First Aid for Pets

Over the course of your pet's life you may experience the occasional ‘accident’ that will require emergency veterinary care. These situations can be extremely stressful for you and your pet.  Being prepared and knowing what to do if the situation does arise can assist you to remain calm and make the most of a bad situation. 

In most emergency situations it will be recommended that your pet be assessed by a veterinarian as soon as possible. 

It is important to have contingency plans in place for emergency situations with your pet and that all members of the family are aware of what to do should the situation arise. It is recommended to have the number of your local veterinarian programmed into your phone or on the fridge so that the number can be obtained quickly when required. It is also worthwhile knowing where your nearest 24 hour emergency clinic is located as well as their contact number for any problems that may occur out of normal working hours or on the weekend. At Northgate Vet Surgery, we recommend the Pet ER at 263 Appleby Rd Stafford Heights. They can be contacted after hours on phone 3359 5333. 

 Wounds/Trauma/Bleeding.

Be aware that any pet that has undergone trauma will likely be painful and may act differently or even aggressively when you are trying to move them. Be careful! If your pet is trying to bite, sometimes using a large blanket or towel and placing it over their head before trying to move them will help to avoid bites. A large sheet or blanket can be used as a makeshift sling to move large pets. It is important to note that most of the readily available human pain relief and anti-inflammatories available are generally toxic to pets and should be avoided at all costs. 

A basic ‘first aid kit’ for pets, containing some sterile wound dressings and bandage material is worthwhile having at home. Many of the bandaging products that you have in your own (human) first-aid-kit will be suitable to use in pets. 

If your pet has a bleeding wound, pressure should be applied to it – this could be done with a clean towel. If the wound is on an extremity like the paw or tail you may be able to place a compressive dressing using some sterile gauze and crepe bandage material (readily found in most first aid kits), to help stem bleeding prior to having the wound assessed by a veterinarian. 

All wounds, but particularly those caused by cat or dog bites, should be assessed by a veterinarian ASAP no matter how small they appear externally.  The potential for extensive trauma to underlying tissues and development of infection is high. 

 Snake bites

Summertime in Queensland is a beautiful time of the year to be outside with your pets! It is also unfortunately a time of the year that snakes and paralysis ticks like to be outside (or in some cases inside) as well. They are more prevalent in certain areas – particularly bushy areas, but also in yards where there are wood piles and large amounts of leaf litter.

Symptoms of snake envenomation include – weakness, lethargy, paralysis, discolouration of urine, tremors, leading to collapse and possible sudden death.  If you witness your pet being bitten by a snake you may attempt to apply a tourniquet to the bite site, but otherwise the pet should be seen by a veterinarian ASAP.  If you have the ability to take the snake to the vet safely (ie. if the snake has been killed by your pet) this can be useful to identify what type of antivenom is required. We do not recommend killing the snake yourself – this is actually an illegal and reportable offence.  If the snake is still alive on your property, you should call a registered ‘snake catcher’ to remove the snake and relocate it to a safe place.  

 Tick paralysis

Paralysis ticks are another inevitable pet-predator throughout the spring/summer months.  Tick season is usually from late August through to March, although some areas may see ticks almost all year round.  Symptoms of tick paralysis include – weakness, lethargy, inappetance, vomiting/retching with development of paralysis and respiratory distress.  First aid for tick-affected pets is limited to keeping the pet as calm, cool and rested as possible until such time as they can be seen by a veterinarian. Stress and vigorous exercise can exacerbate symptoms of tick paralysis. 

To avoid the potential for tick paralysis, it is recommended to have your pet regularly treated with a preventative therapy.  Bravecto and Nexgard are newer products on the market that are associated with excellent tick-kill rates. 

What to do if my pet eats something poisonous

A common emergency scenario in our pets occurs when they eat something they shouldn’t!  Chocolate, plant material, cleaning products, socks/undies, toys…you name it – we have seen them eat it!!  If we can catch them early enough we can potentially avoid any problems by getting them to vomit. 

In the case of a known indiscriminate ingestion, our best first aid advice is to speak to a veterinarian – let them know exactly what, when and how much has been eaten and how big your pet is. They will let you know if vomiting should be induced and or any other course of action required.  

There is no safe way to get your pet to vomit at home.  Syrup of ipecac, large amounts of salt, washing soda crystals or hydrogen peroxide may be associated with severe side effects and can be extremely difficult to administer. It is recommended to take your pet to a veterinarian ASAP so that a safer drug can be used to induce rapid vomiting that is reversible.

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