Jan 14 2013

Pet First Aid Tips

Tips on staying prepared for pet emergencies.

The Robertsons decided to spend the weekend in the mountains over the weekend. While they were hiking on Sunday afternoon, their Miniature Schnauzer collapsed on the trail. Although they immediately picked up their dog and headed down from the mountain, they had no idea what to do when they arrived at their car. The couple, who had a pet first aid kit in the car, had not yet familiarized themselves with the instructions or contents.

As their dog started to lose color in his lips, mouth, and the areas around his eyes, the Robertsons tried calling their hometown veterinarian for help — but the weak cell phone signal in the area prevented them from being able to converse with his office or other emergency services. After driving for 45 minutes, they finally found help for their dog — just in the nick of time.

“It is unfortunate that the Robertsons did not recognize that their beloved dog was going into shock and [know] how to follow some basic steps that could have aided their dog,” says Mark Burns, DVM, a founder of the Tribeca Soho Animal Hospital in New York City. “Many pet owners do not understand the concept of first aid.”

Burns explained that animal first aid consists of series of simple and potentially life-saving techniques that a pet owner can perform with minimal equipment until veterinary treatment can be sought. This ability also includes knowing how to secure an animal safely.

“Being able to secure a dog with a muzzle, even if you have to make one with a leash, a torn garment or a pair of pantyhose, is always the first and appropriate step because an injured animal could bite you, delaying minutes of necessary treatment,” says Burns. “All in all, most pet owners should know first aid basics like bandaging, transporting and what equipment to have in their home or car. As a result of most emergencies happening at home, generally, a dog or cat is put in the car and taken to a vet or a local 24-hour emergency service provider,” notes Burns.

According to Denise Fleck, author of Dog First Aid & CPR and Cat First Aid & CPR and a first aid instructor, the Robertsons’ predicament is not unusual. “Today, as a result of pets being part of the family, we take them everywhere with us. Although we spend time searching for the best pet-friendly hotels, we need to spend as much energy into creating a pet emergency plan,” says Fleck.

Fleck suggests that before leaving home, pet owners should know how to get to the nearest veterinary service provider from their destination. Additionally, she notes that although having a first aid kit is important, being able to use it effectively is even more important. Lastly, she advises that pet owners take a first aid class so that they can learn how to deal with emergencies.

“In many cases, pet owners need to familiarize themselves with the potential pet dangers of their activities as well as the places in which they are spending time,” says Fleck. “For example, if you are boating, your pet could fall in the water and drown. Would you know how to remove water from his lungs and mouth and give him CPR? Or if you are hiking, are you familiar with the poisonous fauna and flora within the area and the reaction that they could have on you or your pet?”

For most pet owners, the answer to these questions is “No!” Like Burns, Fleck agrees most pet owners waste time because they are not equipped to deal with an emergency. “This is why a taking a class is so important. A class can help you organize your thoughts in time of crisis, give hands-on experience and boost your confidence,” says Fleck.

For Sheila Walker, the American Red Cross class did just that. When her terrier-mix fell off her boat last summer and almost drowned, she knew exactly what to do. “My vet suggested that I take the class. Even at the dog park, I am always the one who is expected to deal with the aftermath of a dog fight,” observes Walker.

Furthermore, Fleck recommends that the best emergency plan includes preventive measures, so owners should have the proper safety equipment. “Whether it’s boots for hiking, lifejackets for boating, canoeing, kayaking and swimming, anticipate what could happen and be prepared.”

Summer Valley Veterinary Clinic
Aurora Veterinary

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