Guest Author - Jane Bouey
In a former life I used to own a small dog breeding kennel. Having all the dogs meant that I would only use veterinary services if absolutely necessary. The vet was located 45 minutes from my remote rural location so I learned how to vaccinate my own animals, administer common drugs, and do basic animal first aid on my own. I also learned a lot about breeding specific home veterinary. I'll leave that out of my articles but if you need any advice, I'm here to help you. Just set up your question in the forum so others can learn too.
The first thing to do is to gather a small first aid and diagnostic kit; most items can be picked up at your local agricultural supply. It should consist of the following items:
-Thermometer (the soft bendable type)
-Vaseline or other lubricant
-Self adhesive bandage (like Vetwrap )
-Clean cotton pads ( use feminine products in a pinch)
-Iodine rinse or other antibacterial rinse
-Plastic Elizabethan hood
-Quick-stop blood powder (or other styptic powder/ coagulant, flour or -cornstarch works in a pinch)
-Large Elastic Bands
-Active edible charcoal (not the briquettes!)
-A crate just big enough for your pet to stand up, lie down, and turn around.
-3% Hydrogen Peroxide
-Syringe (no needle required)
-Your vet's emergency number
Most pets tend to hurt themselves fighting with either their own kind or with other animals. Another common trauma injury is from an accident with a vehicle. It is very common for cuts and internal bleeding to result from these altercations. Here's what you do:
1)Check the gums and under the eyelids of your pet. Are they whiter than normal? When you press the gums does color not return quickly? If the answer is yes, call your vet immediately. Put some honey on the tongue of your animal to keep sugar levels up. Wrap with a blanket to keep your pet warm. Pale gums and eyelids indicate moderate to severe internal bleeding. Be prepared for a hefty bill or possible euthanasia.
If the gums are okay and your pet is able to put weight on all fours but is a little under the weather (or embarrassed) after the incident, just allow him to have some quiet time and a comfy place to rest. As long as your pet's condition is improving, don't bother with a trip to the vet.
2)If there is obvious bleeding from an injury, take your clean cotton pads and apply pressure to the wound. Layer the pads as they get bled through. Don't remove any pads as this interferes with the clotting process. Also, if the wound is at an extremity, and your pet is compliant, raise the wound above heart level. You can also use your large elastic bands to reduce circulation to the bleed site. Once the wound has clotted, use your self adhesive wrap to secure the cotton pads. Put on the Elizabethan collar if possible to prevent licking.
If the bleeding is coming from a toenail, tail, or ear you can use your blood stop powder before you layer the cotton on.
Once you have the bleeding site fully clotted, you can clean the wound and have a look at the extent of the damage. Use clean water and some clean cotton to wash around the wound and expose the edges of it. Cut all the hair very short around the wound. Is it deep or superficial? Is it severely restricting movement? Now comes your decision. Yes, you do have the decision to take your pet to the vet. If the wound is deep and in a movement restricting place, I would recommend stitches. But, you can wait until the regular clinic opens instead of paying the after hours fee. Put your pet in his crate (to reduce movement) with the Elizabethan collar on and transport him when the clinic opens. If you cannot afford stitches, your pet will be okay without them. He just might end up with a scar at the wound site. All you need to do is clean the site a minimum of once a day with your antibacterial rinse, then cover it up with a clean pad and self adhesive wrap. Keep the Elizabethan collar on and depending on the severity of the wound, restrict your pet from moving about too much and dirtying the cut.
Keep an eye on the site for signs of infection such as yellow pus and a lot of heat around the wound. There might be some white or light pink flesh growing called proudflesh which is scar tissue. It is not an infection. Take your pet's temperature from day 1 of the injury. To do this, take your flexible thermometer, slather it with lubricant and insert it in your pet's bum. If the temperature starts to increase, there is most likely an infection. You will need to administer antibiotics purchased yourself or from your vet. If you live in a very wet, humid environment you may just wish to err on the safe side and give antibiotics from the start. I'll write in my next home vet article on the most common antibiotics, their uses as well as how to get OTC antibiotics and dosage.
There are a few other things that might happen to your pet and require emergency intervention.
If your pet was happily bouncing around and then suddenly begins drooling, and then lays on it's side or loses consciousness, you are most likely dealing with choking. No vet is going to be able to save your pet after 20 minutes of asphyxiation. You need to act now. Quickly check the throat for any stringy thing you can grasp and pull out. You could use your tweezers for this. If nothing is visible to pull out, use the infant Heimlich maneuver by lying your pet on its back and pressing hard in repeated bursts with the heel of your hand into its diaphragm. Don't hold back, if you hit hard your pet might be sore, but at least alive. Continue this action until either your pet coughs up the item or dies.
No need to call the vet after.
I once had a lovely small dog that snagged a cooked potato while my back was turned. When I turned around she was stretched on her side. Looking closer her eyes were rolling in distress and she was salivating excessively. As I moved her on her back, she began to convulse. I pushed her diaphragm very hard in short bursts until the potato dislodged and I cleared it from her throat with my finger.
Minutes later she was romping around like nothing had happened. I was at once a very joyous and very shaky.
Call the vet. With poison, the faster you act the better your pet's survival chances (and the lower the vet bill will be). You may not have to go in the clinic and pay for a visit. The vet will advise depending on the substance if you should induce vomiting (with the hydrogen peroxide and syringe) or give charcoal.
Hopefully this short introduction to pet first aid will help keep your pet in good health and you from spending your entire paycheck at the vet's. Please let me know if there is anything further that you would like to see added.