First Aid Tips for Pet Owners
Posted April 02, 2009
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
"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
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
About Pet Talk
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 vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk.
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Angela G. Clendenin
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