What to Do in a Medical Emergency for Pets
By Ashley Watson
After a recent experience with a friend’s cat who was seriously injured in a dog attack, I realized how important it is to know what to do in a medical emergency for pets. Because these happen so suddenly, reacting quickly and calmly is a key part of helping your pet when there’s been an accident. This week’s post is taken from information on VCA Animal Hospitals, and it includes some basic tips and guidelines to follow when your pet has been injured in an accident. These will help preserve life, reduce pain, and minimize risk of permanent damage.
You don’t need to have the same knowledge that a vet does in an emergency, but knowing basic first aid for pets is will help you give your pet initial treatment in a medical emergency.
Here are the steps you should take when there’s been an accident:
1. Keep calm and assess the scene for any additional threats to you or your pet. Get your pet out of danger in the safest way possible.
2. Keep your pet warm by wrapping your pet in a blanket or towel (keep extras on you when you travel). Also, keep the pet as quiet and still as possible, especially if there is possible broken bones or internal injuries.
3. Immediately call your vet or emergency animal hospital and get detailed advice on what to do next. Be sure to give all the details of the event.
4. Safely transport your pet to the vet by using a crate or carrier, but be sure to help keep them as comfortable and stable as possible. Using a blanket or towel will help do this and prevent further injury or scratching from stressed pets. If you don’t have a carrier, a box will work for cats.
5. Get to the veterinary hospital as soon as possible, but try to drive as carefully as possible while calming your pet with a soothing voice.
For pets with a suspected spinal injury, find a board and immobilize the pet with something sturdy but not restricting, such as straps or cords. The VCA recommends that you pay “special attention to immobilizing the head and neck.”
When a Pet Is in Shock
According to the VCA, shock can come in many forms, including, “severe trauma, hemorrhage or sudden blood loss, heart failure and other causes of decreased circulation (e.g. severe and sudden allergic reaction and heat stroke).”
Just like in humans, a dramatic drop in blood pressure can be a fatal form of shock, which is why you need to get your pet to the vet’s office as quickly as possible. Keep a close eye on them and keep them as stable and calm as possible.
Symptoms of shock also include:
- Rapid breathing
- Rapid heart rate with a weak pulse
- Pale mucous membranes (gums, lips, under eyelids)
- Cool extremities
Be sure nothing is constructing the airway, and clear it if possible. Pets in shock may bite owners, so be careful when doing this. Keep checking for breathing and a heartbeat. You can learn more about how to perform CPR on pets by clicking here.
Bleeding and Burns
Once you have followed the steps above, try to stop any severe bleeding by applying a dressing made of anything absorbent – heavy cloth, bandages, clothing, etc. Keep in mind that severe bleeding needs medical treatment, so don’t try to stop it completely. Get your pet to the veterinary hospital. Most wounds can be sutured if treated within four hours. Some may require more extensive surgery.
If your pet’s skin and fur have been burned or scaled, get cold water and pour it on the skin ASAP. This will help stop the burning, and cover the burned area with damp towels during transport. When you call the vet, you can ask for more specific advice depending on what type of burn it is.
Eye injuries are very sensitive and can do permanent damage if not handled carefully. Any foreign bodies in the eye may be removed by pouring water over the eye. Keep your pet from scratching or rubbing the eye area. Larger embedded objects should be protected and not removed until you can get the animal to the vet.
Lastly, after any medical emergency, take your pet back to the vet for a checkup. Even if the animal seems to have recovered fully, there may be other complications.
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