Christy's kitten, Scout.
In last month's pet health and safety post, June Means Hurricane Season - Are you Prepared?, we focused on the steps you should take to be ready should a storm impact you and your pet. Taking things a step further, this month we want to focus specifically on what to do if your pet gets hurt - information that is applicable at any time of the year. (Next month we'll take it a step further and explore pet microchipping.)
Pet injuries and illnesses present a unique problem since we cannot talk to them to discern what's wrong or ask them if or where it hurts. Some things are easy to detect, such as a bleeding cut or wound, or obvious limping. Handling an incident that will require giving your pet first aid begins with preparation and prevention.
According to Squad FiftyOne, the ten most common pet emergencies are: dog bites, allergic reactions, poisoning, blunt force trauma, coughing and choking, vomiting and diarrhea, difficulty urinating, seizures, difficulty breathing, and pain. It's important to know how to assess, treat and stabilize your pet ahead of time. Be sure to check for house call veterinarians or 24-hour emergency animal hospitals in your area and keep the telephone number(s) handy. (The side of the fridge, your car's visor or glove box, and your mobile phone are good places.)
Make sure your home is safe and free of potential dangers as much as possible by following the steps in American Humane's online fact sheet, Pet-Proofing Your Home. Next, purchase or assemble a first aid kit with pet-friendly items such as gauze, tweezers, and antibacterial cream. (See the ASPCA graphic below for additional kit items.) Depending on the size and breed of your fur baby, you may need a specialized kit such as those manufactured for small or large breed animals.
If your dog regularly rides in your car, make sure it won't become an accident zone. Keep him or her properly restrained and make sure there are no poison or choking hazards. Many of us lead rather busy, very active lifestyles and our vehicles can contain workout gear, tools, even the remains of meals on the go. According to the article, Common Pet Toxins in Your Purse, Backpack or Gym Bag, 50% of pet poisoning calls are due to exposure to human meds such as antidepressants and OTC pain killers.
Getting in and out of a car or truck, especially one that is high off the ground, could lead to strains or sprains, especially in older dogs. (Be sure to check paws thoroughly after being outdoors.) Something as simple as forgetting to cover the well for the spare tire could lead to a sprain or even a cut paw before you've even started the engine to go anywhere. Always check the interior before letting your dog jump into your vehicle.
Paws can become cracked and dry or sustain cuts, and foreign objects can become lodged in between the pads. The best treatment for dry or cracked paws is prevention; check paws regularly and apply paw balm as needed. Never use human hand moisturizer on dry paw pads.
When it comes to taking care of small cuts on your dog's paw, Web MD suggests cleaning with antibacterial wash and then covering the foot with a bootie. Don't use peroxide or alcohol, as these can potentially cause tissue damage.
Our client, Ramona, after injuring her foot.
A simple slip or fall, or even normal jumping during active play can cause strain to your pet. Muscle sprains are a common puppy injury; while trauma is often the cause, they can easily over exert themselves or become injured during rough play. Knowing the symptoms and causes of sprains (and the difference to a strain) will ensure your pup avoids injury (as much as is realistically possible) and receives proper care should something happen.
Soft tissue trauma can also occur in cats, especially in kittens that don't yet know their limits. Just because a cat can leap like a Superhero, it doesn't mean it should. All that jumping leads to heavy landing that can potentially cause sprains, strains and pulled muscles. Make sure cat towers are safe and try to discourage high climbing for kittens and senior cats.
If you think your fur baby has suffered a strain or sprain, call your vet immediately to find out if you can take care of the situation at home with anti-inflammatory meds and bandaging, or if you need to bring them in to be examined in person.
Did you know the Pet Poison Helpline answers over 100,000 calls annually from frantic pet parents whose animals have become victims of accidental overdose or toxic substance poisoning? There are a plethora of human foods and medications, house and garden plants, cosmetics, cleaning products, and other common chemicals in our everyday lives that are poisonous to pets lurking in homes, cars, and even suitcases that can lead to an emergency situation.
Please be aware that there is a $59 USD per incident fee if you call the helpline.
It's important to note that poisoning can result from inhalation and absorption as well as ingestion. Symptoms are not always obvious, and the treatment window for poisoning is very small, so once again, prevention is the best option. Animals can't be watched 24/7 so knowing the signs of poisoning is extremely important.
Vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, loss of coordination, respiratory distress, drooling, twitching, tremors, and seizure in dogs and cats are all possible signs of exposure to a toxin. If you know what substance your pet has ingested, you may be able to get answers to your emergency quickly via your mobile phone with the Poison Helpline app.
Download the Pet Poison Helpline app (itunes) to instantly access a database of common household toxins from foods to chemicals that are poisonous to pets. The app also provides one-touch direct dial contact to the 24/7 Helpline's veterinary professionals. The ASPCA also has an app (an Android version is available for this one), you can read more about it here. Note that there is also a cost associated with calling their helpline.
One of the most difficult health emergencies is a non-responsive pet. The iheart dogs web article, Do You Know What to do if Your Dog Stops Breathing?, provides useful information on what to do in an emergency situation where your pup might need CPR. The procedure for compression would be the same for humans, but there are some safety concerns you should be aware of before attempting the procedure.
This Youtube video from Hallmark Channel's Home & Family, featuring Dr. Courtney Campbell, shows step by step how to help your pet if you have determined they require CPR.
Knowing just what steps to take will help you stay calm and feel confident in the event you notice your pet has a minor injury that does not require the immediate emergency care of a professional, or if your pet needs to be stabilized in order to be transported to the nearest pet ER.
Keep in mind that an injured pet is most likely in pain and may bite or scratch. Use caution and be gentle, that whole not speaking English thing makes it difficult for your fur baby to say "Ouch, that hurts!" Always keep extra gauze (or even panythose) on hand in case you need to improvise a muzzle.
At Petit Pet Care, we love animals! We care for your pet as if it were our own and that is why Christy is Red Cross Pet CPR and First Aid Certified. To locate a Pet First Aid and CPR class near you visit the Pet Tech PetSaver™ Program page.
Two final thoughts on pet safety in July -
July is Pet Hydration Month - see our Facebook page for several posts on how to keep your pets hydrated in summer and the rest of the year, as well as our Pinterest boards on pet health and safety and summer pet care.
July 15 was National Pet Fire Safety Day. Make sure smoke detectors are working and that you've taken the necessary steps to protect your babies in the event of a fire.
AVMA Pet First Aid Brochure
Create a Pet Poison First Aid Kit
Can I Treat My Pet's Wound at Home?
How to Create an Emergency Muzzle
Wound Treatment for Cats
When to Take a Dog to the Vet ASAP
Strains and Sprains Spell Pain for Dogs
Soft Tissue Injuries in Kittens
Paws on Safety: One Minute Pet Clinic Videos
ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center Monthly Podcasts
Prevent Accidental Medication Exposures in Pets
Top 10 Paw Care Tips for Dogs
Rabbit First Aid Kit
50 Page FREE Pet First Aid Downloadable ebook