Getting your pet to the veterinary clinic (where all the necessary equipment is on hand) and getting immediate veterinary attention can mean the difference between life and death for an injured or sick animal. The most important thing to remember in an emergency is – Don’t panic! – This could cause further anxiety for an already frightened animal and it wastes valuable time.
If your animal is injured then it should be taken to your own vet, but if this is not possible, you will need to find the nearest veterinary practice. Whether you are at home or away, always try to telephone the surgery first as this alerts the practice staff and they are ready to deal with your pet immediately upon arrival.
Any animal in pain is likely to be unpredictable and/or aggressive. If it can walk it will probably try to run away and hide. Move the animal as little as possible (to avoid further damage) into a secure box for a small animal or onto a sheet of wood or even a blanket held taut for larger animals and put carefully into the car.
Any accident or injury which threatens an animals life will constitute an emergency but three most common are:
• ROAD TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS –
If you see a dog or cat hit by a car and it is still lying in the road the immediate job is to prevent it from being run over again. Despite the risk of causing further damage the animal should be moved to a safe place (as described above). Remember to avoid putting yourself at risk, and approach the animal slowly and deliberately to avoid scaring it even more.
• POISONING –
Sudden attacks of violent vomiting and/or diarrhoea, dribbling from the mouth, staggering and sudden collapse are all possible indications that an animal has been poisoned. If you believe that you know what the animal has eaten, take the packet, a sample from the plant etc with you to the vets. If you do not know what caused the problem scrape a sample of vomit or diarrhoea into a container and take it for tests. Keep the animal warm and quiet.
• BURNS AND SCALDS –
The damage caused by fire or hot liquids can be reduced by soaking the wound in PLENTY of cold water to cool the skin as quickly as possible. As with humans if you happen to have a bottle of soft drink or other liquids handy use that. Do not attempt to treat the injury with ointments etc, the animal should be taken to a vet as quickly as possible as delays can increase the pain and the risks from shock and loss of bodily fluids.
The aim of any first aid is to keep your pet alive and comfortable until it can receive proper veterinary medical treatment. The most important tasks are to ensure that your pet can breathe comfortably, to keep it warm and to control any bleeding. If the animal is unconscious, check its mouth for any obstructions (ball, stick, and food) and pull the tongue forward. To avoid being bitten place a pencil across the back teeth while your fingers are in its mouth. Wrapping the animal in a blanket will prevent it losing body heat, but if no suitable material is available newspaper, kitchen foil etc may be used instead. Serious bleeding is more likely to occur inside the animal’s body and will therefore be invisible. Paleness in the membranes around its mouth and eyes will show there is a problem. Bleeding from a skin wound should be minimised by applying a pressure pad with a bandage and cotton wool.
IS IT OK TO TREAT AN ANIMAL MYSELF?
To prevent unnecessary suffering in animals, it was made illegal many years ago for unqualified people to carry out veterinary treatment. Therefore, pet owners can only carry out first aid on their animals to save life or prevent further injury until a veterinarian can care for the patient. However, it is sensible for a caring pet owner to keep a first aid box at hand to deal with minor ailments or to save time in a genuine emergency. This could contain a range of bandages and dressings of different sizes, a blanket, a length of soft cord, scissors and disposable gloves.
© Forrest Hill Vets (2000) Ltd