Heat exhaustion/ Heatstroke
Hit by car
Urination blockage (inability to urinate)
Pet First Aid Kit
An abrasion does not fully penetrate and only involves the outer layer of skin. Small, uninfected wounds can be attended to at home. Large, infected, or multiple abrasions should be treated by a veterinarian. Use warm water or saline to flush out the wound. Flush enough to remove all dirt and debris from the area. Keep the wound clean and dry, and discourage your pet from licking at it (you may need to pick up an Elizabethan collar from your veterinarian). Monitor the wound for increasing pain, redness, or a pus-like discharge. If any of these occur, the animal should be seen by a veterinarian.
Birth (Whelping and Queening):
Dogs and cats have gestation periods of approximately 58 to 64 days. After 45 days, you could have an x-ray taken to see how many puppies or kittens to expect. By this time the skeletal tissues have calcified enough to be seen on a radiograph. At the time of birth, the animal will usually nest and will seek an isolated, quiet and private area. Expect one pup every 45-60 minutes with 10-30 minutes of hard straining. If she is seen straining hard for over one hour or if she takes longer than a four-hour break and you know more pups or kittens are present, a veterinarian should be consulted. Cats tend to queen a little faster, although they can occasionally take up to 24 hours to birth the entire litter, especially if the queen is young or nervous. Help clean the airways of the new puppies and kittens and place them back with their mother to start nursing.
Seek veterinary attention immediately if:
Your animal may be frightened and hurt, so approach with caution. Use a muzzle if needed. Flush out the wound with saline or warm water. Apply pressure if it there is active bleeding. A light bandage may be applied to a limb if there is extensive bleeding, but take care to not wrap the limb too tight, cutting off circulation. Any bite wound to the chest or abdomen has potential to be penetrating into the body cavity. Cover chest and abdominal wounds with a clean cloth or bandage material and have your pet seen by a veterinarian immediately. Be sure to have your pet examined if there has been any bite wound inflicted. Often what you see at the surface, such as a few small punctures or bruising, will have extensive deeper tissue damage that you cannot see. Bite wounds can become infected, so it is necessary to have your pet started on appropriate antibiotic therapy.
What is Bloat?
Bloat, or gastric dilatation and volvulus, is a condition in which the stomach rotates on its own axis. Once the stomach flips, the entrance and exits to the stomach become pinched off, and it becomes greatly distended with gas that has no outlet. The stomach becomes greatly dilated and painful, and circulation to the stomach and other major organs becomes severely compromised, leading to shock and eventual death.
Bloat can occur rapidly; a dog can be dead within hours of the stomach distention. Bloat is most prevalent in large breeds with deep chests and seems to occur more commonly in dogs who have a tendency to be easily agitated or nervous, and in dogs who exercise after a large meal. Any time bloat occurs, it is very serious. Symptoms include attempts at vomiting with no production (occasionally they may get up small amounts of foamy fluid); a hard, distended abdomen; and severe abdominal pain. If you observe any of these symptoms in your dog, it must be transported to a veterinarian immediately. This is a true emergency.
To stop the bleeding, you may pack the nail with styptic powder, cornstarch, or white ivory soap. You or your veterinarian may need to trim the rest of the nail off to prevent further pain or bleeding. Occasionally a nail that breaks off very close to the nail bed may create an infection in the toe that will require antibiotic treatment so watch for any limping that persists longer than two days.
Check to see if your animal is choking on a foreign object. If so, be careful not to get bitten, or push the object further down the throat. If the animal can still pass some breath, it is best to take it to a veterinarian immediately, so the object can be removed under sedation with the proper instrumentation. If the animal cannot pass any air, you can try to remove or dislodge the object carefully. If possible, use a second person to hold the mouth open while the first person attempts to remove the object. Pliers or tweezers may be used to grasp the object if the animal is calm and the object is visible in the back of the throat. If the object is not visible or cannot be dislodged, you may also use quick chest compressions by standing behind the animal and balling the fists under the sternum and use gentle but firm upward thrusts to force air from the lungs to dislodge the object. Even if you are able to dislodge the object yourself, always seek veterinary care after the incident to make sure there are no complications.
Check to see if your animal is choking on a foreign object. If so, see “Choking.” If the animal is not breathing and the airway and mouth are free of objects, lay it down on its right side. Check for a heartbeat by listening to the chest where the elbow touches the ribs. If there is no heartbeat, you can start chest compressions with the flat of your hand. If the animal is a medium-sized or large dog, kneel over the animal and place one hand over the top of the other on the center of the chest. Then compress downward, moving the chest in and out rapidly (approximately one compression per second). Alternatively, if the animal is a cat or a small dog, you can place one or both hands on either side of the chest and compress inwards. To breathe for the animal extend the neck so that there is a straight airway, close its mouth; place your mouth around its nose and mouth (or just its nose if it is a large dog) and blow air into the nose until the chest expands. Be sure to keep the neck out straight, not flexed. You should be able to see the chest expand with each breath... don't over-do forcing air into the lungs. This should be performed every 5 seconds. If chest compressions are required to stimulate heart contractions, alternate this with the breathing procedure after 10 heart compressions. Seek veterinary attention immediately. Unfortunately, this procedure, because the patient may already be dead, is extremely unsuccessful in animals.
Use warm water or saline to flush out the wound. Flush enough to remove all dirt and debris from the area. Apply direct pressure with a cloth or towel if the wound is bleeding. A bandage can be applied to a wound on a limb if the bleeding will not stop. Take care not to apply the bandage too tightly, cutting off circulation to the limb. Cuts should always be treated by a veterinarian to prevent infection and to assess for damage to the deeper tissues.
Your judgment regarding the health status of a pet with diarrhea is critical. A pet with diarrhea and also weakness, pain, vomiting, or agitation may be in real trouble; whereas a pet with diarrhea but few other signs of distress may sometimes be treated at home. Always inform your veterinarian about the situation and have a fecal sample checked just in case worms or other parasites such as Giardia are a factor. Withhold food only for 12-24 hours to give the intestines a rest. Water should still be given frequently but in small amounts. Call your veterinarian for advice. You may be required to bring your animal in for medical attention if it persists for more than 24-48 hours or if there are concurrent symptoms (vomiting, weakness, lethargy, appetite loss, abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea). Chronic or frequent episodes of loose stool may be a sign of Inflammatory Bowel Disease which often requires veterinary attention.
Any injury to the eye can lead to permanent scarring or blindness. You can use any commercial saline flush to clean foreign objects from the eye and to visualize the extent of the damage. If your animal is squinting, hiding its eyes from the light, has a raised third eyelid or has any blood within or around the eye, seek veterinary attention immediately. Home treatment of eye injuries is not recommended without a veterinarian's exam and recommendation. Even a simple scratch on the cornea from a thorn or cinder could lead to severe damage to the eye.
Your animal may be frightened and hurt, so approach with caution. Use a muzzle and look for bleeding. Apply a clean cloth or bandage material gently to bleeding areas for protection and mild pressure. Do not pull on the fractured leg. Transport your pet as quickly as possible to your veterinarian, using a board or large blanket as a stretcher. Give careful support to any fractured limbs. Simple support may be better than trying to splint a fractured limb yourself. If the limb is severely unstable, or if the fracture is open, and there is a lot of movement of the fracture site, a temporary splint can be applied. Wrap a newspaper or magazine around the limb, and tape it in place, or tape a thin board to the limb, preventing movement of the fractured edges. Immobilization of the fractured limb is the key, as any movement of the fractured bones can lead to further tissue damage and pain.
Frostbite is uncommon in animals and usually affects the ear tips, paws (mostly the footpads), tail, and scrotum. Hypothermia (low body temperature less than 98*F) may accompany frostbite. Signs of frostbite may be difficult to detect on pigmented skin. Typically the affected skin is pale or bluish in color early on in frostbite (will not detect on the footpads). There is a loss of sensation to the affected areas. With time if the frostbite is severe blisters may appear or the skin may develop dark scabs and the tissue may slough off. Signs of hypothermia are related to the degree of severity and may include shivering (not if temperature below 90°F), dullness, weakness or collapse, low heart rate, pale gums, shallow or slow breathing and coma. Treatment for frostbite and hypothermia includes removing the animal from the cold and checking for low body temperature. If hypothermia is present wrap the animal in blankets. If frostbite is present apply warm, moist compresses to the affected areas. If the feet or a large area of the body have frostbite, submerge these areas in water warmed to 102 - 103°F for 10 – 15 minutes. Gently dry the areas. DO NOT RUB THE AFFECTED AREAS as this will cause more tissue damage. Do not use dry heat such as hairdryers or electric heating pads for re-warming as further damage may occur. Seek veterinary attention immediately.
Heat exhaustion/ Heatstroke:
Heat exhaustion or heatstroke (more severe form of overheating) occurs when an animal cannot keep its core body temperature within a safe range (< 106°F). Environmental (temperature, humidity, shelter, lack of water), physical (breed, age, weight, exercise), and medical (medications, pre-existing illness) factors contribute to the development of heatstroke. Pets left in warm cars for even a few minutes are at high risk of developing heatstroke. Severity of signs depends on how severely the body temperature is elevated, duration of exposure to adverse conditions, and any pre-existing conditions. Signs may include: restlessness, excessive panting, brick red gums, lethargy, weakness, wobbly gait, vomiting and diarrhea. Progression to blindness, seizures, collapse, coma and death may occur. Treatment must start immediately. Remove the animal from the heat and continuously wet down the animal thoroughly by spraying or pouring cool water over the animal. Make sure there is complete penetration of the hair coat and that the belly and groin areas are wetted down as well. Avoid complete immersion in water because heat cannot leave the body as effectively. If available use a fan to help cool the animal while it is wet. If possible take the rectal temperature and stop cooling measures when the temperature is 103°F. Once you begin cooling measures take your pet to a veterinarian immediately and continue cooling (air conditioning) enroute if needed.
Hit by car:
Before administering first aid, make sure the animal and you are not in danger of further injury from oncoming traffic. Apply a muzzle on dogs and put a blanket over cats before attempting to touch the animal to decrease the chance of being bitten or scratched. Check the animal’s level of alertness as well as its breathing rate and effort. If the animal is unconscious and not breathing check for a heartbeat. See the section on CPR if there is no breathing or heartbeat. If possible check the color of the gums (do not attempt on a dog who is not muzzled or on an alert, fearful cat). Pale gums may indicate shock or bleeding. Check for external bleeding and open wounds. If external bleeding is severe especially if the blood is spurting instead of oozing, apply direct pressure over the wound using a clean gauze or cloth. If severe bleeding is present and the wound is on a leg, the chest, or the belly place a clean wrap over the sight. Do not use tourniquets to stop bleeding. IF the animal bleeds through a bandage do not remove the bandage but place a new one over it. Check for any abnormal position of the limbs but do not attempt to straighten or re-position the leg. If bone is visible through a wound rinse the area with clean water and place a clean bandage over the exposed bone. Transport dogs to the veterinarian immediately on a board, stretcher, or a blanket used as a stretcher. Make sure the legs of the animal are supported on the board or stretcher and that the animal can not fall off .Cats and small dogs may be placed in a small box or carrier. All animals hit by a car should be examined by a veterinarian regardless of how mild the signs may appear to be.
Hot spots (acute moist dermatitis) are seen more frequently in dogs than cats. These lesions are due to self inflicted trauma (licking, scratching, biting) that is set off by a skin irritant. Causes of irritation include fleas, allergies, insect and tick bites, skin infections and grooming complications. Typically, the lesions are moist, red, very tender and itchy, and have a foul odor. Hair loss may or may not be present and often the extent of the lesion is not seen if the pet has a thick hair coat. Lesions can be in multiple areas and grow rapidly in size. Treatment includes stopping the irritation and itching, controlling infection and removing the inciting cause when possible. For initial home care clean the area with tepid water and a mild veterinary approved solution and prevent the animal from scratching or chewing at the area. Cool compresses may temporarily relieve the irritation but usually an oral or topical mediation prescribed by your veterinarian is needed. Drying agents as well as antibiotics may be recommended by your veterinarian.
Allergic reactions to bees, hornets, yellow jackets, wasps, and spiders are common in dogs and cats. Most of the bites/stings occur on the face, ears and paws. Typical signs of an allergic reaction are swelling and redness around the eyes, eyelids, muzzle, nose, and ears. If the bite/sting occurs on the paw it will be swollen. Trouble breathing may occur in severe allergic reactions. If an animal has these signs, look for a stinger and remove it with tweezers if it is present. Most animals will need to see a veterinarian to receive the initial allergy medications by injection but call your veterinarian for advice regarding home vs. clinic treatment. Your veterinarian may advise to have antihistamines available at home for any future incidents.
Puncture wounds may occur from fights with other animals or trauma from sharp objects. Before attempting to touch the wound muzzle a dog or place a blanket over a cat to decrease the chance of being bitten or scratched. Clean the area with clean tepid water or saline solution. Puncture wounds often are deeper than they appear and infection can be a serious problem. Do not attempt to probe the extent of the puncture but bring the animal into a veterinarian as soon as possible. If the object that caused the puncture is still imbedded in the wound do not attempt to remove it because this could cause further damage. Rather, bring the animal to the veterinarian immediately. Any deep puncture on the chest or belly should be covered with a clean cloth or gauze and a light applied wrap applied.
Have the number of an animal poison control center always readily available. Signs of poisoning are varied and often non-specific and may be delayed depending on the type of toxin ingested. Some common sources of poisoning are: medications, household cleaners, insecticides/pesticides, chemicals and plants. If you know an animal ingested something that might be toxic call poison control immediately and bring the animal to the veterinarian. NEVER INDUCE VOMITING WITHOUT THE ADVICE OF A VETERINARIAN. Certain toxins can cause more damage or complications if vomiting occurs. Whenever possible bring the container or label of the product ingested or if it was plant material such as mushrooms bring a sample with you to the veterinarian.
If an animal is having a seizure, do not move it unless the animal is in an unsafe area such as near stairs, furniture or dangerous objects. If the animal is at risk of falling, set up a barricade with pillows and blankets. The majority of seizures in pets are the “grand mal” type. The animal is usually on its side and the legs are paddling. There may be vocalizing, drooling, abnormal facial movements and loss of bladder and bowel control. The animal will not be aware of its surroundings. Accurately time and record the length and severity of the seizure. Keep the environment quiet. All animals should be evaluated by a veterinarian if the seizure was a first time occurrence. Even if your pet has a history of seizures immediate veterinary care is needed if a seizure lasts more than 2 minutes or the animal is having several seizures in a day. If an animal is being treated for diabetes and experiences a seizure rub a small amount of Kayro syrup or sugar water on the gums in case the cause of the seizure is low blood sugar. Do not attempt to make the animal swallow. Bring your pet to the veterinarian immediately.
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Urination blockage (inability to urinate):
This can occur in any cat or dog but it is most commonly seen in male cats and male dogs. Some breeds of dogs such as Dalmatians are at higher risk of developing an obstruction. The obstruction is usually caused by mineral plugs or stones that block the urinary outflow tract (urethra). Early signs of a possible urinary blockage may include straining to urinate but producing little to no urine, crying when urinating, small drops of blood, excessive licking at the prepuce or vulva, frequent trips in and out of the litter box (cats) or frequent need to go outdoors (dogs). As the time since blocked increases waste products build up in the blood and the animal may exhibit vomiting, weakness, lethargy, disorientation, collapse and death. In ability to urinate is a life threatening emergency that must be dealt with quickly. If you notice any abnormalities when your pet is urinating go the veterinarian immediately.
Vomiting can occur for many reasons and may be of little consequence or it may be life threatening. Only you can decide how distress your pet is and when immediate veterinary care is indicated. If your pet is alert, active, not distressed and vomits only a couple of times conservative management at home may be sufficient. Do not offer anything by mouth for 4 – 6 hours and then offer small amounts of water or ice chips. If there is no vomiting offer a small amount of bland food 12 hours after vomiting has stopped. If vomiting persists see your veterinarian. Vomiting is an emergency and the pet should go to the veterinarian immediately if any of the following signs are present: the animal is distressed; there is blood in the vomit; the pet ingested medication ,a foreign object, toxic material, or toxic plants; there is non-productive retching and/or vomiting; there is a swollen belly; there is weakness, lethargy or collapse; if the gums are pale, bluish or dark red; if the pet has a preexisting disease; or if there is a fever ( >103°F) or a low body temperature (<100°F).
By DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital:
Medical Director Andrea Oncken, DVM, DACVECC
Critical Care Director Alicia Faggella, DVM, DACVECC
Many thanks for allowing us to reprint this article.