Tails of Seattle: A pets blog
Trainer Q&A: What pet owners need to know about first aid Part 1
Question: What does a pet owner need to know about first aid?
Answer: Prevention and preparedness are every bit as important as first aid itself.
Preventable accidents are one of the leading causes of death in pets, and an estimated 60 percent of veterinary visits are an emergency. Understanding the skills and basic techniques of first aid can literally mean the difference between life and death -- and between expensive vet bills and reasonable home care.
Know your pet both physically and behaviorally and know what is normal and what is not.
Conducting a quick snout-to-tail assessment once a week, as well as before and after any hikes or camping trips, will help you notice when something is physically amiss.
Early detection means early intervention.
If your pet is uncomfortable being handled, talk with a trainer about low-stress handling and how to practice handling desensitization at home.
When first aid is necessary, having the materials skills and confidence to render first aid will assure the best outcome and keep both you and your pet safe.
Question: What should a first-aid kit for pets include?
Answer: Dressings and bandages -- adhesive tape, gauze, individually wrapped sanitary bandages.
Instruments -- Digital thermometer, scissors, tweezers, eye dropper, syringe.
Ointments, disinfectant and medications -- Antihistamine, an antibiotic, hydrogen peroxide, vinegar or baking soda, activated charcoal, petroleum jelly, an anti-diarrheal and upset-stomach reliever such as Kaopectate, chemical ice pack.
Equipment and supplies -- flashlight, needle-nose pliers, cotton swabs, betadine solution, razor blades, extra leash and collar, a muzzle or a long felt strip than can be fashioned into a temporary muzzle, plastic bags, permanent marker, towel or blanket, gloves and a current photo of you and your pet.
It sounds like a lot, but in proper proportions most of this can fit into a small backpack or large waist pack.
Question: Are there classic signs that a dog or cat is in distress? What are they? What should an owner do in each case?
Answer: Some of the more classic signs of extreme distress can be pacing and inability to settle, panting or excessive drooling when it's not hot outside and the dog has not exerted themselves, refusal to eat and disinterest in activities the animal generally enjoys.
Signs can be different depending on the individual animal, which is why it is important to know what is normal and what is not for your particular pet. What one person may view as "normal" for your pet may be anything but.
A client of ours recently had a medical emergency with her dog, Sadie, pictured right, who swallowed a bone that perforated her stomach, diaphragm and chest cavity. Because Sadie is very gregarious, the veterinarian initially thought she had a mild tummy ache. Most animals with such a serious condition appear far more sick and distraught than Sadie did.
Because Sadie's owner was vigilant and knew something was "off" with her dog, X-rays were performed and showed not only was her condition far worse than a tummy ache, but she needed emergency surgery to save her life.
Pets cannot talk about how they are feeling and many don't display obvious signs until the condition is extremely serious. This is why it's so very important for owners to be advocates for our animals and know what is and isn't normal behavior.
It's always better to be safe than sorry, because often times we don't begin to see those severe symptoms until the animal is in real danger.
Getting your animal in to their veterinarian or the 24-hour emergency vet when you notice something just isn't right cannot only be the difference between life and death, but it can also be the difference between sending you home that evening with medication or facing expensive hospitalizations and surgeries.
Question: How can a pet owner determine if an injury is something that can be handled at home or should be addressed by a vet?
Answer: A good rule of thumb -- If any injury is more extensive than the equivalent of a child with a scraped knee, a vet should be seen.
Puncture wounds, insect bites and stings, deep cuts, trauma, arterial bleeding, fractures and more are all things that should be addressed by a veterinarian to ensure there is no risk of infection or further harm.
Question: How can a pet owner be better informed about safety and first aid?
Answer: Take a first-aid class, of course!
Pet Tech even has a downloadable iPhone app that is full of information on first aid, poisonous plants and products to avoid, transporting an injured animal, dental care and more. It's no substitute for hands-on learning of course, but it's an excellent supplement to the skills taught in the course.
Stormi King Parish
Stormi King Parish holds a Certificate in Canine Studies and is an alumni from the Companion Animal Science Institute. She is certified in pet CPR and first aid, and a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers and the Association of Animal Behavior Professionals. She teaches group training classes at University Canine Learning Academy, as well as works privately with owners. She specializes in working with deaf dogs and presents seminars and workshops teaching owners how to train their hearing-impaired dogs. She lives in Seattle with her 7-year-old deaf dog Jack, who proudly holds a first-place obedience title and dabbles in canine freestyle and skateboarding, and three cats.
Next: Pet safety issues when hiking and camping.
Photo of Sadie by owner Nichole Hamilton
Do you have a question about pet behavior? Ask now! We'll pose some of your questions to a local trainer in an upcoming post.
i>Read earlier Q&A columns here.