Pet First Aid

Since April marks Pet First Aid month, I thought this would be an appropriate time to share some quick tips on what to do if an emergency occurs with your pet. When something unexpected and traumatic happens it can become increasingly difficult to think calmly and logically. Remembering this short list of things can make the situation a bit less stressful and safer for everyone involved.

  • Your veterinarians phone number and address
  • NPVEC’s phone number: (650) 348-2575 
  • Directions to North Peninsula Veterinary Emergency Clinic @ 227  North Amphlett Blvd, San Mateo
  • Poison Control number: (888) 426-4435
  • How to stop bleeding/apply a basic pressure wrap
  • How to perform basic CPR on your pet
  • How to transport your pet safely

How to Stop Bleeding

If your pet is bleeding these important steps can help control blood loss and the risks associated with blood loss such as shock and/or death.

1) Cover the wound

          – Use gauze, a towel, or any type of cotton fabric

          – Keep adding layers, don’t remove orignal gauze/fabric

2) Apply Direct Pressure

          – Use your hand to apply pressure to the wound

          – This pressure will help clotting proteins form and help to control blood loss

3) Layer dressing and continue to apply direct pressure

          – Don’t remove the original fabric used to cover the wound. Important clotting proteins begin to form and removing this first layer will only remove these proteins.

          – Just keep adding layers of gauze or towels if they continue to bleed through.

          – Keep applying pressure

4) Transport

          – As soon as possible to NPVEC or local emergency veterinary hospital

          – See below for how to transport safely.

Performing CPR

Starting CPR immediately can increase the success of CPR. As soon as you notice your pet becoming unresponsive, follow these steps to perform CPR. If/when your pet regains consciousness, immediately transport to your veterinarian or North Peninsula Veterinary Emergency Clinic.

1) Check for Responsiveness

          – Ensure that your pet is unresponsive. Check for breathing by placing your hand in front of mouth and nose. Check for a heartbeat by placing your ear on your pet’s chest by where the left elbow meets the chest of the body. If you cannot feel any breath or hear a heartbeat, move on to step 2.

2) Secure an Airway

          – Carefully pull the tongue forward out of the mouth. Please take care as an unresponsive pet can still bite!

          – Look in the throat for any foreign object or material.

          – Move the head until the neck is straight unless you suspect a neck injury.

3) Rescue Breathing

          – Close your pets mouth and give breaths through the nose. You should see the chest rise and fall with the breaths. If you don’t see the chest moving, recheck to make sure the airway is open.

          – Give 1 breath every 4-5 seconds.

4) Chest Compressions

          – Lay your pet on its right side if possible

          – The heart is located on the lower half of the left chest just behind the elbow.

          – Press down 80-150 times per minute. It is good to apply light to moderate pressure… too hard and you can do more damage than good. Smaller animals require much less pressure than larger pets. For example, on a medium-sized dog you want to compress the chest approximately 1 inch with each push. For a larger dog you would want to compress a little deeper with fewer chest compressions and for a smaller animal you want to compress shallower with more chest compressions.

          – Alternate between chest compressions and rescue breaths.

5) Transport

          – As soon as possible to NPVEC or local emergency veterinary hospital

          – You may choose to rapidly place your pet in the car and perform CPR while on the way to the hospital.

          – See below for how to transport safely.

How to Transport Safely

Your pets health and safety will be at the forefront of your brain, making it difficult to remember that your personal safety and the safety of those around you is paramount. You want to ensure that you are not injured while getting your pet prepared for transport. Even though Spot may not have a mean bone in his body, if he has suffered a trauma he may quickly react to your touch with a snap or bite to your face or hands. You can protect yourself in a few easy ways. The best way is to muzzle your pet. This will ensure that you are not bitten while moving your painful pooch or crying cat. The only problem with this is… who carries a muzzle around!!

You may need to make a homemade muzzle for temporary use while lifting Spot into the car. A shoelace or leash can be fashioned into a muzzle by wrapping it around the snout. Begin by tying a loose knot in it with a large loop to slip over the dog’s nose. Once slipped about half way up the nose, tighten the knot until the dog’s mouth closes… you don’t have to make it too tight, just tight enough to prevent the dog’s mouth from opening.  Add a second loop by crossing the ends under the dogs chin. Lastly, tie the ends behind the dog’s head to secure the muzzle into place. Remember, until the muzzle is secure, the dog can bite, so be careful and pay attention!

For a cat, the muzzle will be a nearly impossible task and the risk of getting bit is too high to make this a viable option. Your best option for a cat is to take a blanket, towel or jacket and place it over the cat, especially taking care to place it well over their heads. You can now attempt to lift the cat by tucking the excess fabric around the cat and wrapping them in a kitty burrito. It is important to keep the cat’s head under the cover. You can still get bit this way, but this method greatly reduces risks of bites and will also put a barrier between their teeth and your skin.

If the pet is not yours and/or is becoming aggressive or showing signs of fear and aggression, call the Peninsula Humane Society @ 650.340.7022 or your local animal control office. They are trained to keep you safe while helping to transport the pet to North Peninsula Veterinary Emergency Clinic or a local emergency veterinary hospital if you’re outside San Mateo County.

This site and its contents do not constitute the practice of any veterinary medical health care advice, diagnosis or treatment.
All original content copyright Caitlin Vaughn, 2013