What is First Aid?
First aid is the immediate care given to a pet who has been injured or is suddenly taken ill. The immediate care includes: 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. Immediate attention is given to the animal’s level of consciousness, airway patency, breathing, and circulatory functions (including pulse). Resuscitation is the prompt treatment of life-threatening problems. Secondary Survey and Definitive First Aid The secondary survey consists of an examination and assessment of the animals eyes, ears, nose, neck, chest, abdomen, back, extremities, and rectal temperature and the procedures to stabilize 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. Commercial muzzles are best, as many of them can be used without interfering with breathing; the problem is they are not always available during a crisis.
If a muzzle is not available, the first aid provider must improvise. To make a muzzle, get a rope, cord or other similar strong material (such as a necktie or a belt). Wrap the cord or rope two or three times around the muzzle, being careful not to wrap the material too close to the soft, fleshy part of the nose. The muzzle must be applied to the bony part of the nose to avoid interfering with breathing. Bring the ends up past the ears and tie the securely behind the head.
These muzzles cannot be used on dogs who are having difficulty breathing, are unconscious, or have an injury to the mouth. They’re also not indicated for short nose breeds (e.g., Chinese Pug, Pekingese, Bulldog).
Some injured dogs may vomit. If the dog appears to become nauseated or begins to retch, the muzzle should be removed at once.
First Aid Kit
Emergency supplies are a necessity. The following list will help you assemble the resources you need. You can either buy a first aid kit for dogs or get a bag and fill it yourself. Always carry it when taking the dog with you. You can buy kits from the AKC or Red Cross, online.
1″ and 2″ adhesive tape
2″ roll gauze (for muzzle)
chlorhexidine or povidone iodine (antiseptic)
eye wash (saline in a squirt bottle)
isopropyl alcohol 3% hydrogen peroxide (or syrup of ipecac)
2″ and 4″ gauze
3″ x 3″ or 4″ x 4″ gauze pads
scissors – cotton balls
blanket with heat pack
flat transport surface
plastic food wrap (e.g., Saran- Wrap)
petroleum or K-Y jelly
dish soap, like Dawn
A complete first aid kit for your pet is a must. 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 center National poison control centers
Emergency numbers should be kept near your phone for easy access. Update numbers as necessary. General Directions for First Aid
A wide variety of problems arise that require first aid skills. Decisions and actions vary according to the circumstances, including:
Scene of the accident
Emergency equipment available
Species, size, age, temperament, and condition of the animal requiring first aid
Your emotional condition. Other emotionally stable people available to help you.
First aid begins with a quick but careful survey of the scene. Then quick decisions need to be made, depending on the circumstances.
Make sure the accident scene is safe before proceeding. Take steps to prevent further injury to you or your pet.
Enlist the help of others.
Call, or have someone call, your veterinarian or the emergency veterinary center. (Keep those phone numbers handy at all times!) Describe the animal, give a short description of what happened and what has been done. Give your name and telephone number. Don’t hang up until the professionals have told you what to do.
Administer essential first aid. Carefully transport the animal to the veterinary facility for examination if there is any question as to the seriousness of the injury or sudden illness. It is highly recommended to telephone first in all but the most life threatening situations.
In addition to the items listed above, include anything your veterinarian has recommended specifically for your pet.
Check the supplies in your pet’s first-aid kit occasionally and replace any items that have expired.
For your family’s safety, keep all medical supplies and medications out of the reach of children and pets.