplest method is to use a nylon knee-high that can be wrapped around the muzzle and tied up at the back of the head behind the ears.
Take an animal first aid course
While there are on-line tutorials available for almost everything these days, taking a hands-on course will give you a much better feel for handling your pet in an emergency, assessing his condition and deciding whether to treat at home or immediately take your pet to your veterinarian. These courses will teach you the methods of handling an injured pet, administering medications and dealing with various medical emergencies.
Do your research in advance
Know where the nearest emergency veterinary clinic is located, and keep the phone number for it and your own regular vet in an easily-found location (business cards stuck to the side of the refrigerator with a magnet works very well). Always call ahead to a clinic prior to heading out with your sick or injured pet – they may be able to offer advice over the phone that will keep your pet alive and/or comfortable during the trip to the clinic. In addition, phoning ahead will give the clinic an opportunity to prepare for your arrival and provide immediate care.
Trust your gut instincts
No one knows your pet better than you do. Even a slight change in habits, appearance or activity level could be the indicator of a burgeoning health issue that could turn out to be an emergency. Gastric torsion in dogs is a classic example of this – symptoms may appear hours ahead of the actual full-blown emergency, but catching those symptoms early may mean saving your dog’s life. Keep a close eye on your pet, monitoring things like eating and elimination habits. If in doubt, call your vet. It may save you the grief, stress and expense of an emergency situation that could have been prevented.
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