April is National Pet First Aid Awareness Month, which is organized by the American Red Cross and aims to promote and raise awareness for the first aid and safety of pets. They work to educate pet owners with preparedness tips and tools to better handle a crisis or emergency with their pets.
Chances are your pet is a happy and healthy part of the family that gives little cause for concern. The goal of National Pet First Aid Awareness Month is to ensure they stay that way. Pets have a knack for exploring places and eating things they are not supposed to. So what happens if your dog suddenly chokes on a toy, runs into the street and his hit, or ingests something toxic under the sink? We have a plan for every emergency under the sun for our children, but this is rarely the case for our furry family members.
So in honor of National Pet First Aid Awareness Month, we have some tools and information that will help you recognize if there is an emergency, and tips to properly handle an emergency. Your precious pups will (hopefully) never need the help. But isn’t it a relief to know you can handle it if they do?
Pet First Aid: How to Recognize and Handle Emergencies
How to Tell If Your Dog is Dehydrated
Pull up on the skin between your dog’s shoulder blades to see if your dog needs water. The skin should spring right back into place so if it stays tented up, this is a sign they lack water. Dehydration can lead to many serious ailments, so be sure to give your pup water immediately if you notice they are thirsty or have any signs of dehydration.
Common Signs of Heat Stroke or Heat Exhaustion
Some of the signs of heat stroke include a sudden collapse, high temperature of 104*F or above, bloody diarrhea, and vomiting. Wobbliness, excessive panting or difficulty breathing, increased heart rate, and increased salivation are also signs of severe heat stroke. If you think your pet has heat stroke or heat exhaustion, first get them out of direct heat immediately. The next step is to cool them down by spraying cool water, placing cool, wet towels on their head, feet, and chest, and placing fans with cool air near them. Call your vet to see if other medical intervention needs to occur or if they will recover solely by removing them from heat.
Signs of Pet Poisoning
Poisons can be ingested, inhaled, and absorbed through the skin. Signs of poisoning include bleeding externally or internally, dilated pupils, drooling or foaming at the mouth, seizures, or an abnormal mental state or behavior. If you think a toxin has poisoned your dog call Animal Poison Control and an emergency veterinarian immediately. If your pet already experiences more than one of the extreme signs of poisoning, don’t wait—take them to the urgent care right away.
What to do if Your Dog is Bleeding
If your pet is bleeding from a light abrasion, apply a sterile water-soluble lubricant and clip the hair around the wound with grooming clippers. Wash the wound with warm water and call your veterinarian if needed. If a deeper wound occurs, apply direct pressure using gauze over the bleeding site. If the blood soaks through, apply more gauze (do not remove soaked gauze) until you can reach a veterinary hospital.
Steps to Take If Your Pet Has a Seizure
During an active seizure, your dog may fall over, twitch, urinate, or drool. You may see them fall over and be stiff (grand mal seizure), or look like they are staring into space. If your pet has a seizure, make sure they are in a safe place, but do not restrain or hold them down. Keep your hands away from the mouth—your pet may not recognize you during a seizure and bite in defense. Once your dog is safe, and the seizure has subsided, they will likely be fearful so sit with them to help calm them down. If this is their first seizure, they are not recovering, or are having seizures often, call your emergency vet.
The American Red Cross has some helpful books on Dog Safety and Cat Safety. In addition, their mobile app Pet First Aid, will keep the knowledge you need at your fingertips. Both tools can help you (and the whole family) learn invaluable information about pet first aid and pet emergencies to keep your pets safe, healthy, and happy.