Natural disasters, weather, home emergencies, accidents, dog fights, cat bites, or finding an injured stray pet can happen at any time. As a pet parent, I’ve relied on my pet first aid kit many times to take care of minor wounds, clean out gunky eyes, stop a bleeding nail trimmed to close, and tend to an occasional abscess. Since we can’t control emergencies or accidents, it’s important to know when your pet needs to see a vet or if you can take care of minor issues at home. April is National Pet First Aid Kit Awareness month to remind pet owners of the importance of being prepared.
Most pet owners know their pet isn’t feeling well when their appetite is off. But, weather can play a role and cause some pets to have a suppressed appetite. When it’s hot outside and your dog or cat skips a meal or two, it isn’t anything to worry about. But, if they refuse food after missing a couple of meals, that is reason for concern. Hyperthermia and hypothermia are weather related conditions that could quickly become life-threatening and both are reasons to call your vet. There’s a wide range of injuries and medical conditions that could be considered an emergency and your best course of action is to call your vet when you are unsure what to do. The following list of non- emergencies and emergencies is by no means complete.
Call the vet, but not a true emergency
Sluggish or depressed behavior is a sign something is wrong. If you notice your dog limping, holding up one paw, or whining after hiking or playing, it’s possible he stepped on something and cut a paw pad, has a rock or something else caught between his toes or pad, pulled a muscle, or has a sprain. Minor sprains, muscle pulls, cuts, or scrapes can be taken care of at home, but if the condition worsens or you notice increasing pain, call your vet. It could be more serious than you originally thought. Non emergencies include: smelly ears (yeast infection), head shaking, a reddish-brown discharge from the ears (ear mites), lumps anywhere on the body, bad breath (dental disease), a seizure that’s stopped, neurological disorders (staggered walk, head tilt), refusing to put weight on a limb, a laceration that stopped bleeding, painful or itchy skin conditions, cat bite abscess, vomit or urine that contains blood, a possible obstruction in the throat, low blood sugar, aural hematoma of the ear (swelling of the ear flap), a discharge from an eye that came on suddenly and appears to be causing pain or loss of vision.
Real emergency – call your vet immediately
The first thing to remember when dealing with an emergency – stay calm. Get in the car and call your vet on the way to his office. Don’t forget your first aid kit. You may need it. Your pet’s life depends on your quick and calm actions. Difficulty in breathing, abnormal breathing, pain in the abdomen, problems urinating, can’t urinate, tenderness around a joint, difficulty in walking, sudden aggression, profuse bleeding, confusion, suspected poisoning (plants, snake bite, spider bite, toads, people food, antifreeze, mouse/rat bait), seizures that don’t stop, bleeding that won’t stop, allergic reaction to medication or flea control, blunt force trauma of any kind (hit by a car), heat stroke, moderate to severe hypothermia, broken bones, bloated abdomen, unconsciousness, difficulty in standing or walking, burns, eye injuries, and animal bites.
Making a pet first aid kit
You can buy first aid kits or build one that’s personalized for your pet’s specific needs. A basic kit should include: a muzzle (pain can cause even a friendly and gentle dog to be aggressive), latex gloves, tweezers, scissors, nail clipper, rectal thermometer and know how to use it on pets, needle-nose pliers, tongue depressors to examine mouth, gauze rolls, Ace bandages, vet wrap, white adhesive tape, non-adhesive sterile pads, small gauze pads for cleaning wounds, magnifying glass, hydrogen peroxide (3 percent), iodine (dilute half and half with water to clean minor wounds), a clean towel, washcloth, emergency blanket or small blanket, antiseptic wipes, sterile saline wash, sterile eye wash, eye dropper, a 10cc syringe without the needle for administering medication, topical antibiotic ointment, instant hot/cold packs, petroleum jelly, Q-Tips, styptic pencil or powder, tick removing tool, small flashlight and extra batteries, extra collar and leash, and emergency phone number for your vet. If your pet is on long term medication, you should have a minimum three or four days supply in your first aid kit. Make sure to keep medicine fresh by rotating it. If your pet has bouts of low blood sugar, honey or Karo syrup should also be in your kit.
Minor problems can be taken care of at home. Emergency calls are more expensive than normal office hours and you don’t want to waste your vet’s time with something you could take care of yourself. True emergencies, however, do require immediate action. If you aren’t sure if it is an emergency or not, call your vet’s emergency phone number and discuss your pet’s condition with him. He will let you know what you need to do.
A well stocked pet first aid kit is so important, an entire month is dedicated to raise awareness and remind pet owners to be prepared for emergencies, have a disaster plan, and keep your pet and human first aid kits close at hand. Know how to use each item in your kit. That knowledge could save your pet’s life.
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