Health issues in our beloved family pets can be a scary problem to face. Many of us have an idea of how to administer first-aid to humans, but first-aid for pets is a whole different ball game.Animals don't have the ability to vocalize pain or sickness in the same way that humans do, so we have to rely on our observations and changes in their behavior. When something goes wrong, we might not always know what to do or how to help them. Instead of being in the dark about doggy first-aid, it's smart to do your research and learn a few tips and tricks to keep you informed and your pup in good hands.
PreventionPrevention is the key to keeping your animal healthy and is your first line of defense against something terrible happening. Be cautious and aware of your animal's surroundings at all times. Your pet should always be on a leash, should stay away from roads, always have identification on, have regular checkups at the vet, and always have supervision. Many common health issues for dogs involve them ingesting something that is harmful to them. Dogs are naturally curious animals and use their mouths to investigate. Be sure to keep dog friendly plants in and around your home, be knowledgeable on the foods that are toxic to them, and keep any chemicals locked away from them. Keeping them out of hot cars, keeping their vaccines up to date, and keeping them on leash are all necessary preventative measures to take.
Vets FirstIf you realize any serious ailment with your animal, your first step should always be to call an emergency vet service or to contact your vet. Your dog can't tell you if they got into a chemical, ate a plant that is toxic to them, or ate something lodged in their intestines. The symptoms of these ailments can be similar, so it's important to keep your vet as your first contact in case his vomit is due to eating something toxic and not just an upset tummy. A fractured leg, serious rash, burn, or any other issue is better left to the professionals.
First Aid KitOwning a first-aid kit for your pup is a great idea to keep in your home or with you and your dog at all times when travelling, hiking, etc. in case anything happens. You should always consult with your vet before administering things like Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) in order to administer the right dose, but there are some treatments you may already have at home to include in a first-aid kit for your dog. You can buy a doggy first-aid kit, or make your own including these essentials:
- Pet first-aid book
- Medical records
- Cotton balls
- Hydrogen Peroxide
- Ice Pack
- Saline Solution
- Antibiotic ointment
Basic First-AidIn order to help your pup in case he's injured, you should be aware of some first-aid tips. Many of these are similar to first-aid administered to humans. First off, if you're ever in doubt of how serious your dog's ailment is, call your vet "“ it's always better to be safe than sorry. Dogs are energetic and adventurous beings, so naturally they are going to get a scrape or two in their lifetime. It is okay to use non-prescription antibiotic on minimal cuts on your dog to help the healing, just be aware of their tendency to lick their wounds. Hydrogen peroxide is commonly used to help your dog vomit in case they've ingested something toxic, and an upset tummy can be helped with pure pumpkin purÃ©e. Just knowing some of these basic first-aid tips will help you keep your animal safe. Have a pet first-aid book around, be knowledgeable about dog CPR, and have an emergency vet number readily available. If you aren't educated in some way in CPR for animals, it may be best to rush the dog to the vet instead of administering yourself in order to prevent any further damage. But for the small cuts or bumps, you can treat them at home.
Common IssuesThere are some issues that tend to be more common than others when it comes to accidents and ailments with dogs. When treating your animal yourself, it's always good to remember to have a muzzle with you. Dogs that are injured or scared might end up biting you. Do not use a muzzle, however, if they are choking or having problems breathing. Here are some tips for handling some of the common health issues:
LacerationsLacerations can mean so many things from a ripped pad to a cut leg. Generally you'll need to apply pressure with a clean shirt or rag until it stops bleeding. If it's bleeding more seriously, apply a tourniquet and get to the vet immediately. Once the bleeding subsides, clean with water and dress with gauze.
BurnsThere is a few different types of burns your dog can have including burns from hot objects, chemicals, or electricity. For burns from hot objects or liquids, cool the area with water as soon as possible, apply a cold compress, and dress with a bandage. For chemical burns be careful not to burn yourself as well, flush it with cold water, and cover with a bandage. For electrical burns, treat the same as a burn from a hot object.
Ingesting ToxinsIngesting toxins varies by the toxin and size of your dog. It's best to call Animal Poison Control immediately and they will tell you how to proceed.
FracturesFractures should definitely be left to your vet to fix. Call a vet and transport your animal to them carefully using a stretcher or a carrier in order to keep from putting pressure on the fractured area.
Trouble BreathingTrouble breathing can be from any number of things. If your animal's breath is labored and you aren't sure why, it's best to consult with a vet. If it's due to an obstruction or choking, get your animal to the vet. You can try to remove the object with tweezers if you can see it, but you run the risk of moving it farther down their throat so it's best to get to a vet. You can also try a Heimlich maneuver on your dog, but without training it may do more damage than good.
Animal EncounterRabies shots are vitally important for encounters with bats or rodents, but it's always better to get your animal checked if they have an encounter just in case. Take your dog to the vet if they have a confrontation with a porcupine as quills can be painful to remove and dangerous if your panicked dog decides to bite. Insect bites or stings vary in treatment, but you can remove stingers by scraping a credit card across it or a baking soda and water mixture applied to other bumps and sores from bugs.
Heat ExhaustionHeat exhaustion is a very dangerous situation for a dog to be in, so it's best to never keep a dog in a hot car, always allow them adequate water, and make sure they have access to shade. If your dog is suffering from heat stroke, run cool water over them with a hose or in the shower, apply a cold pack to their head, massage their legs, and let them drink as much water as they need. They should also get to a vet in order to get the fluids and minerals they need. With so many things that can go wrong with your furry friend at any time, it's best to be knowledgeable on some basic doggy first-aid tips and tricks. The vet is always the best choice for serious issues with your pup, but knowing some of the basics can help save their life. And, truthfully, not every scrape needs a visit to the clinic. Taking preventative measures, asking your vet, keeping a first-aid kit, knowing some basic first-aid, and knowing the common issues that your dog could face are all steps in the right direction to keep your dog safe and healthy. Just remember to dial the vet if you're ever in doubt.
Chelsy Ranard Chelsy is a writer from Montana who is now living in beautiful Boise, Idaho. She graduated with her journalism degree in 2012 from the University of Montana. She is passionate about animal rights, bad television, and white wine. She is a volunteer at Simply Cats in Boise.