Just like humans, our pets experience minor injuries throughout the course of daily life. We cut our fingers; they cut their paws or foot pads. Maybe a tail gets accidentally slammed in a door or whacks something hard and causes trauma for the pet.
While some injuries may require a veterinarian’s exam, others can be taken care of at home. In honor of Pet First Aid Awareness month, we spoke with Dr. Susan Barnes, DVM and first responder for operational K-9’s, about how to ensure pet safety in the case of injury.
Establish a baseline for your pet’s health.
Dr. Barnes recommends having all pets microchipped and carrying information about each pet’s health, including the pet’s name, the breed, the pet’s approximate weight, date of birth, blood type, rabies status, any surgeries or blood transfusions performed, and known allergies. This information should be included in the first aid kit as well as on your phone.
“It’s absolutely critical that you know what’s normal for your pet,” said Dr. Barnes. That way, when an injury or trauma occurs, it’s easier to discern what’s normal vs. abnormal.
Aside from knowing what is normal for your pet at rest, owners may work with their veterinarians to capture data during annual checkups. Inputs like normal respirations, gum color, heart rate and pulse quality, rectal temperature, ancillary armpit temperature, and blood glucose are all helpful in establishing a baseline. For more severe injuries, these diagnostic norms may help EMS on the scene to understand what’s normal for that particular pet.
Be prepared with first aid supplies and contact numbers.
Pet owners should be equipped with a basic first aid kit in the case of injury. Pet first aid kits are similar to those we carry for humans, including items like Band-Aids, rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, latex gloves, and gauze pads. Here’s a hit list of items for a pet first aid kit. Note: for any item included, it is imperative that owners know the purpose and correct use.
Remember – above all, personal safety first.
One item in the pet first aid kit stands out from the rest: a muzzle.
“An injured pet owner is of little use to a pet in need! Use of situational awareness and personal safety comes first. Only then can an owner be an advocate for their pet and an on-the-scene first responder,” said Dr. Barnes.
She recommends convenient nylon collapsible muzzles for most pets, with basket muzzles used for large-breed working dogs or those known to be particularly fearful. Owners should make sure they understand how to properly restrain and muzzle their pets – being gentle and safe for all.
In addition to first aid supplies, owners should have phone numbers for animal poison control centers on hand at all times. Both the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center and the Pet Poison Helpline have veterinary toxicologists on staff to assist pet owners.
Consider getting trained in basic life support.
For those looking to take a more active role when pet injuries occur, Dr. Barnes recommends undergoing veterinary life support training. The RECOVER initiative is an internationally-recognized authority in veterinary CPR and offers certification for basic and advanced life support for veterinarians, their staff, and pet owners.
Have questions? If you need help to insure first aid preparedness, consider reaching out to your veterinary practice for advice