With more and more of us owning pets, the responsibility to learn pet first aid and improve outcomes in an emergency is on. Educator and breeder, Kylie Gilbert, reports.
We all love our pets, and diligently take them for their annual check ups and injections, administer flea and tick prevention whilst paying insurance to guard against accidents and illness. But what if something happened – an allergic reaction, or choking, for example – and we didn’t know what to do to help our loved one? Other than call a vet or animal hospital and wait agonisingly for assistance, we’d be powerless to help our furry friend in a real-life emergency.
It’s a chilling scenario, but one that presents itself to a surprising number of Australian pet owners each year – owners who may be presented with emergencies in which companion animals stop breathing or suffer trauma and who may lack the basic knowledge that allows them to improve their pet’s outcome. In 2016, for example, as many as 20% of Australian dog owners and 19% of cat owners report taking their pet to the vet for an emergency accident or illness – and with a dog population of 4.8 million and a cat population hitting 3.9 million that same year, well, you can work out the numbers.
Enter pet first aid.
For those working in the animal industry as veterinary nurses or kennel and shelter staff, a knowledge of basic pet first aid has become an expectation, and can mean the difference between life and death for the pets entrusted into others’ care. But what about in your own home?
Would you know what to do to control bleeding while you sought veterinary attention or if your puppy ingested something that it shouldn’t have and began to choke?
What is Pet First Aid?
Just as it can refer to humans, first aid for pets refers to the immediate care given to a pet who has been injured or is suddenly taken ill. And, with more than 24 million pets in Australia today, there’s never been more need for responsible pet owners to equip themselves with the skills and knowledge they need to recognise an emergency and to stabilise an animal in order to safely get it to a vet for medical treatment. As with anything in life, it pays to be prepared and preparing for a medical emergency involving your pet is always best accomplished before the event takes place.
Pet first aid, like human first aid, is not about medical diagnosis or treatment – it is about being able to make an animal comfortable and identifying signs of a potential emergency whilst keeping yourself safe. Simply having this extra level of knowledge allows you to stay calm and in control, which minimises stress in the injured animal. Animals sense when we are stressed and may get increasingly agitated if we are not able to take control of a situation.
Of course, in an emergency situation every moment is crucial so if you can start first aid before you get to the vets it can really help.
What to do in an emergency:
Primary Survey and Resuscitation
The primary survey is the first impression the first aid provider has of the situation, and the immediate action that is taken. A well-informed owner will be able to make a quick assessment of the scene and a quick examination of the victim.
Secondary Survey and Definitive First Aid
The secondary survey consists of an examination and assessment of the animal’s eyes, ears, nose, neck, chest, abdomen, back, extremities and rectal temperature and the procedures to stabilise and protect the animal from further harm.
Transport Many emergencies will require professional help. Knowledge of the proper way to transport the pet to a veterinary medical facility for professional care can prevent further injury, protect the owner from dangerous situations, and allow for timely care.
When attending a dog that has been injured, it is important that the first aid provider takes steps to prevent bite wounds inflicted by the animal being treated. Many dogs, even the family pet, may bite when hurt or frightened. A muzzle is an excellent way to prevent being bitten while rendering first aid.
CALL OUT BOX: Basic Pet First Aid Kit
Emergency supplies are a necessity. The following list will help you assemble the resources you need.
• 1″ and 2″ adhesive tape
• 2″ roll gauze (for muzzle)
• rectal thermometer
• chlorhexidine or povidone iodine (antiseptic)
• Elizabethan collar
• eye wash (saline in a squirt bottle)
• isopropyl alcohol 3% hydrogen peroxide
• 2″ and 4″ gauze
• 3″ x 3″ or 4″ x 4″ gauze pads
• scissors – cotton balls and pledgets
• blanket with heat pack
• flat transport surface
• plastic food wrap (e.g., Saran- Wrap)
• petroleum or K-Y jelly
• ice pack
• activated charcoal
• bulb syringe
Preparedness Phone Numbers
In a convenient location, make a list of important phone numbers that includes the phone numbers of the following:
• Your veterinarian
• Your veterinarian’s emergency (after-hours) number
• Your nearest 24-hour veterinary emergency facility
• Your local poison control centre
Emergency numbers should be kept near your phone for easy access.
Learn Pet First Aid
Fortunately, an increasing number of providers now offer Pet First Aid courses that will afford you confidence when it comes to dealing with an emergency situation. When researching your provider, ensure your course is both certified and provided by a trusted educator. Registered Training Academy Hanrob Training Academy have recently launched a Pet First Aid course perfect for pet professionals and owners and, delivered online, you’ll be able to complete the course in your own time and at your own pace with a certificate of attainment on completion. Of course, the most rewarding outcome will be peace of mind your pet will be in safe hands if an emergency does ever take place.