First aid every pet owner should know

Jessica May, UK lead vet at the online and mobile veterinary service, FirstVetshares her expertise and guidance to pet-owners on first aid for their furry friends.

As a pet owner it is good to be prepared with first aid knowledge, should your dog or cat get injured.

how to do first aid on a cat

Upon welcoming your pet into your home, it would be helpful to purchase some essential first aid items, which can be easily found and used in an emergency. Check your first aid cabinet at least once a year to make sure it is all in order and up to date. These include:

  • Thermometer
  • Cotton wool
  • Saline
  • Patches
  • Scissors
  • Collar and lead
  • Dietary supplements to promote healthy gut bacteria
  • Make sure you have access to water
  • Rehydration solution (electrolytes), available as a powder in a bag via veterinarian or pet pharmacy
  • Chlorhexidine solution or shampoo with chlorhexidine to dilute
  • Contact details and directions for the nearest 24-hour open veterinary clinic

Here are some tips for different scenarios:

 

If your pet eats something toxic

dog eating chocolate

Signs of toxicity can vary depending on what your pet has eaten and how much has been consumed. If the animal has swallowed something that may damage the intestine or cause intestinal upset, then it is important to seek veterinary advice immediately.

It may be required to induce the animal to vomit, to remove the stomach contents so that the toxins have less time to be effective. Common harmful toxins include, but are not limited to: raisins, grapes, currants, sultanas, onions, lilies, NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) e.g. ibuprofen, rodenticides, chocolate (dark chocolate is the most toxic), permethrin "spot-on" flea treatment for dogs is toxic for cats, slug killer (metaldehyde), anti-freeze, snake bites, household cleaning products.

It is very helpful to identify what item and how much your pet has consumed, in order to help the veterinarian to provide the best advice for your pet.

 

If your cat or dog has been in a fight

pet has been in fight how to treat

If your pet gets in a fight, do not try to intervene as you may be injured yourself. Rather, try to distract the animals or spray water at them to separate them. The animal may be in pain or nervous so it is important to examine their whole body carefully, from nose to tail, looking for bleeding or wounds; these may be very small puncture wounds or larger lacerations.

Wounds that are near a joint, contaminated with debris or are more than one centimetre in length should be examined by a vet and may need stitches. Wounds can be bathed with cooled boiled water or saline solution (1 teaspoon of salt to 500ml/one pint of water).

If practical, a clean dressing can be applied to the affected area. If the wound is becoming swollen or there is any cloudy or foul-smelling discharge from the wound, then you should seek veterinary treatment.

 

How to apply a paw bandage:

  • Cut strings of cotton and lay between the toes.
  • Wrap well with cotton around the paw and a bit up on the leg (over the knee on the foreleg and the hock on the hind legs).
  • Wrap adhesive wrap up and down the front and back of the paw and leg.
  • Continue with the adhesive linden and wrap it around the leg. If you put bandages on a back paw, make sure it is properly padded over the hock and do not wrap the bandage too hard.

 

painful foot dog

 

Fractures

Bone fractures should always be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible. Depending on which bone(s) has been broken, splinting or surgical repair may be required.

 

Rashes

itchy dog

Dermatitis or skin irritations are common in pets and can be more prevalent in certain breeds. Pets with this condition may groom themselves more frequently, chew or lick their feet excessively, become very itchy or lose fur.

Simple rashes can be bathed with cooled boiled water and dried gently afterwards to reduce moisture in the affected area. CLX wipes, which contains a mild chlorhexidine (an antibacterial agent) can also be used to gently remove dirt and debris.

Other causes of skin irritation can be related to diet or allergies so further veterinary investigation may be required to identify the cause and provide the appropriate treatment.

 

Not eating or anorexia

what to do if dog is anorexic

Inappetance or complete loss of appetite can be caused by many different reasons and diseases. Try to encourage your pet to eat by offering different food options, including wet and dry food. Also, ensure that plenty of clean fresh water is available. Cats may prefer to drink from running water, such as a tap.

Anorexia may be caused by a more serious condition, and if your pet is depressed or lethargic, or has any other associated symptoms, then you should consult your veterinarian.

 

Injured claws

sore paw

Dew claws and other nails may be damaged by long walks on tarmac roads or rough terrains. Check your dog's paws after a walk for any claw injuries.

Partially damaged nails are very painful so care must be taken when examining the paw. The paw can be bathed in cooled boiled water in order to soothe it, but the nail may need to be removed by your vet if serious. Veterinary treatment should also be sought for more serious trauma to the claw.

 

Diarrhoea

poorly pet

One of the main indicators for diarrhoea is loose stools. There are certain triggers that may cause an episode of diarrhoea in a healthy animal such as scavenging behaviour, rich foods, sudden changes in the diet, stress or viral, bacterial or parasitic infections. Diarrhoea can be treated by feeding your pet bland food, for example, chicken and rice, to enable the intestine to settle.

Clean fresh water should also be offered at all times to ensure that the animal does not become dehydrated. Keeping vaccinations and deworming up to date is also essential.

If the diarrhoea is accompanied by other symptoms, such as blood in the stool, very dark coloured stools, weight loss, abdominal pain and lethargy, or diarrhoea that does not resolve after 24 hours or worsens, make sure to get veterinary treatment as soon as you can.

 

Vomiting

sick dog

It is important to distinguish between vomiting and regurgitation.

Regurgitation happens passively with undigested food coming out of the oesophagus with no abdominal effort. This is usually a sign of an oesophageal disorder.

Vomiting is usually preceded by signs of nausea such as, drooling, licking lips and swallowing excessively. Some animals may eat grass to protect the oesophagus, as the grass acts as a protective layer over sharp objects.

When animals vomit, they are contracting their abdominal wall, which can help resolve a dietary indiscretion. However, vomiting can also be a sign of a potentially serious disease. In order to decipher the seriousness of your pet's vomiting, try to notice what your pet is producing when it vomits.

If this is associated with other signs, including abdominal pain/enlargement, projectile vomiting, lethargy and depression, decreased urination or repeated unproductive retching, then veterinary advice should be sort as soon as possible. Young animals cannot withstand the effects of vomiting as well as adults due to the loss of fluids, therefore they must receive prompt veterinary treatment.

How you can try to prevent your pet from vomiting:

  • Don’t make sudden changes to your pets’ diet
  • Don’t let your pets, particularly dogs scavenge around unwanted substances
  • Monitor overly inquisitive pets to avoid them eating something toxic
  • Avoid giving your pet any table scraps or leaving any toys that could be chewed into pieces and/or swallowed.

 

Heat stroke

overheated dog

On very hot days it is vital to provide fresh clean and cool water throughout the day. Dogs must never be left cars in very hot weather as they are unable to cool themselves down by panting and can quickly overheat.

It is important to plan ahead to ensure that your pet has adequate shade available to protect them from direct sunshine.

If you find a pet that has overheated, provide cold fresh water to drink, bathe the whole body to enable rapid cooling and seek immediate veterinary treatment as this condition can be life-threatening.

 

About FirstVet:

FirstVet is an animal clinic for the digital generation: providing pet-owners with video consultations (via smartphone, tablet, or computer) with local, qualified veterinarians, on-demand. Following its Scandinavian launch in 2016, FirstVet has been used by over 110,000 Swedish pet owners, providing advice for every domesticated animal: from cats and dogs to hamsters and horses. Building on this Scandinavian experience, FirstVet now provides British pet owners with fast and affordable access to consultations and introduce a new way of working for UK veterinarians.