As you’ve probably heard, April is National Pet First Aid Awareness Month! The founder, Pet Tech, is the first International Training Center dedicated to developing & providing premium CPR, First Aid, & Care programs for pet parents and Pet Care Professionals.
Pet First Aid Awareness Month emphasizes the importance of education and training and being a caring, conscientious, responsible, and loving pet parent and Pet Care Professional during April and throughout the year! Our theme for this year’s Pet First Aid Awareness Month 2015 (April 1-30) is “Inform, Educate, Take Action AND…Prevent 1 Million Pet ER Visits!”
Pet First Aid is the immediate care given to a pet injured or suddenly ill. This includes home care and, when necessary veterinary help. Knowing the skills and techniques of pet first aid can mean the difference between life and death, temporary and permanent disability, and expensive veterinarian bills, and reasonable home care. It is estimated that 1-out-of-4 more pets could be saved if just one basic skill or technique was applied before receiving veterinary care.
1. Insect Bites, Stings & Allergic Reactions
Allergic reactions can be caused by ants, bees, hornets, wasps, and spiders. Dogs are inquisitive and get into colonies or holes where these insects live. The biggest danger is a severe allergic reaction. Unless you observe the pet being stung or bitten, you may not be immediately aware of what is going on. The first sign may be incessant licking and scratching, and then upon investigation, you find localized swelling, redness, and pain at the injury site. Actions for survival include immobilization and reducing the pet’s activity to keep them from spreading the toxin further. Treat symptoms as they present themselves, and keep the pet comfortable, which is also code for under control. Before this happens, it is time to consult your vet on the proper dosage of antihistamine for your pet. Pet Tech recommends that you purchase “Benadryl” (diphenhydramine) in the gel caps in the blister packaging (the generic version of this is fine too). Then tape a safety pin on the back with the dosage for your pet (that you got from your vet) written on the tape too. Then carry that in your pet first aid kit. To administer, use the safety pin to poke a hole in the gel cap and squeeze proper dosage into the pet’s mouth.
2. Poisonous Plants, Toxins & Parasites
Dogs are inquisitive in nature and will follow their nose wherever it takes them. Some dogs will eat anything once and sometimes twice! So, you have to be careful not to leave your dog unattended. Certain plants can be lethal if ingested. Exposure to or ingestion of contaminated water, poisonous plants, mushrooms, infected animals, and parasites can be dangerous for your dog. The signs of poisoning can vary but usually include diarrhea, vomiting, stomach upset, excessive salivation, breathing difficulties, excitability, loss of consciousness, and seizures. For this type of situation, you need to act quickly because time is your biggest enemy. Your dog can deteriorate quickly to no breathing and no heartbeat. You will also need to identify the following: suspected substance, time exposed, and a sample of the vomitus or stool, if available.
Snakebites are very dirty wounds. Whether the bite is venomous or non-venomous, the pet needs wound care and antibiotic treatment. Signs include 1-2 puncture wounds, severe pain, swelling and bruising. If the snake is venomous, then immediate actions for survival include restraint, muzzling (only if no breathing difficulties), treatment for shock, and transportation to the nearest animal hospital with antivenin. If you live in a snake-infested area, you may want to have a conversation with your vet on treatment for snakebite with antivenin. Prevention is key. Keep dogs on a leash or at a minimum under visual control when out on the trail. You may also want to research snake avoidance training.
4. Exposure To Extreme Temperatures
Heatstroke can be caused by warm weather with high humidity, overexertion, stress, or by pets being in confined spaces with little or no ventilation or water (think car). Dogs cool themselves by panting, passing cooler air over their gums and tongue. Short-nosed breeds (i.e., Pekinese, Boxers, Pugs) are more susceptible to overheating as their “radiator” (mouth and gums) are too small for their body size. Signs of heatstroke include uncontrollable panting, foaming at the mouth, rapid heart rate, vomiting, lethargy, the tongue initially bright red, and a capillary refill longer than 2 seconds. Actions for Survival: include restraining and muzzling, bathing or hosing down with cool water, treating for shock, monitoring the temperature, and contacting or transporting to the nearest pet emergency hospital.
Frostnip is a first-degree (superficial) cold injury that does not cause tissue damage. Frostbite is a third-degree (deep) cold injury-causing localized tissue damage. Areas most commonly affected are the ears, paws, scrotum, and tail. Cold injuries are caused by extreme and/or prolonged exposure to low temperatures. Signs include swollen, red, painful, hard, and/or pale skin. In later stages, the pet may lose skin and hair in the affected area. Prevention is best. Monitor pet and do the Snout-to-Tail Assessment after each hike to ensure there aren’t any ice crystals or snow in the pads, paws, and genitals. Actions for Survival: Frostnip parts should be warmed slowly with wet warm towels. Do not squeeze or rub the affected area, as this will be extremely painful for the pet. Frostbite requires immediate attention by a Veterinarian or Emergency Animal Hospital to prevent further pain, ward off infection, and assess possible permanent tissue damage.
5. Extremity Injuries
Limb injuries can include anything from abrasion on the paw to a compound fracture to scratches and scrapes on the legs and paws. Most of these injuries are preventable with the proper care and handling of your dog. The most common will be injuries from overexertion such as strains, sprains, muscle and tendon tears, swelling, etc. Signs may include limping, favoring one limb over another, obvious pain or limited range, and the movement of the extremity. First aid objectives for cuts, lacerations, or abrasions are simple wound care and bleeding protocols below. For sprains, strains, fractures, or other skeletal injuries, you would need to immobilize, reduce activity and make arrangements to transport to the nearest animal hospital or veterinarian.
6. Wounds & Trauma
Including bites, cuts, lacerations, punctures, falls, or blunt force trauma. First aid actions include muzzling, restraint, controlling bleeding, and treating for shock. Depending on the severity of the injury, the pet may need veterinary care, including stitches and medication to treat possible infections. X-rays could be warranted if any sudden blunt trauma was involved. Bleeding injuries can be life-threatening and require immediate attention. Actions for survival include restraint and muzzle, elevation if it does not aggravate any injuries, direct pressure, constricting hand/band, bandaging, and transporting to the nearest animal hospital or veterinarian. Contact the nearest veterinarian or emergency center for any pre-hospital care and transport immediately.
Hungry for more information and more hands-on skills? Check out our website for information on our next PetSaver™ Seminar.
Thank you, as always, for being a caring, conscientious, responsible, and loving pet owner!