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Pet First Aid - Could be the difference between life & death

Pet First Aid

Knowing what to do in an emergency can be the difference between life and death.

Remember: if you’re worried about your pet, call your vet.

Emergency treatment and first aid for pets should never be used as a substitute for veterinary care. But the following information may save your pet's life before you can get your pet to a veterinarian.

Your dog first aid kit should include:

  • Bandages – a roll of self-adhesive or crepe bandage (5cm width) conforming/open-weave bandages (2.5cm width)some non-adhesive absorbent dressings (5cm x 5cm) to cover open wounds.

  • Surgical sticky tape.

  • A box of cotton wool.

  • A box of sterile absorbent gauze.

  • Blunt-ended scissors, preferably curved.

  • A thick towel.

  • An Elizabethan collar.

If you are worried, always call your vet for advice.

Remember: If you are in control of an animal you are legally obliged to ensure the animal's rights are satisfied by knowing about the five freedoms of the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

What are the 5 freedoms of animal welfare?

  • FREEDOM FROM HUNGER AND THIRST. By ready access to fresh water and diet to maintain health and vigour.

  • FREEDOM FROM DISCOMFORT. By providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.




Dogs and emergency situations:

First, ensure the safety of yourself and others. Keep calm and assess the situation before acting. Injured animals are frightened and in pain and may try to bite anyone who touches them. Contact the vet. Keep your vet's phone number to hand and know the name of the practice.

  • Always phone first, whatever the situation, as there may not always be a vet available but staff may be able to suggest immediate action you can take

Have a pen handy in case another number is given. Treatment can usually be provided more quickly if the dog is brought to the surgery, rather than if the vet is called out.

  • If there is a risk of biting, put a muzzle on the dog, or wrap tape around the nose and tie behind the ears, unless the dog has difficulty breathing. Small dogs may be restrained by putting a thick towel over their heads.

  • Never give human medicines to a dog – many will do more harm than good. Do not offer food or drink in case anaesthetic is needed.

  • If you do get bitten, see your doctor

Your pet definitely needs to see a vet as an emergency if they:

  • Aren’t breathing or are having difficulty breathing:

  • They are unresponsive.

  • They may have broken bones.

  • Are having a fit/seizure.

  • Are having trouble moving or coordinating movements.

  • May have eaten something toxic.

  • Have collapsed and can’t get up.

  • Have been vomiting or passing diarrhoea for more than 24 hours.

Now it's better to have preventative measures in place, like making your house and the dog's environment dog safe, also using a lead when you and your dog are anywhere near traffic, even the most well-behaved dog can spook or get distracted and end up getting injured.

Road accidents and dogs:

Should you find yourself in the unfortunate situation to be faced with an RTC (Road traffic collision) Dog. Beware of other cars. Talk gently to the dog as you approach. Move slowly and avoid making sudden movements. Put a lead on if possible and, if necessary, muzzle before handling. If your dog can walk, go to the vet, even if there appears to be no pain. There may be internal injuries that are not immediately obvious.

If the dog cannot walk, small dogs can be picked up by placing one hand at the front of the chest and the other under the hindquarters. Improvise a stretcher for larger dogs with a coat or a blanket.

If the dog is paralysed, there may be a spinal injury, so try to find something rigid, such as a board. Slide the patient gently on to this if possible. Cover with a blanket to reduce heat loss

First aid for a bleeding dog

Keep the dog quiet and calm. Put on a tight bandage. Improvise with a towel or some clothing if necessary. If blood is seeping through, apply another tight layer. Only use a tourniquet as a last resort. For places you cannot bandage, press a pad firmly onto the wound and hold it in place. Get to the vet straight away.

If you have bandaging materials, place a non-adhesive dressing on the wound and cover with swabs or cotton bandage. Then place a layer of cotton wool. Cover this with more cotton bandage. Stick this to the hair at the top with surgical tape, and cover the whole with adhesive bandage or tape.

Do not stick Elastoplast to the dog’s hair. When bandaging limbs, the foot should be included or it may swell up. Never leave a bandage on for more than 24 hours.

First aid for dogs with broken bones

Deal with serious bleeding but do not apply a splint – it is painful and can cause the bone to break through the skin. Confine the patient for transport to the vet. Smaller dogs can be put in a box.

First aid for dogs with burns and scalds

Run cold water over these for at least five minutes, then contact the vet. Do not apply ointments or creams but if there is going to be a delay getting to the vets, you can apply saline soaked dressing to the area. Keep the patient warm.

First aid for dogs that have been poisoned

Try to find packaging from the substance swallowed and have it with you when you phone the vet. If chewing plants is suspected, try to find out the identity of the plant. Call the vet immediately. Do not make your dog sick unless the vet says to do so.

First aid for dogs with a swollen tummy

If this happens suddenly, treat it seriously, especially if the dog is a deep chested breed such as a boxer or mastiff. There may also be gulping, dribbling of saliva and attempts to vomit. It could mean there is a life-threatening twist in the stomach. Phone the vet immediately – do not delay.

First aid for dogs with a ball stuck in their throat

Get to the vet quickly. Or you may be able to push the ball out by pushing on the throat/neck from the outside.

If the gums or tongue are turning blue or the dog has collapsed, try the following. You will need someone to help you. One person holds the mouth open, while the other reaches inside. Be careful not to get bitten. If you cannot pull the ball out, lay the pet on their side. Push down suddenly and sharply on the tummy just behind the last rib. The person holding the mouth should be ready to grab the ball as it reappears.

First aid for dogs with coat contamination

If a substance such as paint or tar has got onto the coat or paws, prevent the dog from licking, as it may be toxic. Use an Elizabethan collar (obtainable from vets) if you have one. You may be able to clip off small areas of affected hair. Never use turpentine or paint removers on your dog. You can sometimes remove paint and other substances by bathing the dog in washing up liquid or swarfega, but if a large area is affected, see the vet.

First aid for dogs with heat stroke

If on a warm or hot day your dog is panting heavily and is distressed and especially if the dog is short nosed (eg a boxer), overweight or has been playing or exercising, think heatstroke! Put the dog somewhere cool, preferably in a draught. Wet the coat with tepid water (cold water contracts the blood vessels in the skin and slows heat loss) and phone the vet. You can offer a small amount of water.

First aid for a dog having a fit

If your dog is having a fit, do not try to hold or comfort the dog, as this provides stimulation, which may prolong the fit. Darken the room and reduce noise.

Remove items, especially anything electrical, away from the dog so they cannot cause injury. Pad furniture with cushions. Call the vet.

First aid for a dog in a fights

If your dog seems shocked, dull or distressed after a fight, call the vet. Otherwise, look at the wound. Puncture wounds to the head or body mean you should consult a vet right away. Injuries to the limbs may not need immediate treatment, unless severe or very painful, but take the dog to the vet within 24 hours, as antibiotics may be required.

First aid for dogs with eye injuries

If the eye is bulging out of the socket, apply a wet dressing, prevent rubbing or scratching and call the vet. If chemicals have got into the eye, flush with water repeatedly (preferably from an eye drop bottle) and call the vet.

First aid for dogs that have received electric shock

If a high voltage supply is involved, (for example, power lines), do not approach. Call the police.

In the home, turn off power first. If this is impossible, you may be able to use a dry non-metallic item, like a broom handle, to push the dog away from the power source. If breathing has stopped, give resuscitation. Call the vet immediately.

First aid for dogs that have been stung

Pull out the sting below the poison sac, then bathe the area in water or use a solution of bicarbonate of soda if available. Applying ice will help to soothe. If the sting is in the mouth or throat, contact the vet as it may swell and interfere with breathing.

What to do if your pet has no heartbeat

Do not begin chest compression's until you've secured an airway and started rescue breathing (see the section above, What to do if your pet is not breathing).

  • Gently lay your pet on its right side on a firm surface. The heart is located in the lower half of the chest on the left side, just behind the elbow of the front left leg. Place one hand underneath the pet's chest for support and place the other hand over the heart.

  • For dogs, press down gently on your pet's heart about one inch for medium-sized dogs; press harder for larger animals and with less force for smaller animals.

  • To massage the hearts of cats and other tiny pets, cradle your hand around the animal's chest so your thumb is on the left side of the chest and your fingers are on the right side of the chest, and compress the chest by squeezing it between your thumb and fingers.

  • Press down 80-120 times per minute for larger animals and 100-150 times per minute for smaller ones.

  • Don't perform rescue breathing and chest compression's at the same exact time; alternate the chest compression's with the rescue breaths, or work as a team with another person so one person performs chest compression's for 4-5 seconds and stops long enough to allow the other person to give one rescue breath.

  • Continue until you can hear a heartbeat and your pet is breathing regularly, or you have arrived at the veterinary clinic and they can take over the resuscitation attempts.

Please remember that your pet's likelihood of surviving with resuscitation is very low. However, in an emergency it may give your pet its only chance.

Always remember that any first aid administered to your pet should be followed by immediate veterinary care. First aid care is not a substitute for veterinary care, but it may save your pet's life until it receives veterinary treatment

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