So when disaster strikes and your pet is hit by a car, chokes on a bone, or cuts his leg would you know what to do? Of course, your pet’s best chance of a full recovery is to seek urgent veterinary treatment, but there are times when the pet needs immediate attention, and you must act fast to save their life.
The aim of first aid is to stabilize the animal while getting them to professional help. This may mean resuscitating a collapsed dog, or stopping a serious bleed.
Whatever the situation, stay calm. It may be a cliché, but when you panic you can’t think straight. Even worse, you pet picks up on your anxiety and this causes them additional distress. So take a few deep breaths and force yourself to concentrate.
Don’t get so focussed on the emergency that you place yourself in danger. When a car hits your dog, don’t give him first aid in the road – the next vehicle may plough straight into you. Whilst it is contrary to the advice for people, it’s OK to gently move the dog to the safety of the sidewalk.
Assess the Animal
Before you do anything, find out what the main problem is and how serious it is. The dramatic is often distracting – such as a large gory looking wound – but unless it’s bleeding heavily, the wound is unlikely to be of immediate concern. Much more important is that you notice the dog isn’t breathing.
If the animal is unconscious, the most important things to check are:
If the animal is awake then check:
Urgent Things First
If your pet has collapsed, follow this ABC
A Airway => Is his airway clear? Look inside his mouth
B Breathing => Is he breathing? Is his chest rising and falling?
C Circulation. => Is his heart beating? Place your palm over his heart
Blocked Airway => Clear the Airway
Food or fluid blocking the back of the throat stops air getting into the lungs and suffocates him. Check by opening his mouth (taking care you don’t get bitten) and look for anything thing obstructing his throat.
If the object is solid, scoop it forward with your finger.
If it is liquid, hold the pet with his head down to encourage the fluid to drain out of his mouth.
Not Breathing => Give Artificial Respiration
Lay the pet on his side. Hold the pet’s mouth and lips closed with your hand and place your lips over his nose. Blow with surface force to make his chest rise. As soon as the chests rises, release you lips. Repeat this every six seconds.
No Heartbeat => Give Cardiac Massage
The heart lies in the chest just behind the point of the elbow. Place your palm flat over this area and press down briskly with enough force to compress the chest by about one third of its width. Do this is a rapid, sharp movement. Work quickly, you require 10 compressions every 5 seconds or so. Pause after 10 quick compressions (5 seconds) to give artificial respiration.
Continue this cycle of 10 chest compressions to one breath.
Pause every couple of minutes to check if the dog has recovered.
Then phone your veterinarian to let them know you are on your way.
Dealing with Bleeding
Another situation that commonly needs first aid is bleeding. From a cut pad to snagged skin on barbed wire, picking up cuts and scratches is part of a dog’s job description. So what should you do and when do you worry?
Again, the size of the wound does not necessarily reflect how serious it is. A dramatically long skin wound may look impressive, but if it didn’t damage an artery and there’s no haemorrhage, just cover the area and get to the vet clinic (phone first!)
However, a puncture wound that clips an artery can be life-threatening. There may not be much to see on the surface, but blood pumping out could spell disaster.
Yes, you already know this but it’s easy to panic when you pet is bleeding.
Put your dog on a lead, or shut the cat indoors so he can’t run off. Keep him still where possible because running around increases his blood pressure and pushes more blood out.
Use a sterile swab from a first aid kit to apply pressure to the wound. If you don’t have a first aid kit, use a clean towel or improvise with clothing. Pressure down with sufficient to stop the bleeding. Hold this in place for a couple of minutes and then carefully remove the pad. If the bleeding has stopped, lightly bandage the area and phone your vet to let them know you’re on your way in.
If the bleeding resumes, apply more pressure, and this time improvise a way of holding the pad in place. You might bandage around the pad, or use a neck tie to hold it in place, whilst you take the pet to the vets.
Tourniquets are best avoided. OK, when all else fails apply a tight bandage above the wound to stop the bleeding. But the risk is you permanently damage the blood supply to the area, so at the very least loosen the tourniquet every ten minutes.
Animals in Pain Bite!
And finally, much as your pet pal loves you, when he’s in pain he may bite. Be aware of this and if his lip starts to quiver, cover his head with a towel, or use his leash to circle his mouth and make a temporary muzzle.