As an animal lover, you may come across situations where you need to provide first aid to an animal.
The hope is that it never happens, but if it does, it’s best to know how to respond in an emergency. You will find below an overview of the most common situations in which you will be required to provide first aid to an animal.
In case of injury
Most pets will at some point have an injury or stitches from surgery. When this is the case, it is useful to know how to treat the wounds.
First of all, it is necessary to keep the wound clean. You can clean the wound with cooled, pre-boiled water or a rinsing solution using a syringe. You can also apply a disinfectant like Betadine using a sterile gauze or cotton ball. To speed up the healing process, you can use a wound ointment such as Dermiel or Vetramil.
If necessary, the wound can be dressed with sterile gauze or a small animal bandage. You should replace the dressing daily and check the wound. If the wound becomes red, thick, hot, and/or contains pus, you must visit your veterinarian for an examination. Animals will naturally lick their wound. In principle, this helps heal the wound. Make sure they don’t lick it excessively as this could damage the wound. In case of excessive licking, you can temporarily use a protective collar or pet vest.
Bites or battle wounds
Bites or fight wounds should always be evaluated by a veterinarian as these wounds are usually infected. Infections and abscesses can occur if the wound is not treated properly. In some cases, it is necessary to suture the wound within 6 hours of its appearance.
Ear injuries can occur as a result of a bite or an accident with barbed wire, for example. These injuries can cause heavy bleeding. These wounds usually require stitches to stop the bleeding. You can try applying a bandage to stop the bleeding before going to the vet. When applying a bandage, it should be placed around the head and over the affected ear. You can then apply the bandage in such a way as to alternate between the front and the back of the other ear. Please make sure the throat is not restricted by the bandage so your pet can breathe normally. For small dogs, a cut sock can be used as a temporary bandage by slipping it over the dog’s head.
Broken or bleeding claw
A claw that is broken or cut a little too short can bleed quite heavily. Press a piece of gauze against the injured claw and then use a bandage, pulled tight enough to hold it in place. Remove the bandage after 15 minutes so that the blood circulation of the paw is not blocked. The claws of animals are fragile and can break or tear off. You can cut off the broken part if needed. If you can’t, or prefer not to, it would be best to take your pet to the vet. If the wound is near the paw, the sensitive area may be nicked and therefore may become infected. Clean the claw daily and wrap it with a bandage if necessary (not too tight!).
Animal run over by a car
Has your pet been hit by a car? Try to stay calm and call your vet as soon as possible. Your veterinarian will ask you several crucial questions and give you guidelines to follow. Stay with your pet to calm him down. Stabilizing the animal is the most important thing you can do in the first place. In all cases, you must ensure that the airways are clear, that you support the animal where it is needed, and keep it warm by using a blanket or coat.
If the animal is trying to find a comfortable position, please allow it to do so. For example, if an animal has difficulty breathing, it will prefer to lie on its stomach rather than on its side. Is the animal bleeding? Try applying pressure to the bleeding area or applying a pressure bandage, using a scarf or a piece of t-shirt if necessary.
Transport to the veterinarian
It is important that the animal is not moved too much and that it is transported to the veterinarian carefully. If you suspect your pet is suffering from a broken bone, it is important not to handle the injured leg when you lift it but to let it hang.
If for some reason your pet is unconscious, has stopped breathing, or you can’t feel their heartbeat, you can try to resuscitate them. This maintains the vital transport of oxygen in the blood. Resuscitation or CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) consists of cardiac massage and/or mouth-to-nose resuscitation. You can check the animal’s pulse by placing the palm of your hand on its chest, just behind the elbow. Another place where you can feel the heartbeat is in the groin area, on the inside of the thigh. You can check the animal’s breathing by holding your hand in front of its nostrils and watching its chest move. If you want to resuscitate the animal, have someone call the vet while you wait.
Can’t feel the animal’s heartbeat? Lay the animal on its side with the neck straight if possible. In most cases, animals with no heartbeat stopped breathing. In this case, cardiac massage is more important than resuscitation. The purpose of cardiac massage is to exert sufficient pressure so that blood is pumped by the heart. If several people are present, you can perform a combination of cardiac massage and resuscitation. The animal’s heart is located in the thoracic region of the chest, behind the elbow of the left front paw. Place the heel of your hand (in small dogs, place a thumb and index finger on both sides of the chest) and perform 1 or 2 chest compressions per second. Regularly check if the dog has new heartbeats. If this is not the case after several minutes, there is very little chance that he will survive it.
Mouth-to-nose breathing (muzzle)
Has the animal stopped breathing? The animal may still have heartbeats, check if you can feel them. If his heart is still beating, you can revive him. If the animal no longer has a pulse, perform cardiac massage as described above. When resuscitating, place the animal on its side with the neck straight if possible. Check that the airways are free. Open the animal’s mouth and let its tongue hang out. Remove obstructions (mucous membranes, vomiting, objects). The animal still does not breathe? Then you can practice mouth-to-nose resuscitation. Place your mouth on the dog’s muzzle and put your hands around it. Blow air directly into the dog’s nostrils. Be careful not to blow too much air into the chest as a dog’s lung volume is smaller than yours!
If you are alone and want to perform both CPR and CPR, the best thing to do is to alternate 10 seconds of CPR with 1 mouth-to-nose resuscitation.
Several products including food can poison your pet. The best known for dogs are chocolate, grapes and raisins, paracetamol/ibuprofen, rat and mouse poison, cleaning products, and antifreeze. Products that are particularly toxic to cats include lily, paracetamol, and permethrin (the active ingredient in flea treatment for dogs).
If you suspect any intoxication in your animal or if it shows symptoms of intoxication such as vomiting, acute diarrhea, anxiety, or lethargy, please contact your veterinarian immediately. Important information to give your veterinarian includes your pet’s weight, the composition of the product, and the number of mg/ml you think your pet has ingested. If you have accidentally given your cat liquid flea treatment for dogs, it is important to wash the area where you applied them as soon as possible with a mild shampoo or soap to minimize absorption through the skin. Contact your veterinarian immediately.
Cats and dogs may tend to ingest foreign bodies. Some dogs like to eat socks, gloves, tennis balls, rubber toys, sticks, and more. Cats are more likely to eat rubber earplugs or yarn. During a barbecue, make sure that wooden skewers containing leftover food are out of the dog’s reach. You should never leave your pet alone with toys.
If you see or suspect your pet has ingested an object, contact your veterinarian immediately. If you wait too long, serious consequences can occur as the ingested objects can damage the intestines or cause a blockage. Additionally, the administration of salt water to induce vomiting is also not recommended. In many cases, it does not work and can also cause dehydration. Your veterinarian can decide on the right treatment to follow, such as endoscopy or surgery.
Sometimes you won’t notice that your pet has swallowed an object. If your cat or dog has persistent vomiting, is lethargic, and seems constipated, this may be an indication of a blockage in the intestines. If you notice these symptoms, please contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Allergic reaction to insect bites
Bites from wasps, bees, and mosquitoes can cause allergic reactions. This manifests as swelling, redness, and pain. If your pet has been stung and you can still see the stinger, try removing it with tweezers. You can relieve swelling and pain by cooling the area. If the swelling persists and your dog suffers, please contact your veterinarian. Some cats and dogs like to swallow flies. However, if they do so with wasps and bees and get their throats or tongues stung, it can be dangerous. Swelling in this area can cause breathing difficulties. If this happens, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Check your pet for ticks daily, especially after a walk in the woods. It is important to remove the tick within 16-24 hours of attachment before any disease can be transmitted. You can remove the tick using tweezers. Make sure the tick is visible by pushing the cat’s or dog’s hair to clear the area and place the tweezers as close to the skin as possible. Rotate until the tick lets go. Contrary to some rumors, it doesn’t matter whether you turn the tick right or left. Do not pour alcohol on a tick because it will spit out the contents of its stomach which could transmit possible diseases. After removing the tick, check that the small black part, the head, has also been removed. If the head is not removed, it can cause infection. Does your pet have an adverse reaction to a tick bite? Ask your vet to examine him just in case.
Ticks are easy to remove, but it is better to prevent their appearance. It is therefore important to protect your pet well during tick season. For this, various anti-tick treatments are available on the market.
lameness in animals
Lameness is always painful even though many dogs don’t show that they suffer from it. Lameness can have several causes. It can be caused by a trauma such as a fight, being overweight, an accident, or even a sharp object on the dog’s paw. Always check that there are no objects on the paws or injuries between the toes or the claws. When you have removed a splinter or a piece of glass, for example, it is important to keep the pad clean in the following days and to apply a bandage when your pet goes out for a walk. To treat a broken claw, please refer to the paragraph “Broken or bleeding claw”. If you cannot find the cause of the lameness and it persists for several hours, please schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. If you suspect your pet has a broken bone, do not examine it or handle the paw yourself, as this is very painful and will only cause further damage. When carrying your pet, be sure not to touch the paw, but let it hang down.
Has your pet been injured by boiling water or has it been burned? Cool the affected area as quickly as possible with lukewarm water. Do this for at least 10 minutes. In the meantime, contact your veterinarian.
In the summer, your pet is at risk of sunburn. This can be due to a lack of shade or an excessively hot environment (like a car parked in direct sunlight). Short-snouted dog breeds, such as French/English Bulldogs and Pugs, are more likely to succumb to heatstroke. The consequences of heatstroke can be very serious. That is why it is important to cool the animal as soon as possible. Dogs cannot sweat and can only lose body heat through the soles of their paws and panting. When a dog gets too hot, he starts panting to release body heat. Due to the exertion caused by the shortness of breath, the dog’s body heat will increase further. It is therefore essential that you act quickly and consult your veterinarian. You can already administer first aid by cooling it by putting it out of direct sunlight. You can put a wet towel on the dog’s back or let him lie down or swim in the water. If you can, it is best to shave the dog with a thick or long coat. Make sure there is enough fresh drinking water available. Your veterinarian can examine the animal further and put it on a drip or take additional measures if necessary.
The risk of heatstroke can be reduced by using cooling products like the Aqua Coolkeeper Collar. This handy accessory contains an active cooling gel that cools the animal’s neck. The blood circulating in the veins cools and refreshes the body of the animal. There is also the cooling mat that allows you to cool your pet properly.
First aid kit
It is always useful to have a first aid kit available at home and take it with you wherever you go. A good pet first aid kit should contain bandages such as sterile gauze, betadine impregnated pads, iodine wipes, bandages, leukocytes, scissors, and protective gloves. Claw clippers are also needed for broken claws. The tick remover should also be present in the kit.
The purpose of providing first aid in the event of an accident is to save the life of an animal, alleviate its suffering, and/or prevent the deterioration of its wounds. In addition, you must ensure that the animal can be transported to the vet safely. A first aid course provides you with the theoretical and practical knowledge necessary to provide first aid. Consider signing up for a first aid course!
You can purchase pet insurance to cover veterinary costs. Check with insurance companies for terms and prices. You can also put money aside to cover any unexpected costs.