Emergencies - First Aid
Emergency, first aid, injury, immedieate care, hit, car, poison, vomiting, throw up, breathing, bloating, wheezing, bleeding, weakness, cut, scrape, licking, bone, asprin, acetaminophen, allergy, allergic, swollen, bite, benadryl, hydrogen peroxide, exam
Emergencies - First Aid
Though many emergencies you may experience at home with your pets require immediate attention by your veterinarian or a veterinary emergency facility, the simple truth is that most pet "emergencies," aren't! Many problems may look severe, and some may cause you to panic, but most of the problems you encounter, especially after hours, can probably wait until morning. It is certainly more comforting to speak to a doctor or a veterinary technician before deciding whether or not you may need to bring your pet in for care, so it is always recommended to have an afterhours phone number available where you can speak to someone in case of a problem.
Some common problems which you may encounter, which should warrant immediate care are a hit-by-car, ingestion of a known poison, excessive/uncontrollable vomiting, severe wheezing or difficulty breathing, uncontrolled seizures, excessive bleeding, sudden weakness, especially with very pale/white gums, acute eye injuries, and extreme bloating where a dogs abdomen, especially large breed dogs, seems to be getting very large and firm to the touch. If you notice any of these in your pet, you want to get him or her to your veterinarian or to an emergency hospital immediately.
For most of the other, far more common, problems you may have to deal with, it may surprise you to know that you can probably deal with them yourself, and that you probably already have what you may need at home, in your own medicine cabinets!
Firstly, most skin wounds, whether they are cuts and scrapes, bites, or self-inflicted secondary to skin problems and allergies, that are not bleeding profusely, can wait until morning! You should clean the wounds with warm water and a mild soap, then rinse with hydrogen peroxide, dab dry, and if fairly superficial, you can even apply an antibacterial ointment like a triple antibiotic ointment. You do not want to use rubbing alcohol on any raw, irritated tissue, or on open wounds. You also want to figure out a way to keep your pet from licking the wounds. Though saliva does, in fact, have antibacterial properties, continuous, excessive licking can cause more irritation, and do more harm than good. If the wound or lesion is on an extremity, you could try bandaging it using some gauze sponges, a soft wrap, and a bandaging material. Bandages should be firm, but not tight, and if applying a wrap to a leg, you always want to incorporate the foot itself into the wrap to avoid any dependent swelling. For lesions on the body, wraps are usually impractical, so keep the wounds clean, and I always recommend having an e-collar around to help prevent excessive licking. So, this should get you through the evening until you can see your own veterinarian in the morning.
It is important to note that there is no such thing as emergency limping, or even emergency fractures, assuming, of course, that the bone fragments aren't visible penetrating through the skin. Unless your pet is in extreme pain, most skeletal injuries can wait until morning! If the skeletal injury is very recent, you can try to reduce swelling and minimize discomfort by applying ice packs to the area. With older injuries, heat wraps may help. Since our pets are often very sensitive to most of the over-the-counter nsaids, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, I recommend you always check with your veterinarian before using them on your pets. Aspirin, preferably a buffered, enteric coated, or mixed with an antacid can be used on dogs at a dose of about 81 mg, which is one baby aspirin, per 15 lbs of body weight. I am not a fan of the other OTC nsaid products. Cats are even more sensitive, and if using aspirin on a cat, it is usually dosed at one half of a baby aspirin for an average adult 10 pound cat twice a week! Never, never use acetaminophen on a cat---it is deadly! !
Sometimes, you may encounter an acute allergic reaction in your pet, where a certain body part, usually the muzzle, face, or a foot becomes acutely swollen. Some pets will often develop hives or welts all over its body. The usual culprits are certain foods, insect or spider bites, or even certain medications. Though these cases often require some veterinary attention, there are some things you can try at home to help. Again, to help reduce the immediate swelling, try applying ice or cold wraps to the affected area, or in the case of generalized hives, give your dog a cold water bath. Also, good old-fashioned diphenhydramine, or benadryl, given orally at 1 mg per pound body weight can help fight the allergic reaction. I always recommend keeping some anti-histamine around the house. If this helps, great! If not, see your veterinarian.
Certain pets, more often dogs, especially nutty ones like my Labrador, seem to want to eat anything that is not bolted down, or doesn't eat them first! Unfortunately, many of the things that our pets put into their mouths are toxic and potentially very dangerous. Many foods, like chocolate, raisins and grapes, fatty foods, nuts, avocados, and large amounts of onions or garlic, can be toxic. Certain household chemicals, both cleaning agents, pesticides, and lawn and garden products, can be highly toxic. And, finally, many medications are potentially extremely dangerous to our pets. Occasionally, with some of these toxic substances, it may be necessary to induce vomiting if it's been within an hour since ingestion, and it would be difficult to get immediate professional assistance. The best household product to induce vomiting in dogs is fresh hydrogen peroxide. You want to test it on your skin first to make sure it bubbles up, and then administer it orally at a dose of one teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight. Vomiting should occur within 5 to 10 minutes. If necessary, repeat once, but if this doesn't work, you need to go directly to your veterinarian or to an emergency facility. We do not recommend ipecac syrup, salt, or salt water to induce vomiting in dogs. Unfortunately, there's nothing you can do at home to induce vomiting in cats, so you'll need to see your veterinarian. Since it is contraindicated to induce vomiting with certain ingested toxins, always check with your veterinarian first.
As it is with ourselves when we opt to provide our own care, treating our pets at home is never meant to replace the excellent care provided by your veterinarian, it is merely meant to complement that care, and keep our pets comfortable until professional care is truly necessary or available. Since after-hours emergency care is often very costly, it should be reserved for those instances when it is truly essential.
Hopefully, you'll never need to worry about this, but you should always know what your hospital's procedures and protocols are with regards to your pet's emergency needs.
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