April is National Pet First Aid Awareness Month
Hopefully, your pet will never need emergency medical treatment, but all pet owners need to be prepared just in case. Veterinarians are the experts, but when your dog eats something he shouldn't, your kitty hurts a paw, or something more serious happens, you'll need to jump in to help. Unfortunately, sick or injured pets won't always show signs right away.
Many of us have a basic knowledge of first aid for humans, but very few pet owners are prepared or know what to do if an accident occurs and your dog or cat needs immediate medical care. Often, emergencies happen outside regular business hours. The best you can do to support your pet is to be prepared and not panic. Don't ignore behavioural changes. New or undesirable behaviours in your pet could signify a medical issue.
Here are some suggestions for what you can do in an emergency or unknown situation (and see below for more helpful ways to be prepared for your pet.
1. Know what is normal for your pet and monitor your pet's health regularly with preventative care and vet checks ups—don't put off getting your pet checked if something's not right.
2. Keep your veterinarian's phone number and the emergency clinic number in your area in a location that all family members can access easily.
3. Assemble a pet first aid kit suitable for home and travel. Be sure to learn how to use the individual components.
4. Learn how to handle and transport a sick or injured pet and take a CPR course.
5. Learn basic facts about conditions that might affect your pet. For example, if you have a pregnant pet expecting a litter at home, learn about what to expect and when to seek emergency help.
6. Do not administer any home remedies without checking with your veterinary care team or a qualified vet support service. In addition, some common over-the-counter drugs, such as aspirin (ASA), ibuprofen and acetaminophen, are toxic to pets.
7. If you suspect your pet has ingested anything toxic like chocolate, xylitol, or has been poisoned, seek immediate medical attention right away.
Here's What You Can Do To Be More Prepared For Your Pet
24/7 Vet Support
Several services provide 24/7 vet support that will connect you to a trained professional in minutes to give advice or triage the situation. Of course, you might prefer to communicate with your vet, but there are times when the clinic is booked, it's after-hours, or you're not even in the city when something happens. With GoFetch, you get peace of mind and unlimited, 24/7 live chat and phone support with North American vets. No question is too big or small. We also share the transcripts with your primary vet.
It's good to keep a few emergency contact numbers on hand. From posting numbers on the fridge to taking the extra step to add them to your phone contacts. Just make sure these numbers are somewhere anyone can access them quickly. Here are some numbers to consider:
• The phone number and after-hours emergency numbers for your veterinarian
• The phone number of the 24/7 emergency or urgent care veterinary clinic in your area
• 24/7 Vet Support (unlimited calls or chat available in the GoFetch app)
• ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Hotline: 1-888-426-4435
• Pet Poison Helpline: 1-855-764-7661
Learn Pet CPR
The basics of human first aid can also apply to pets. If your pet is unresponsive, you should first check his airway. Did he choke on something, or is something in his throat? Did he bite a bee causing his throat or tongue to swell enough to block his airway? All these instances can result in a pet emergency. If your pet's airway, breathing or circulation are compromised, you'll need to start Pet CPR. You may need to sweep his airway with your finger to clear a lodged object or perform the Heimlich maneuver if necessary. If he's bleeding, you'll need to put a compress over the wound and splint any broken bones before moving him. Search for courses in your local area. Sometimes, a veterinarian offers courses, or you can even watch videos on YouTube or a trusted website.
Pet First Aid Kit
A first-aid kit is essential when an emergency or injury happens, and the contents can vary for large or small dogs and cats. And it's good to have a pet first aid kit for the home or that you can travel with, especially when a pet is away from immediate help like going out on a hike or camping trip to more severe events such as a natural disaster.
You can buy a pet first aid kit online, or here is a list for a do-it-yourself option from the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association.
- First Aid ointment or cream
- Hydrogen peroxide (3% strength)
- Protective gloves
- Antibacterial soap
- Digital / rectal thermometer
- Sterile rinse solution (saline, used as wound flush or eyewash)
- Rubbing alcohol
- Clean syringes (1cc and 5cc)
- Lubricating jelly
- Cotton roll
- Splinting item (e.g., a coffee stir stick or tongue depressor for small pets)
- Bandage scissors
- Cotton swabs
- Adhesive tape
- Gauze squares
- Gauze roll
- Stretchy bandage
- No-stick sterile wound dressing
- Corn syrup or fast absorbing and safe sugar (hypoglycemia)
- Small flashlight
- Blanket for pet transport
Have Items on Hand
It's also a good idea to keep a few essential items ready to go at a moment's notice, like a makeshift muzzle (a scarf or necktie will work in a pinch), your pet's travel crate, a list of any medications your pet takes.
Consider Pet Insurance
Accident coverage can help you care for your pet when they get hurt without as much worry about the cost. It can cover injuries and emergencies related to accidents, like torn ligaments, bite wounds, cuts, broken bones, swallowed objects, and toxic ingestions. It also includes services related to accidents, such as X-rays, MRIs, ultrasounds, bloodwork, sutures, medications, hospitalization, and surgery. Ask your veterinarian for recommendations.
Alternative Payment Options
Have a safety net for the unexpected. GoFetch+ members also have access to interest-free payment plans. In the event of an accident, illness, or any big bills, members can split up the cost of the bills into easy-to-manage 3- or 6-month installments.
For any questions or concerns about your pet, and before you administer any treatments, always check with your veterinarian.