Animal Welfare groups showcase the month of April as Pet First Aid Awareness month. Most responsible pet caregivers are prepared to handle minor problems with their dogs, but, according to Dr. Debra Primovac, many do not handle emergencies well. The three keys to managing a dog related crisis are:

  1. Don’t panic!
  2. Protect yourself from injury
  3. Prepare in advance

When faced with a severely ill or injured dog, the first thing to do is take a deep breath and assess the situation, to determine the best option for both you and the animal. Understanding how to approach an injured pet safely is vital, because even animals that know you well, and are docile and well behaved, may respond to pain and fear instinctively. Preventing a bite to yourself and any assistant should be your first objective, but in many situations, having done advance planning means the difference between life and death for your dog. Every pet caregiver should have a pet first aid-kit, kept in an accessible location….we actually suggest two kits: one for the home, and one for the car. Kits should include:

  • Phone numbers of your veterinarian and poison-control center or hotline.
  • A good pet first-aid book –Pet First Aid, a book developed through the combined effort of The American Red Cross and the HSUS, is an excellent book of emergency care procedures.
  • Bandage materials (do not use human adhesive bandages such as Band-Aids on pets) Include sterile gauze pads and rolls, and tape for securing wraps or bandages, cotton balls, and swabs. Roll gauze can be used for wrapping wounds or muzzling an injured animal. An ordinary ruler can be used if a splint is needed. Towels or strips of clean cloth can be used to control bleeding or protect wounds.
  • A blanket should be available: a compact thermal blanket is best, but a regular blanket is better than none.
  • Digital rectal thermometer—a dog’s temperature should be between 100 and 103 degrees.
  • Plastic eye dropper (or large syringe without needle) to give oral treatments or flush wounds;
  • Small scissors,
  • Nail clippers
  • Tweezers
  • A leash to use if the dog is capable of walking without further injury.
  • Hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting, but contact your vet or poison control center BEFORE inducing vomiting or treating for poison. Hydrogen peroxide can also be used for cleaning minor wounds.
  • Antibiotic ointment for minor scrapes or cuts; betadine (iodine) and antiseptic lotion or spray.
  • Eye wipes, sterile eye wash to flush eyes, and a sterile eye ointment
  • Ear wipes and ear cleaning solution

Paper towels, a flashlight, and heavy gloves are often helpful. It is important to check your kits periodically, and update anything that needs replacement. Being prepared is important because your dog’s health is your responsibility, but sick, wounded, or otherwise stressed animals are unpredictable, so it is important to be cautious when treating pet injuries. Prevention is always the best medicine. Pet proof your home, keeping all cleaners, medications, and other hazardous items out of reach. Take your pet to the vet regularly, and in between visits, do regular home checks to find any health changes. When thinking of pet first aid, BE PREPARED, and contact your veterinarian before administering questionable treatment. Emergencies and accidents can’t always be prevented, but you can often positively influence the outcome by being prepared, and calmly reacting quickly, decisively, and correctly when misfortune strikes.