Pet First Aid Part II

Perhaps the most important fact to be cognizant of when our pet is injured is how quickly they can go into shock.  Shock can be fatal so its important to know the signs and what to do together with evaluating other injuries.  If your dog is choking or not breathing or bleeding out you of course deal with the most serious trauma initially BUT once you have it taken care of is often the time that the animal will go into shock leading to yet another possibly fatal condition.  Signs of shock include pale gum color with a poor capillary response, dehydration (dry lips, gums etc), rapid heart rate, cool extremities, rapid breathing and general weakness.  In severe cases you will see a huge drop in body temperature (of 3-4 degrees or more in some cases), dilated pupils and oftentimes a weakness that makes it hard or impossible for the dog to even move and possibly seizures.  The point of knowing early symptoms is to prevent things from getting to this stage.  To deal with shock prior to reaching your vet, make sure that you keep the dog warm and calm.  Blankets or the coat off of your back, whatever it takes to keep the dog’s temperature up.  If the dog is unconscious, keep his head lower than the rest of his body, cover wounds with clean cloth, if there are no broken bones gently massage extremities, and if the dog is not breathing, perform the ABC’s of resuscitation.  Most importantly, get your dog to your vet or the closest emergency vet as quickly as possible.

Heatstroke is something that we see far too often.  Prevention is the best policy – don’t leave your pet locked in a car, tied out in the sun etc.  Heatstroke is evidenced by rapid or labored breathing, excessive drooling, deep red gums, rapid heartbeat, high body temperature, vomiting and collapse and occasionally seizures.  If your dog seems to be suffering from heatstroke, immediately get him into the shade and out of any confined spaces.  Wet towels with cool water and use them on the dog’s back and face.  A fan nearby is useful as well.  Ice in a towel applied to the dogs underside is fine but DO NOT apply ice directly to the dog, it will constrict the blood vessels and make it harder for heat to escape thereby retarding efforts to cool the dog’s internal temperature.  Monitor your dog’s temperature with an anal thermometer making sure you do not cool the dog too much.  Give water but in small increments – do not let the dog gulp down large quantities all at once.  Once your dog is stable, get them to the vet ASAP.

Bleeding, whether from a bite or a tear or any sort of accident, can be a dangerous thing and its possible that your dog could bleed out depending on severity.  Apply direct pressure to the wound with a clean cloth with a firm hand.  Hold it for at least 10 minutes but resist the urge to continually check it – checking it will delay clotting and cause more blood loss.  Call your vet immediately and take your dog in once the bleeding is under control.  Remember that your dog may be in a lot of pain – any dog can bite and an injured dog is more likely to than another.  Take precautions.

Broken bones.  Just like people, dogs break bones.  Dogs can be hit by cars, run into stationary objects or in some cases jump and land wrong – there can be any number of causes.  Symptoms include pain, no use of the limb in question or even a limb jutting at an unnatural angle.  Remember that a dog in the severe sort of pain that a break can cause is NOT thinking with its right mind and even the most docile of pets can bite.  For this reason, if dealing with a suspected break, muzzle your dog before checking them out.  Check for bleeding, if bleeding is evident, attempt to stop it if you can do so without causing further injury.  Check for signs of shock.  Do not attempt to set the break by pulling or tugging on the limb, support it as well as you can and quickly transport your pet to the vet.

Poison ingestion can be a tricky problem.  Different poisons call for different treatments.  If you suspect poisoning of any sort and are seeing any symptoms at all, call your vet or the emergency vet immediately and tell them you are on your way.  These symptoms include loss of consciousness, seizures and difficulty breathing among others.  Take with you any helpful information that you may have regarding the substance that your dog ingested.  If you aren’t sure that your pet ingested something but have a suspicion, call the Animal Poison Control Hotline at (888) 426-4435.  They are there 24 hours per day, 7 days per week and while the call is toll free, they will apply a $65 consultation fee to your credit card should you need assistance.  A cheaper alternative is to simply call your vet’s office but if it is after hours you may be faced with similar or higher charges when dealing with the emergency after hours clinic who may indeed not give you any information without insisting that your dog be brought to them at the clinic which can usually cost you over $100 simply to walk in the door.

There are many disasters and conditions that can affect our pets – first aid is meant only as a stop gap measure until we can get them to a veterinarian for actual treatment.  We do what we can to keep our pet alive until a doctor can handle the situation and in doing so must always be cognizant of doing only as much as is good rather than anything that will exacerbate the condition or make matters worse.  Use common sense.  Have a list of phone numbers that includes your vet’s number, the closest emergency vet number and poison control.  A simple first aid kit may help as well.  It should include things like gauze, antibacterial ointment, Vet Rap, empty syringe without needle, sterile bandages, alcohol, benedryl capsules (25mg), scissors, hydrogen peroxide, Q-tips, thermometer, tweezers and a muzzle that will fit your dog among other things.  We all hope that an emergency won’t occur but in case it does, being prepared can make the difference of life or death for your dog.