When you are in an emergency situation, the best thing to have on your side is knowledge. If you know what to do, how to do it and when it needs to be done, you will have all the tools you need to ensure a more positive outcome. The same is true with pet ownership. Having a plan in place on what to do about emergency vet care for cats and dogs or other domesticated pets can give them the life-saving care that they need in a timely manner. It is important for pet owners to learn about the most common emergency situations experienced by pets and to know when it is time to take your pet to the emergency veterinary hospital, as well as what you can do to help your pet right away at home.
Prevention is the Best Place to Start
Learning about the most common injuries and situations that can affect your pet and doing something about them in advance is the best way to prevent them from ever happening in the first place. From annual check-ups to pro-active methods, such as vaccinations and heartworm treatment for dogs, you can avoid a lot of the emergency situations that require a trip to the local Dartmouth emergency vet. Taking a class or talking with your veterinarian about the skills you would need to help address your pet’s injuries in a dangerous situation can also be beneficial. Speak with your vet about any recommended courses available in your area for pet emergency first-aid.
The top five emergency situations that require vet care for cats and dogs include:
- WOUNDS – cuts, abrasions, bites and lacerations, which can cause a loss of blood, infection and even shock
- HEAT INJURY – including sunburns and burns from an open flame, house fire or from touching something that is extremely hot
- CHOKING – caused by an obstruction such as a treat, toy or something else in your home that the pet was chewing on or playing with
- BITES – includes insect bites, parasites, snake bites, bee stings or bites from rodents and other “critters” that your pet may have come in contact with outdoors
- ALLERGIC REACTION – caused by allergy to foods, parasites, bites or contact with another type of dangerous toxin
Proper Care for Wounds
If your pet has a serious wound you can begin with basic first aid, which includes restraining or muzzling your dog or cat to prevent further injury to the pet or to those trying to give aid. Controlling the bleeding is the most important thing to do, especially if there is a lot of blood loss. Contact the emergency veterinary hospital and describe what happened and the condition of your pet to determine whether or not you need to bring them in for an exam and treatment. Your pet may require X-rays to determine further injury or stitches to close up an open wound, as well as antibiotics to prevent infection.
PREVENTION TIP – Speak with your vet in advance about getting a first aid kit to have on hand in case of injury or emergency situations.
Proper Care for Heat Injuries
Heat-related injuries can be very dangerous, especially if your pet’s airway has been burned or if your pet is experiencing heat stroke. Burns of the skin can even become infected, so any type of heat injury can be very serious. Symptoms of heat stroke include uncontrollable panting, a very bright red tongue, rapid heart rate, foaming at the mouth and lethargy. For quick aid, hose down or bathe pets with cool water and take them to your local Dartmouth emergency vet where their temperature can be monitored and they can be treated for shock, if necessary. External wounds due to heat exposure or flame should also be treated at the emergency veterinary hospital where the wound can be evaluated and you can get the best possible vet care for cats and dogs who become injured.
PREVENTION TIP – Never allow your pet to be kept in a confined space with no ventilation or access to water. It is better to keep your pet at home in the A/C on a hot day than to take them with you to go shopping or run errands. Short-nosed breeds, such as Persian cats or Pug dogs, become overheated more easily than other types of pets. Know your pet and learn how to keep them safe.
Proper Care for Choking
Cats will most often choke on cat toys, ribbons, strings and other things that they like to play with around the house. If they ingest them, they can choke or the items can become obstructed within the intestines, leading to other serious issues. Dogs, on the other hand, put everything in their mouths and are more prone to choking than any other pet. Toys, chew toys, rawhide treats, socks, rope – there’s really no limit to the things dogs will try to swallow. If your pet is choking and is also coughing or gagging, the obstruction might be forced out on its own. However, you should still contact your local Dartmouth emergency vet for instructions and support. If your pet is unable to cough or gag to remove the obstruction and is having difficulty breathing, you need to get him to an emergency veterinary hospital right away.
PREVENTION TIP – Choose toys that are designed for your type of dog. Many toys will now say “for extra strong chewers”, but even still, you need to know your pet and what they can handle. Never allow your pet to play with a toy or eat a treat unsupervised. Speak with your vet about learning the pet version of the Heimlich maneuver and CPR, which is quite different from what is done to aid humans.
Proper Care for Bites and Allergic Reactions
Because many allergic reactions can be as a result of insect bites or stings, we are going to address them here together. Reactions can be caused by ants, bees, wasps, spiders, hornets or other types of insects. Parasites to watch out for include fleas, ticks and mosquitoes, which can lead to very serious conditions. Make sure to get heartworm treatment for dogs and use a vet-approved flea, tick and mosquito prevention treatment as well, especially if your pet goes outdoors frequently. Look for swelling at the site of the injury, as well as redness and indications of pain. In the case of a snake bite or rodent bite, clean the wound as best as you can and get your pet to the emergency veterinary hospital right away. Antivenin, antibiotic treatment and emergency wound care for puncture wounds and pain should be provided right away.
PREVENTION TIP – In addition to getting preventative heartworm treatment for dogs and treatment to prevent fleas, ticks and other parasites from affecting your pets, speak with your vet about the proper antihistamine dose for allergic reactions and bites according to your pet’s size, weight and breed.
Consult Your Dartmouth Emergency Vet
Anchor Animal Hospital has been providing emergency veterinary hospital and general pet care in the Southeastern Massachusetts area since 1975. Our team of doctors and vet care specialists work together with our clients to provide top quality vet care for cats and dogs and other types of domesticated pets. Consult with your veterinarian about how to be better prepared to handle emergency situations with your pet in the future and for information on the first aid items that you should keep on hand that could save your pet’s life.