Minutes can mean the difference between life and death when an emergency arises, and a walk around the block or a hike through the woods may be dangerous or even prove fatal if you lack the right knowledge to care for a pet in an emergency situation.

Dr. Sonya Gordon, associate professor at Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences gives pet owners some helpful tips on taking care of an animal when time is limited.

There are many every day activities that can be hazardous for pets if the right action is not quickly taken. One of the most common emergency situations is when an animal is involved in a car accident. Any time an animal collides with a motorized vehicle, it should be taken immediately to a veterinarian, even for what appears to be minor bumps and bruises.

“Dogs and cats do not have the ability to tell us where it hurts and there may be internal problems that cannot be noticed by the owner,” said Gordon.

When the damage caused by an accident leaves the pet immobile, Gordon suggests using a large towel or heavy blanket held tightly to simulate a stretcher to carry the animal. Never pick up an injured animal and hold it unless it is very small and can be sufficiently restrained.

It is important to be careful when working around injured animals that are in pain because they may accidentally bite or become aggressive even toward their owner.

Remember to keep the pet warm and use clean fabric like a towel, a bandage, or a T-shirt to cover any open wounds. This will help keep the wound clean and allow the blood to clot to help limit bleeding.

If there is profuse bleeding from a wound, firmly apply a clean towel or some other fabric to the area and apply continuous pressure.

“It is best not to use a tourniquet, but if one is applied, release it every ten minutes,” Gordon added.

Danger can also occur on routine hiking and camping trips and immediate veterinary care may not be available. If a pet receives an open wound during the journey, use clean tepid water to cleanse the area. Dishwashing liquid, detergents, astringents, and alcohol are too abrasive for use on open wounds and can actually cause additional damage to the tissue.

A veterinarian should treat any infections that arise. Gordon advises against administering any human pain relievers or other medications to an animal unless directed by a veterinarian because many human drugs are not safe for animals and can lead to severe complications such as ulcers, liver failure or even death.

While exploring the great outdoors, be wary of snakes. If an owner suspects a pet has been bitten by a venomous snake, examine the animal closely and try to identify the location of the bite, and if possible, the type of snake (take a picture with your phone if possible). This information is extremely helpful to the veterinarian when deciding how to care for the pet.

Face and neck bites are by far the most serious, and require immediate veterinary care because severe swelling in this area can cause difficulty breathing.

“Ice packs will help control the swelling and blood vessel dilation that allows the venom to spread,” said Gordon.

Lakes and the ocean can present problems if a pet falls in and is not a strong swimmer. It is best to purchase a lifejacket for your animal to wear when participating in water activities such as boating.

“Most lifejackets come with a handle on the back allowing the owner to pick up the animal safely and easily from the water if it falls in,” Gordon noted.

If traveling to a natural setting, especially during the summer months, it is best to bring a lot of water as well as a leash even if the pet is well trained to verbal commands.

“Pets and humans both require a lot of water and leashes provide important restraint in case an owner needs to control their pet in a dangerous situation,” said Gordon.

Gordon explained that dangerous situations can arise outdoors but also inside a house. Hazardous chemicals and all medications should be kept out of reach at all times.

“Pets are like young children and the same precautions should be taken with both,” advised Gordon.

Being aware of potential dangerous situations and keeping man’s best friend in mind when emergency strikes is an important part of being a pet owner, and a special way of reciprocating the love that they provide every day.



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. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu.

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