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First aid for common emergencies

First aid tips for common emergencies in pets

How you can help your pet in a crisis, and safely transport a sick or injured animal to the vet. For treatment within the Alpine Animal Doctors emergency service area, call…

5756 2444

When you are faced with an emergency involving issues more complex than lacerations and cuts your first priority should be to call the hospital for emergency advice and to get your pet to us — or the closest vet — as quickly as possible.

There are some things you can do to assist a pet in crisis and to help it during transport to the hospital…

Fractures (broken bones etc):

Gently lay your pet on a flat surface such as a board for support and to use as a stretcher during transport (or use a throw rug or blanket as a sling).

Making sure you don’t put pressure on either the injured area or the animal’s chest, try to secure your pet to the stretcher — wrapping a blanket around the animal and the stretcher will usually do the trick.

If it’s impossible for you to get a pet with a fracture to a veterinarian promptly you could attempt to set the fracture with a homemade splint but this should be a last resort. A badly-placed splint may cause more harm than good.

Heatstroke:

Cases of heatstroke are all too common in the Australian climate. They need veterinary attention but you should also act promptly to administer first aid and reduce the risk of complications.

Immediately move the animal to a shaded area and out of direct sunlight. Wrap a wet towel soaked in cool water around the neck and head, but do not cover the eyes, nose or mouth. Every few minutes, remove the towel, wring it out, rewet it and rewrap it to continue cooling the animal.

Use a hose (first run the water until it’s cool. Water in a hose left in the sun can be scalding hot) and keep cool water running over the animal’s body, concentrating on the abdomen and between the hind legs. Use your hands to massage the legs and continually sweep the water away as it absorbs body heat.

Do not use ice cold water, or ice. Water that is too cold can reduce skin circulation, which delays cooling.

Get your pet to the hospital as soon as possible, transporting it in a cool car with the air conditioning running.

Pets can succumb to heatstroke very easily. They must be treated promptly to give them the best chance of survival. Never leave your pet in a closed car. The temperature inside a car can very quickly rise to dangerous levels, even on days that are quite mild. On a hot day in an Australian summer the interior of a car can take just minutes to heat up to a level that will kill your pet.

If your pet is left alone indoors during the day, make sure there is adequate ventilation and water. Outdoors, make certain they have a shady place to retreat to, and plenty of water is available.

Seizures:

Don’t attempt to restrain an animal suffering a seizure but do keep it away from anything that might hurt it — open fires, hot surfaces, pools, furniture etc.

Time the seizure — they can last from seconds to minutes, usually 2-3 minutes. Once it has stopped, keep your pet warm and quiet and contact the hospital. Do not assume a seizure is a ‘one-off’ event; these incidents almost always indicate wider problems that require investigation.

Internal bleeding:

If you see your pet is bleeding from the nose, mouth or rectum, there is blood in their urine, or they are coughing up blood, have pale gums and are weak with a rapid pulse, you should suspect internal bleeding.

In these cases there is nothing you can do at home. Keep the animal as warm and quiet as possible and get it to the hospital or the nearest veterinarian as quickly as possible.

Burns:

For a known chemical burn caused by caustic solutions, flush the burn immediately with copious quantities of water.

For burns caused by direct heat (flame, hot surfaces etc) immediately apply an ice water compress to the burned area. You can also use packets of frozen vegetables like peas.

Any burn can cause infection and should be checked at the hospital.

Shock:

Many conditions can cause an animal to go into shock but it usually follows a severe injury or extreme fright. Shock symptoms include a weak pulse, shallow breathing, nervousness and dazed eyes.

Keep the animal restrained, warm and quiet.

If your pet is unconscious, keep the head level with the rest of the body, gently place the animal on a flat stretcher and get it to the hospital.

Choking:

A choking animal will show symptoms including difficulty breathing, constant pawing at the mouth and choking sounds when breathing or coughing. The lips and/or tongue may also have a blue tinge. The most common cause of choking is food or a foreign object stuck in the windpipe.

Approach a choking pet carefully – panic can make it bite.

If the animal can still breathe, keep it calm and get it to the hospital.

Look into the pet’s mouth. If you can clearly see a foreign object, try to gently remove it with tweezers, but be very, very careful you do not push the object further down the throat. The potential for you to make matters worse by poking around in your pet’s mouth and throat is so great that we cannot recommend you attempt it. But, in situations where you are unable to quickly get the animal to the hospital it may be the only thing you can do. One alternative is to try holding the dog upright with its nose pointing to the ground and shaking the animal. It sounds a little drastic but it can work, and it’s less likely to cause problems than using tweezers.

Even if you can clearly see what’s causing the blockage, if the animal is still breathing, don’t spend too much time trying to get it out it if it’s not easy to reach — get your pet to the hospital, where we have specialised equipment for these cases.

Resuscitation and CPR:

If your pet is unconscious and/or has stopped breathing you can attempt to resuscitate them. Try to have someone else call the hospital while you attempt this so we can talk you through the process. If there are enough friends or family available, it can be helpful to carry out the procedures below while on your way to the hospital.

Always stay calm and act in a methodical way.

First, check to see if your pet actually is unconscious. Open your pet’s airway by gently grasping the tongue and pulling it forward out of the mouth until it is flat. If the tongue does not stay flat when pulled out of the mouth, i.e., it retracts back into the mouth, it indicates your pet is still conscious. You should always pull out the tongue (gently!) to secure an airway before transporting an unconscious pet to the hospital.

Check the animal’s throat to see if there are any foreign objects blocking the airway (see the previous section on Choking).

Perform resuscitation breathing by holding your pet’s mouth closed with your hand and breathing with your mouth directly into its nose until you see the animal’s chest expand (your pet breathes through its nose, not its mouth). Once the chest expands, continue resuscitation breathing once every 4 or 5 seconds.

Unfortunately, if your pet is already unconscious and/or has no pulse, the chances of a successful first aid resuscitation are not high. In an emergency however, it may give your pet its only chance. Whatever else you might try to help your pet, your first action should be to call the hospital for advice.

E&OE. These articles are intended as a guide only. They should not be used for diagnosis or treatment of any individual animal and no person should place reliance on information derived from them, where such reliance may result in loss, damage or injury. Always consult a qualified veterinarian to obtain advice.

Although Alpine Animal Doctors make every effort to ensure that the information contained in our articles is accurate and up-to-date we can accept no responsibility for errors or omissions that may occur.

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Alpine Animal Doctors
7047 Great Alpine Road
Porepunkah, VIC 3740
PO Box 393, Bright, VIC 3741
Phone: +61 03 5756 2444
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