First Aid and Emergencies

Following on from our series of blogs about making sure your pet is healthy, the blog today focuses on what to do when they are unwell or injured. Our pets like to keep us on our toes and situations can develop very quickly. Our advice is always to contact your vet if you suspect a problem with your pet. They may give advice or recommend that you should bring your pet in to the practice to be checked over. Having said this, it is always useful to have a first aid kit ready for your initial care of your injured pet.

We’ve provided a list below of the most important items that this should contain;

First Aid Kit

  • Bandage material
  • Cotton wool
  • Dressings
  • Scissors
  • Bandage tape
  • Gloves
  • Tweezers
  • Wound wash – dilute Hibiscrub or a dilute solution of salt water (a teaspoon of salt in cool boiled water)
  • Foil blanket
  • Buster collar to prevent licking
  • A large towel

N.B. If you decide to dress an injury on your animal, it should only be temporary (for a few hours) and should always be checked by your vet. Restrictive dressings could cause rubbing, sores or even prevent blood supply to the affected area.

 

Emergencies

There are some more serious conditions that require attention straight away. Whatever happens, keeping as calm as possible will always help your pet and help you to get them the help they need. It’s important to check with your vet what their provision is for their out of hours cover.

Every vet in the UK must ensure emergency cover through the day and night, but this may be provided by an external service at a different location. Our advice is to check with your vet before you may need this service so you can prepare for the unexpected.

We’ve provided some points below which should help you to spot an emergency and some advice on what to do if you see these signs.

 

Seizures

Initial signs may include;

  • noise
  • spasmodic movement
  • drooling
  • change in behaviour

What to do;

Turn off any lights and TV/music. It’s important to keep calm and remain safe around your pet. Normally it is best to leave the animal where they are. They may not know what is going on and in their confusion/lack of consciousness some animals have been known to bite. Try to time or film the episode if possible – this will help your vet to understand what happened. Phone your vet as soon as possible and they can advise you what to do based on what is happening.

 

Collapse

Initial signs may include;

  • loss of consciousness
  • weakness
  • pale gum colour
  • breathing difficulty
  • swollen abdomen

What to do;

Keep calm. Provide good ventilation. If this could be related to heat stroke in hot weather, it is important to cool your pet down. Provide water if they are able to drink. Phone your vet and arrange to take your pet to the practice as soon as possible. You may need help lifting your animal into and out of your transport, so make your practice is aware.

 

Road traffic accidents

Initial signs may include;

  • Bleeding
  • lameness
  • wounds
  • breathing difficulty
  • loss of consciousness
  • weakness
  • swelling/bruising

What to do;

Contact your vet. If it is safe to do so they will advise of how to transport your pet to the practice. Your pet may need treatment for shock as well as investigations to know what else is going on internally so your vet can provide this. Your vet will administer an appropriate pain relief. Don’t be tempted to give any human drugs as these may interfere with your vet’s treatment plan as well as potentially being toxic for your pet.

Bloating in dogs

Initial signs may include;

  • Swollen abdomen
  • collapse
  • weakness
  • retching/trying to vomit
  • pain
  • breathing difficulty

What to do;

Contact your vet. This is a serious condition which is called either Gastric Dilatation (bloated stomach) or Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (bloated and twisted stomach). Sadly both can be rapidly life threatening but quickly seeking treatment gives your pet the best chance of survival.  It is more common in deep chested dogs but can be seen in any dog. It is important not to exercise your dog 1-2 hours before or after food to try to avoid increasing the risk of this condition.

Inability to pass urine – an emergency especially in male cats

Initial signs may include;

  • Straining to urinate
  • vocalisation
  • frequent or inappropriate urination
  • lethargy
  • lack of passage of urine
  • swollen abdomen

What to do;

This condition can be an emergency in any animal but male cats have more of a tendency to block their urethra from the bladder. This causes a very large bladder with risk of rupture, leakage of urine into the abdomen and back pressure on the kidneys.  Therefore this condition needs immediate treatment. Phone your vets and take your animal straight away if they can’t pass urine.  Your animal is likely to have a catheter placed to relieve the pressure if possible but your vet will assess what is the best treatment for your pet. This condition can be confused with cystitis – pain and inflammation when passing urine which is less of an emergency but still requires veterinary attention as soon as possible.

 

Severe vomiting or diarrhoea – with our without blood

Initial signs may include;

  • Vomiting
  • diarrhoea
  • reduced appetite
  • passing blood or vomiting blood
  • weakness

What to do;

If the vomiting or diarrhoea have been sudden onset and profuse or there has been blood in the motions, your pet may require fluid therapy to maintain their hydration status. Phone your vets for advice. Chicken (without bones) and rice or scrambled egg are bland diets which may help but always seek veterinary advice first as they can advise on the best nutrition for your pet. Medication may be required to stop the vomiting, settle the stomach or improve the consistency of the faeces passed.

 

Intoxication

Initial signs may include;

  • Disorientation
  • collapse
  • vomiting/diarrhoea
  • change in behaviour

What to do; Depending on what toxin your pet may have eaten, your vet can advise you of the best treatment plan. It may be that your pet needs to be made to be sick (normally within 1-4 hours of ingesting the toxin) but sometimes this could cause more harm. For example corrosive substances are better not to be brought back up. Your vet may administer fluids intravenously and charcoal orally to bind up and flush out the toxins. Rapid veterinary attention should improve the chances of your pet’s survival so contact your vets as soon as possible.

 

Breathing difficulties

Initial signs may include;

  • Collapse
  • laboured effort to breathing
  • open mouth breathing
  • noises when breathing
  • choking

What to do;

Keep calm and phone your vets. Like with a collapse, urgent veterinary care is needed and your vets will be able to provide oxygen at the practice. Tests are likely to be performed to understand why your pet is having the breathing problems and provide the best treatment.

 

Eye problems

Initial signs may include;

  • Squinting
  • inability to open the eyelids
  • discharge
  • pain
  • change in behaviour

What to do;

Phone your vets and get an appointment as soon as possible. Depending on the severity of the eye problem, your vet may want to refer your pet to an eye specialist. Eye problems can progress rapidly so seek attention as soon as you can.

 

Womb infection/pyometra in entire females

Initial signs may include;

  • Vaginal discharge (does not always occur)
  • reduced appetite
  • vomiting
  • increased thirst
  • swollen abdomen
  • lethargy

What to do;

Phone your vets and arrange an appointment as soon as possible. A pyometra is pus within the womb and this could rupture if left. Your vets will likely want to spay your female animal to remove the infection and prevent further problems as well as providing medication for the condition. Do not restrict your animal’s water supply.

 

Bloat and gut stasis in rabbits

  • Swollen abdomen
  • reduced appetite
  • reduced passing of faeces and lethargy

What to do;

Phone your vets for an appointment as soon as possible. Bloat can be a condition which can become rapidly fatal if left untreated. Your vets will be able to administer drugs which should help with their reduced gut movement. Offer food at all times but monitor your rabbit’s hutch for signs of normal faeces and to check the food bowl is reducing.

 

Paralysis

Initial signs may include;

  • Loss of movement in one or more of the limbs, with or without pain

What to do;

Phone your vets for an appointment. Your vet can investigate the reason for the paralysis. For example it may be due to a spinal problem, a problem within the brain or could even be related to a circulatory problem.  Your vet will perform investigations and provide appropriate medication to make your pet more comfortable and try to help the situation.

 

We hope you have found this series of blogs helpful and informative. Your vets will always be on hand to help with these situations if they arise. We hope you will never need the information but it may help you to feel a bit more prepared just in case.