2938 Vet. Med. Basic Sciences Bldg.
2001 S. Lincoln Ave.
Urbana, Illinois 61802
By Joseph Hahn
University of Illinois
College of Veterinary Medicine
Accidents can happen. They are often unpredictable and can sometimes be quite serious. Being prepared or emergencies can greatly reduce risk and severity of the injuries.
"A basic first aid kit should include an ace bandage, 1-inch adhesive tape, anticoagulant powder, topical antibiotic ointment, bandage scissors, betadine soaked gauze sponges, a 2-1/2 inch gauze roll, gauze sponges, hydrogen peroxide solution (three percent), spoon splint, and a rectal thermometer," according to Dr. Sheila McCullough, community practice veterinarian at the University of Illinois Veterinary Medicine Teaching Hospital at Urbana.
"One of the most common accidents is going to be a cut or laceration," says Dr. McCullough. "For these wounds, it is important to have bandage material, cleaning material, and anticoagulant powder (for nails that have been cut too short). That will take care of most minor wounds. Larger wounds should be seen by a veterinarian and even small wounds should be reported."
Another frequent problem, especially with dogs, are bee stings. The most common sign with this injury is a swollen muzzle. She recommends giving the dog diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and calling your veterinarian. Most dogs do not have a problem with bee stings, but some have respiratory difficulty and all need to be watched carefully for 24 hours.
"Small puppies and small breed dogs may have bouts of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)," says Dr. McCullough. "These dogs will appear lethargic and weak. A glucose source (such as karo syrup) can be rubbed on the gums to quickly give the pet an extra boost of glucose. Multiple episodes of hypoglycemia can be an indication of a more serious problem and a veterinarian should be contacted even after the first episode."
It is important to distinguish between choking, gagging and coughing. Coughing can occur for a number of reasons. It is often brought on by strenuous exercise and goes away once your pet has settled down. Gagging may occur if your pet swallows incorrectly, getting food caught in the trachea. In this case, a modified heimlich maneuver can be attempted. Bend over your pet, wrap your hands around its chest, and do a quick jerking movement. This may be enough to dislodge something caught in the trachea. Finally, choking can be caused by either an obstruction of or a defect in the trachea. You should get your pet immediately to a veterinarian for this problem. If that is not possible, you may need to open your petís mouth to try and remove the obstruction. This is not highly recommended as a dog or cat in this situation is very prone to bite.
"For a dog that has been hit by a car, you need to get the dog on a firm surface, such as a piece of plywood. If that is not available, put it in a blanket," says Dr. McCullough. "The goal is to move the animal in one piece with a minimal amount of motion. This animal should be transported to your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Poisonings are another major concern. Three of the more common types of poisonings are anti-freeze, rodenticide and garbage ingestion. In all cases of poisonings, your veterinarian should be contacted immediately, EVEN IF YOU SIMPLY SUSPECT A POISONING HAS OCCURRED, since it can take 24 to 72 hours for clinical signs of a poisoning to manifest. Dr. McCullough recommends keeping the number for the National Animal Poison Control Center (1-800-548-2423) in your first aid kit.
Heat stroke is another injury that can occur. The treatment for this injury is to soak your pet in cool or luke warm water, provide water (but do not force feed water), take the animal's temperature (normal is between 101oF and 102.5oF), and contact your local veterinarian.
The common thread through all of these examples is to keep your veterinarian informed. He or she will best know how to treat your pet. If you have any further questions about first aid, contact your local veterinarian.