First Aid for Pets
Written by: Lynne Conder
- Common emergencies
- Normal vital signs
- Helping an injured dog
- Transporting an injured dog
- Kit for K9 First Aid
- Kit for K9 Epi Emergency
- Instructions on how to administer liquid Valium
- severe bleeding
- suspected fracture
- eye injury
- difficulty breathing/choking
- unable to urinate
- suspected toxin/poison ingestion
- heat stroke
- electric shock
- vomiting/diarrhea for 24 > hours
- pale, bluish gums, fever
- animal bit/insect bites or stings
Initial response -- You should know how to:
- Measure pulse/heart rate
- Measure respiratory rate/note character
- Take your dog's temperature
- Muzzle your dog
- Check ocular response
- Transport a sick or injured animal
- Perform CPR if necessary (the "ABC's")
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Normal vital signs for dogs - Know what is normal for YOUR dog!
- Temperature 101.5F (+/- 10F)
- Pulse/heart rate 60 to 160 beats per minute
- Respiratory rate 10 to 30 breaths per minute
- These signs are for a normal, mature dog at rest. An excited, or one that has been running, will have elevated heart and respiratory rates.
- Elevated vital signs for a dog at rest may be a sign of infection, disease, overheating or various other health problems.
- Low vital signs may indicate a dog in shock.
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Assuming your dog has been badly injured, these steps might be taken:
1. Stay calm.
2. Cautiously approach an injured dog.
a. talk calmly and quietly to the dog.
b. move slowly toward the dog.
c. do not chase the dog.
3 Immediately try to stop any hemorrhage. Severe bleeding must receive immediate attention no matter what other injuries are present. Profuse external bleeding can usually be controlled by applying firm, direct pressure over the wound with a clean gauze, handkerchief or t-shirt. Avoid frequent removal of the bandage to check the wound because bleeding may start again.
4. Call your veterinarian for advice.
5. When injured dogs are hysterical, they should be muzzled before being moved. Even a quiet dog can bite if you happen to unintentionally cause pain.
Be sure the dog can breathe freely. Its nose and mouth must be clear to allow air passage.
6. Avoid changing the dog's position when it must be moved.
7. Keep the dog's body warm but not hot.
8. Cover any superficial wound with a clean bandage.
9. Give no food or liquids in case emergency surgery is required. Only give over-the-counter drugs (such as aspirin) with your vet's approval.
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Transporting your dog in an emergency
1. It is usually preferable to take your dog to the vet's office rather than your veterinarian coming out. The office has specialized equipment and trained assistants. Notify the veterinary practice that you are on your way so they can prepare for your arrival.
- 2. Gently slide your dog onto
a blanket or coat on the ground. Drag with the body first so
any broken legs or other injuries will be pulled onto the blanket
rather than pushed which may cause further injury. Position the
dog's back (not the legs) against the seat. This provides more
stability and doesn't put the legs at risk for added pressure
or movement into the seat.
Young or small dogs can be carried in a box, basket or a person's arms who is not driving.
- 3. Two people can pick up the corners of the blanket to form a soft stretcher to transfer the dog to the back seat of the car. The person walking backwards should go on through the car so the dog can be lowered gently onto the seat.
- 4. Someone should stay in the back with the dog on the way to the clinic. If the dog is trying to bite, a bandage can be temporarily tied around its muzzle. Do not leave the muzzle on for a prolonged period since this may hinder breathing.
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National Animal Poison Control Center (NAPCC)
$45 per case, billed to your phone.
- College of Veterinary
University of Illinois
2001 S. Lincoln Ave, Urbana IL 61801
$45 per case, billed to credit card (VISA, Mastercard, Discover, Amex)
- A dog is not a 4-legged human. The NAPCC staff is all veterinary health professionals who have been trained in animal toxicology. Because of their training, they are prepared to deal with the complexities of a poisoned dog.
- Assistance is provided to both veterinarians and pet owners. The center is staffed around the clock by veterinary professionals. In the case of certain chemical exposures, the manufacture of the chemical/product may pay the caller's NAPCC charges. NAPCC will make follow-up call(s) as needed.
- Watch for any changes in color (skin and in mouth) and respiration, excessive salivation or dryness, diarrhea, heaving, vomiting, extreme restlessness or lethargy. Do NOT try to induce vomiting or ingestion without first consulting a veterinarian or poison control center.
When calling, have the following information available:
- Your name and phone number
- Age of dog
- Weight of dog
- Physiologic condition (i.e. neutered, pregnant, lactating, health disorders, etc.)
- Name of the product and manufacturer
- Active ingredient and concentration listed on the label
- Formulation of the product (i.e. solid, liquid, aerosol)
- Amount of product the dog was exposed to
- Time elapsed since exposure
- Any symptoms observed (drooling, vomiting, difficulty breathing, etc.)
- Time between exposure and onset of symptoms
For other useful poison information see:
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K9 FIRST AID KIT
A good canine first aid kit is an absolute must. The following is a list of items that you might want to consider for your own first aid kit. Most can be found either in your neighborhood pharmacy or ordered from a number of different pet mail order catalogs.
- A plastic fishing tackle box makes a great, portable kit. Don't buy it until you have assembled your contents so you don't end up with a box that is too small.
- Consider keeping a second kit in your car.
- Tape an index card inside the lid with telephone numbers and open hours of your regular veterinarian, emergency clinic and Poison Control Center. Keep an up-to-date list of your dog's medications.
- Clearly LABEL all medications and supplies with their name and expiration date.
- Go through your kit TWICE a year (at a minimum), replacing expired medications, replenishing used supplies, checking for broken or leaking containers etc. Replace as needed.
- Telephone numbers (regular veterinarian, emergency clinic and Poison Control Center)
- Latex gloves
- Zip lock bags (for specimens)
- Penlight or flashlight
- Blanket (to carry and wrap an injured dog)
- Rubbing alcohol (use only for sterilizing objects)
- Book on canine first
Read & be familiar with your manual. An emergency is NOT the time to begin reading the book! A good manual is published by the American Red Cross -- "Pet First Aid for Cats & Dogs"
- Rectal thermometer
- Scissors - blunt tip
- Cotton swab sticks
- Cotton balls or roll cotton
- Instant ice pack
- Nail clippers
- Eye dropper
- Magazine - for quick splint
- Wooden paint mixing stick - for quick splint
- Elizabethan collar
- Magnifying glass
- Oral dose syringes (You don't need the needles. Make sure you understand the volume markings. The syringe lets you administer fluids in specific volumes by squirting between the dog's teeth near the back of mouth.)
- Sterile gauze (roll
and pads 2" & 4" - no stick variety)
(rolls also can be used for an emergency muzzle)
- Adhesive tape - 1"
- Vetrap 2" or 4" wide (by the 3M company. These are self adhering bandage rolls, they come in great colors and can be wrapped around a limb. It sticks to itself without adhesive tape. Does not stick to the dog's hair so it is easy to remove. Be careful not to apply it too tightly - it is elasticized and will not loosen up once applied.)
- Skin glue
- Buffered aspirin (NOT Tylenol which is toxic to dogs)
- Sterile saline solution or eye wash (for cleaning wounds or rinsing eyes)
- Hydrocortisone creme
- Iodine (to disinfect minor wounds)
- Benadryl (an antihistamine to help if your dog has an allergic reaction or insect bites/stings.)
- KY jelly (to lubricate thermometer, also use to cover an open sore or wound. Don't use vaseline, it is not water soluble but KY Jelly is.)
- Hydrogen peroxide - 1% solution (can also induce vomiting)
- Rescue Remedy
- Quick Stop for nails
- Kaopectate - for diarrhea
- Milk of Magnesia - for antacid, laxative
HOUSEHOLD ITEMS HANDY FOR FIRST AID
- Empty plastic bucket for holding warm water
- Paper cups for washing wounds
- Sanitary napkins for compress to control bleeding
- Table leaf as an emergency stretcher
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EPI K9 EMERGENCY KIT
- Keep an emergency kit in your house as well as in your car.
- A small tool box or shoe box makes a handy kit.
- Tape an index card inside the lid with telephone numbers and open hours of your regular veterinarian and emergency clinic. Keep an up-to-date list of your dog's medications.
- Keep your dog's seizure log book handy.
- Clearly label all medications and supplies with their name.
- It is advisable for a second person in the household to know what to do in case you are unavailable. If you use a pet-sitter, make certain they are thoroughly educated on your dog's normal as well as emergency care needs.
- BEFORE an emergency, make sure your vet has given you correct dosing information about PB and/or Diazepam to use following a seizure or cluster. Each time your pick up a prescription, check it make sure it is correct.
- BEFORE an emergency, practice with the equipment and a substitute for the Diazepam (such as plain water) to feel at ease with its use. Your vet can give you proper instruction. It may be a good idea to have a "seizure drill" while everything is calm to be sure your plans are manageable. Plan ahead, for instance, how you would move/transport a large dog to a emergency clinic.
- After each emergency, check the kit for medications or supplies which need to be replenished. Make sure prescriptions have refills available.
- Items that you might want to consider for your own emergency kit:
- Phenobarbital (PB)
- Oral Diazepam tablets (brand name is Valium)
- Rectal Diazepam liquid (brand name is Valium)
- Rescue Remedy or similar homeopathic blend (a Bach flower essence which helps many dogs recover from post-ictal symptoms)
- Syringe needles (needle NOT used for administering Diazepam)
- Plastic extender tip
- Tom cat catheter
- KY jelly
- Pill splitter
- Extra syringe, needle and bottle (to practice filling syringe)
Useful household items to have on hand:
- Old towels, rags or diapers (to clean up if your dog voids his bladder or bowel during a seizure)
- Heavy blanket (can be used to transport to a clinic a seizuring dog that cannot stand or walk)
- Baby gate (to block off hazards from a recovering, ataxic dog or to block other dogs from a seizuring dog)
- Extra mats or pillows (they may need to be changed if soiled during a seizure)
- Electric fan (to help cool a seizuring dog)
- Rescue Remedy,Honey, molasses, or Breyer's natural vanilla ice cream (these foods help some dogs recover more quickly after a seizure)
For administering the liquid Valium, hopefully either your vet or the pharmacy gave or sold you a syringe large enough to hold the amount determined to be correct for one dose for your dog, with the accompanying needle. The shorter, fatter needles are easier to use than the longer, more delicate ones. You will also need a 'Tom Cat catheter,' or a regular catheter which will fit the syringe you have been given after the needle has been removed. If you are given a regular catheter, the tubing length needs to be cut down to approximately six inches. Measure from the top, cut from the bottom. After cutting mark the tubing three inches from the end with a permanent-ink type marker. The three inches is the part that goes into the rectum.
If you have the liquid Valium in a brown bottle intended for injectable use, proceed as follows: With the needle attached to the syringe, pull the plunger back, filling the syringe with air equal to the cc's of liquid valium you will be giving. Insert the needle into the opening in the bottle, making sure the needle tip is just past the rubber guard on the bottle. Push the plunger on the syringe, putting the air from the syringe into the bottle; this helps to create a vacuum in the bottle. Turn the bottle and the needle upside down. Now the bottle is on top, and the needle below, then the syringe, with the plunger toward the floor. Pull the plunger back out to the correct cc. dosage marking, and the valium should now be filling the syringe.
When the correct amount of liquid Valium is in the syringe, remove the needle from the bottle, then remove the needle from the syringe, (have your vet or pharmacy show you how to do this safely) put on the catheter (tubing.) Insert three inches of the catheter into the rectum, and push the plunger, slowly and steadily.
One hint: Ask your pharmacist for a vial filled with water, if they have it, or one with a placebo liquid. It is very important to practice as much as you can before you actually have to use it during or after a seizure. The liquid diazepam is oily feeling. With the practice vial, you can practice filling the syringe, and then just push the plunger down with the needle inserted into the practice vial, putting the practice liquid back into the vial, so you can practice some more. The hardest part of administering the rectal valium is, without doubt, filling the syringe!
After use, rinse the syringe with very hot water in order to rinse out all the liquid Valium. Also, if you are trying to re-use the needles, they must be thoroughly washed in very hot water, as the Valium is very slippery and will make succeeding attempts to fill the syringes more difficult. Needles are not expensive, in most parts of the country, and it is best to use one as few times as possible. Additionally, the Tom Cat catheter (the tubing) must be thoroughly cleaned and sterilized in very hot water; this is the part of the apparatus that is inserted into the rectum. Again, this part is not very expensive, and better used as few times as possible.
Storing the Valium/Diazapam
When you receive the Valium/diazepam from the pharmacy, it comes in a small brown bottle . Store the bottle at room temperature, away from direct light. For those vets who prefer to give their clients pre-filled syringes, these too should be kept away from direct light; request exact storing instructions from the veterinarian.
Emergency Care for Cats & Dogs by Craton Burkholder, DVM
The Household Book of Animal Medicine by Richard Vargoshe & Peter Steinburg
Merck Veterinary First Aid
Page last update: 12/13/2011