First aid for pets- A review

Neelesh Sharma 1, S.K. Maiti 2 and Kafil Hussain 3
Division of Veterinary Clinical Medicine & Jurisprudence
Faculty of Veterinary Science & A.H., SKUAST-J R.S. Pura, Jammu-181 102 (J & K) INDIA
Email: [email protected], [email protected]

Pets are by nature inquisitive and impetuous creatures who, being unable to reason for themselves, blunder foolishly in to dangerous situations. To avoid disastrous consequences you will have to think for him. Where there is danger, put him on a leash. He will have little chance of survival if struck by a car and will at best sustain traumatic injuries in the form of fractures, cuts and bruises, excessive bleeding and internal damage. Fighting pets, particularly males, can inflict very serious injuries on one another; avoid this by keeping pets leashed when fighting in likely to occur. First aid treatment may be divided into problems that you can deal with yourself and treatment to carry out to keep the problem to a minimum before you take the pet to veterinary surgeon. Many pets sustain serious injuries in the home; keep them out of the kitchen when you are cooking. A large pet is quite capable of reaching the stone top when he could pull cooking pots over himself or touch hot plates, both equally disastrous. A small pet running around under your feet is also a hazard causing you to trip and spill the content of hot saucepans over him.

First aid kit

The first aid kit should always keep in our home. The most important in your first aid kit should be: your veterinary surgeon name and mobile number, even though you may have it else where. Other clinical items like- absorbent cotton, cotton buds, gauze swabs, sterile wraps, adhesive and gauze bandage (5cm and 10 cm), thermometer, scissors, forceps, disposable syringe, antiseptics (Dettol, Savlon), antiseptic powder and wash, antibiotic ointment, eye and ear drops and medicinal liquid paraffin.

There are so many conditions, which may appear any where, any times in your pets, which need first aid.

1. Motor accident/Fractures

It is virtually certain that a pet involved in a road accident will not be under control. The first step even before looking to see, is what may be wrong, is to leash the pet with whatever comes to hand. A noose needs to be made, and slipped over the pet’s head without touching the pet. The next step, unless the pet is obviously unconscious, is to muzzle the pet. Any pet that has been involved in a road accident is likely to be in shock and even the most friendly can bite, to whoever is attending it because of pain or fear. Fracture is the breaking of the continuity of the bone. If your pet is in severe pain and is loath to put weight on a leg he may have broken it. The fracture may occur due to fighting or motor accident. It is most important to keep him as still and as quit as possible, struggling may cause more pain and damage If the pet is small, lift him up gently, supporting the body but letting the damaged leg dangle. In the case of a large pet, you will have to improvise a stretcher- a flat board will do- gently easing him onto it. In both cases consult the Veterinarian immediately. Do attempt to make a splint for the injured limb; you could do even more damage. If you suspect a spinal injury, call the Veterinarian out to you.

2. Bleeding

Bleeding is the oozing out of blood from the blood vessels after breaking of continuity of blood vessels. First find out the location of wound. Clip the hair surrounding the wound, cleaning it thoroughly and treat with antiseptic. Consult the Veterinarian if you are at all worried. If your pet has a serious cut which is exposing underlying tissue and bleeding profusely. Profuse bleeding is an emergency usually indicating a wound that is sufficiently deep to need veterinary attention and the care must be taken to control the bleeding. If the area can be bandaged, covers it with a thick pad of clean gauze, wrapping a bandage tightly around it to stem the blood flow. If the wound is on a limb, bandage right down to the foot and include the entire leg below the wound in your bandage. If the wound can not bandaged hold the gauze over the wound and apply pressure. Do not apply a tourniquet; you could do even more damage. Make sure the site over the wound is firmly bandaged and take the dog for treatment.

3. Heat exhaustion

Some breeds of dogs are more prone to heat exhaustion than others, viz. Chow-Chow and Bull dog, but several other short nosed breeds can also be affected. The most common reason for heat exhaustion is human error. Dogs are to often leave inside cars in summer without adequate ventilation. In hot weather, pets can rapidly overheat. Keep strenuous exercise to a minimum on hot days, and out of full sun. Never leave your pet in the motor car even with the window open as they are potential deathtraps. Even moderate temperature in summer make the car a veritable oven and can cause brain damage and an agonizing death. If your pet has heat stroke do not dowse him in cold water; the shock could kill him. Lower the body temperature slowly and gradually using cool water, and place ice packs to the head and the back of the neck. Seek immediate Veterinary surgeon.

4. Shock

Your pet could go into shock for a variety of reasons, including poisoning, heatstroke or an accident. The pet will appear weak and cold to the touch and his gums may be a pale grayish color. Keep him warm by loosely wrapping him in a blanket and take him to the Veterinarian immediately.

5. Burns

Burn may be caused by fire, or a spillage of boiling water or oil. Cool the burns with cold water, then apply a cold compress while calling the Veterinarian.

6. Drowning

Most pets love to swim. However, they may occasionally get into trouble. If the pet appears lifeless in the water, pull him onto the bank and remove any discharge or blockage from the airways, pulling the tongue forward to drain the water from the lungs. If small, hold him upside down swinging him gently from side to side. Should he stop breathing, proceed with cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).CPR is a combination of mouth-to –nose resuscitation and cardiac massage and by this technique remove any obstructions from the pet’s nose and breathe steadily. Place your mouth over the pet’s nose and breathe steadily into it for 2-3 seconds waiting another 2-3 seconds for air to be expelled from the lungs. If the pet fails to resume breathing and/or there is no heartbeat you will need to apply cardiac massage. Place your hands on the chest just behind the elbow and press down firmly five times with a one second interval. Next repeat the mouth-to-nose sequence, repeating it for 10 min or until the heart starts beating again. Once the heart has restarted, cease cardiac massage but carry on with the mouth-to-nose resuscitation until the pet is breathing normally. This could take upto an hour. While you are proceeding with this, ask another person to call the veterinary surgeon for you.

7. Bite

the dog bites often become infected particularly when the bite causes a puncture wound. Unless the bite wounds are multiple or large enough to require veterinary attention, there is no emergency, but the dog should be cleaned with an antiseptic lotion.

8. Snake bites and sting from other venomous creatures

Small puppies are obviously more at risk than older and larger dogs. Snakes are often more likely to bite when they come out to sun themselves on a warm spring day and the dog goes to investigate on the face, head or neck. Bites from non-venomous snakes should be thoroughly cleaned as the snake’s teeth may be carrying bacteria, which could cause infection. If the dog’s face starts to swell up and signs of dyspnoea are seen, then take the dog straight to veterinarians.

Bee and wasp carry a similar risk of death as do snake bites. Generally they are only likely to be lethal if the swelling from bite blocks the dog’s airways. The first aid home attention with a soothing cream will speed the dog’s recovery and possibly stop the “Sore-scratch cycle”.

9. Seizers

This is abnormal activity in the brain caused by epilepsy, brain tumor, or a head injury. The symptoms including frothing at the mouth, twitching, vomiting and uncontrolled urination and defecation. Do not be tempted to touch the pet, he is not in control of his actions and could well swallow his tongue. Stand back until the seizure has subsided-they do not usually last long. Afterward, take the pet to the Veterinarian to investigate the cause of the problem.

10. Unconsciousness and loss of heart beat

Check first for the vital signs to establish that the pet is alive. Place him on his side, clear his airway and bring his tongue forward. Establish if there are any broken bones and if so call the Veterinarian, if not, you may carefully pick him up and take him to the Veterinarian. If there are no signs of life (i.e. breathing and heart beat), administer CPR.

11. Poisoning

As mentioned before, a pet will eat almost anything, so poisoning is quite a common occurrence. Symptoms are vomiting, diarrhea, foaming at the mouth, labored breathing, muscular twitching, and weakness; and may be fits. Some common poisons are rat poisons (Calciferol, lindane), barbiturates, sodium chlorate, lead, aspirin, strychnine, organochlorine, organophosphorous and detergents etc. If an accident occurs, there are two things to do: first is make the pet to vomit- you can put two pinch salt or two small ice crystals on the dogs tongue and make him swallow by holding the mouth shut and striking his throat. Vomiting will take place with in minutes. Second thing is that to contact your veterinary surgeon and show him a part of vomitous.

12. Electric shock

Commonly used by chewing through an electric cable, the pet may collapse, lose consciousness and stop breathing due to heart failure, or he may go into shock having suffered burns to the mouth. Turn off, and unplug the appliance before going anywhere near him. If he has stopped breathing administer CPR and call the Veterinarian immediately.

13. Chocking

A small object like ball caught in the airway will cause the pet to choke. Symptoms may be violent head shaking, foaming at the mouth, gagging and retching. His gums may turn blue or grey from lack of oxygen and they may collapse. If you can see the offending object, remove it quickly, taking care that he does not bite you. He may attempt to remove the object with his paw. If the pet is not too heavy, hold him upside down and shake him. If he is too large, give him a sharp tap on the back of the neck between the shoulders which may dislodge the object. If this fails, veterinary surgeon.


Don’t leave dangerous or valuable objects lying where pets can reach them, puppies in particular love to chew things up, and a small object may well stick in the wind pipe causing chocking or an intestinal blockage if swallowed. Keep electronic appliances unplugged when not in use, any animal may receive a fatal shock if it starts chewing electronic cables. Keep all poisons and drugs locked safely away. If your pet does consume a poisonous substance, take him along to the veterinarian immediately and bring the bottle or packing with you. This will give the veterinary surgeon an indication of the correct treatment to give.

1. Research Fellow
2. Associate Professor, Div. of Veterinary Epidemiology & Preventive Medicine, College of Veterinary Science & Animal Husbandry, Anjora, Durg (C.G.) India.
3. Assistant Professor

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