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04.02.09

First Aid Tips for Pet Owners

It's the middle of the night and your phone rings. Your dog has gotten out and was hit by a car. What do you do? When our kids or our significant other gets sick or hurt we have a pretty good idea of how to take care of them. Unfortunately, most people are not prepared to handle these occurrences in our pets. To help pet owners deal with emergency situations, April has been designated as National Pet First Aid Awareness Month.

Dr. Mark Stickney, Director of General Surgery Services at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences says that one of the most important things that you can do for your pet's safety is to have a relationship with your veterinarian.

"It is absolutely necessary to know if your veterinarian has an after hour emergency service and if not, who they recommend calling in case of an emergency," explains Stickney. "It's also imperative that you can call your veterinarian for advice on what to do to help your pet until you can get it to the clinic."

The two most common emergency situations that a pet owner should be prepared for are poisoning and trauma.

"If you suspect that your pet has eaten something toxic, contact your veterinarian. They may tell you to make it vomit by feeding it hydrogen peroxide," states Stickney. "While hydrogen peroxide is generally harmless there are some poisons that will actually make things worse if the pet vomits so it is important that you contact your veterinarian first."

As spring and summer approach more and more pets will be affected by snake bites. Dogs are especially curious and tend to get bitten the most on their noses, faces and front legs. "The area where the pet was bitten will swell up very quickly," states Stickney "Just because there is no visible puncture wound does not mean that your pet did not get bitten."

If you think your pet was bitten by a snake, stay calm and take it to the vet immediately. Do not put a tourniquet on the pet as this will limit the blood flow too much and cause more harm than good. "If you are able to kill the snake take it to the veterinarian with you. If they can identify the snake they will have a better idea of how harmful the bite is," recommends Stickney.

It's not uncommon that a dog or cat will suffer a traumatic event such as getting hit by a car, bike, or other vehicle. While the animal might look ok it is good to have it checked out by the veterinarian anyway. "Trauma can be very deceiving. Most of the time it looks better than it actually is and there is usually a lot of damaged tissue on the inside," explains Stickney.

The first thing to do if your pet has been injured and is bleeding is to put pressure on the area to slow the blood flow. Hurt dogs tend to bite so it is a good idea to have a muzzle on hand to use in this type of situation.

"Your pet might be your best friend, but when dogs are hurt they may not remember that," notes Stickney. "If you have a big dog, I would also recommend that you have a dog stretcher. They make it much easier to move large injured animals." Less severe incidences such as minor cuts and scrapes are fairly common and can be handled much like you would treat yourself.

"Make sure that the cut is as clean as possible," states Stickney. "I would not recommend putting antibiotic cream anywhere your pet can lick it off. This just causes more germs to get in the wound. If the cut is on an area they can't lick than something like Neosporin will be fine."

While there are a lot of ways that you can help your pet with simple first aid techniques, you will probably never have to use CPR. "The reality is that the chance that CPR will help your pet is very low," says Stickney. "The good news is that this means there is very little reason you would have to put your dogs face in your mouth."

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Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University.
Stories can be viewed on the Web at http://tamunews.tamu.edu/.

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