While April is national pet first aid awareness month, as responsible pet parents, we should always be prepared for a first aid emergency. Many of us have a basic knowledge of how to control bleeding or perform CPR on a human, but very few pet owners are knowledgeable about what to do if an accident occurs and your dog or cat needs immediate medical care. Oftentimes, emergencies occur outside normal business hours. Unless you can get to a 24/7 emergency animal hospital, you may not be able to get your beloved dog the care it needs in time. Increase your pet’s chances of surviving an accident by learning basic pet first aid.
If you’re new to pet first aid, or afraid you’ll not be able to recall what to do should an actual pet emergency occur, The American Red Cross has put together a “Pet First Aid App” that you can keep on your phone for reference.
Here are a few suggestions from Lucy and Holly:
As pet parents, it’s a good idea to keep a few emergency contact numbers on hand at all times. You can post these in your phone, on the fridge door, in your wallet or anywhere you can access them quickly in an emergency. You’ll need the business number and after-hours emergency numbers for your veterinarian, as well as the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Hotline (888- 426-4435). There’s a fee if you call the ASPCA hotline, but they’re a great resource to have in an emergency. You’ll also want the number of a nearby, reliable friend who can serve as an extra pair of hands in a pet emergency.
It’s also a good idea to keep a few basic items ready to go at a moment’s notice, like a makeshift muzzle (a scarf or necktie will work in a pinch), your dog’s travel crate and a list of any medications your pet takes.
The ABCs of Pet Care
In human first aid classes, we are taught to assess the ABCs: Airway, Breathing and Circulation. The same principal applies to your pet.
If your pet is unresponsive, you should first check his airway. Did he choke on something or is something lodged in his throat? Did he bite a bee causing his throat or tongue to swell enough to block his airway? All these instances (and more) can result in a pet emergency. Check to see if your dog is still breathing, and if his heart is still beating. If his airway, breathing or circulation are compromised, you’ll need to start Pet CPR. You may need to sweep his airway with your finger to clear a lodged object or perform the Heimlich maneuver if necessary. If he’s bleeding, you’ll need to put a compress over the wound, and splint any broken bones before moving him.
The best way for pet parents to be prepared for a pet first aid emergency is to take a class offered by The American Red Cross or your local veterinarian. Practicing CPR in a non-emergency situation better prepares you for the real thing, should you ever have to use it. You can also gain a basic knowledge of pet CPR by watching informational videos on You Tube.
Pet First Aid
Putting together a pet first aid kit is very similar to the one you make for human emergencies. You can order a ready-made kit or make one on your own. Be sure to include a necktie, dishtowel or similar soft cloth item to use as a muzzle or purchase a muzzle to place in your kit. We keep a first aid kit inside our home and another kit with our travel gear. Attaching a muzzle to your first aid kit or bag also makes it easier to find in an emergency. It’s important to have one as your pet may lash out in fear and pain. Securing his muzzle keeps you both safe in an emergency. Also include in your kit non-stick bandages, self-cling gauze and paper tape to dress wounds in an emergency.
If your dog ingests a poisonous substance, you’ll need to call Poison Control and administer whatever they recommend before leaving for the vet. Things like activated charcoal, hydrogen peroxide, milk of magnesia, and syrup of ipecac can all be used to treat poisonings. You may also want to include a pet thermometer to help you determine if your pet is too hot or too cold. This may be something the vet asks you over the phone during your initial emergency call.
Useful items in an emergency can also include splint supplies, compresses, antiseptic spray, antiseptic wipes, gloves, tweezers, eyedroppers, plastic syringes for giving oral medication, clean towels, blankets, sugar packets and a bottle of Rescue Remedy.
When an Emergency Occurs
1. Secure the scene, remove any physical threats to you or your dog (disconnect the electricity if he chewed a cord, put the car in park, secure any aggressive animals, etc.).
2. Stay calm.
- Muzzle your dog if necessary.
- Check airway, breathing and circulation.
- Control any profuse bleeding.
- Call for help.
- Start CPR if necessary.
- Administer any first aid recommended by the veterinarian.
- Splint any broken bones before moving your dog.
- Get your dog to an emergency clinic as soon as possible.
While accidents do happen, knowing what to do when your pet is injured can save his life. If reason fails you and you don’t know what to do, try to stay calm, call for help and stay with your dog.
Atlanta GirlZ Club®
“We’re all about Fashion, Fun & Fundraising”
Kathi Welch owns Atlanta GirlZ Club® an influential pet Fashion, Fun & Fundraising brand featuring her fashionable doggie models, Lucy and Holly. As writers and contributors for several outlets and with their significant high profile and social media following, these GirlZ are well known pet influencers and public figures. They host and emcee events, are brand ambassadors and couture fashion models, as well as fashion print and runway models. Kathi and Lucy also have experience and backgrounds working in television. Lucy and Holly are professionally trained. They are trendy influencers in the pet community and have been featured on CNN, appeared on The Weather Channel and in YouTube videos and two books. Atlanta GirlZ Club® burst onto the Atlanta Pet Lifestyle Scene over a decade ago and use their celebrity to shine a light on animal welfare, animal rescues and fundraising efforts. Their brand motto is “We’re all about Fashion, Fun & Fundraising.” Their commitment and core mission is fundraising for animals in need.