Pet First Aid - Part 1
by Leonard Rego
If you have a pet, I'm sure you understand that taking care of it means more than just feeding it regularly - there are other responsibilities you have to take on if you want it to stay happy and healthy. After all, mum and dad do a lot more than just provide you with your daily meals, don't they? The same goes for feathery and furry family members, who need almost as much love, care and affection as we do.
I often ask little boys and girls if they have a pet, and if they say yes, I ask them one simple question: "Do you know pet first aid?"
Very often, I get a confused look, because most kids don't know that they can give their pets first aid if they ever needed it. They figure they'd just call the vet if something went wrong.
But you know what? Your pet is counting on you to know some basic first aid - just in case! Here you'll learn what to do in case of an emergency, and prove, once and for all, that man is a pet's best friend!.
The vet's your best bet
The telephone number of a vet in your neighbourhood should be kept handy at all times, preferably on a Post-it on your fridge or saved in dad's mobile phone. I'm not saying you should not try and help Gertrude the goose yourself, but the vet's your best option, if you can get her to the clinic in time.
Before giving your pet first aid, call and check with the vet about what to do, first. Below, I'll tell you what you can do, in case he or she is not available to talk on the phone. And remember, always ask mum or dad, or even an older brother or sister, to help.
Approach your pet carefully, in order to avoid getting bitten yourself. If you have gloves handy, get them out - this is the time to use them.
Next, gently put a muzzle around the animal's mouth, and then begin cleaning the wound with a saline or balanced electrolyte solution. Don't have it? No sweat, you can use regular water. If the wound is large and open, use sterile bandages to keep it closed.
If the wound is bleeding badly, you might need to use some pressure, but don't use a tourniquet. Try and get in touch with the vet as quickly as you can.
Apply pressure firmly over the bleeding area for at least ten minutes, till the bleeding stops, and don't be tempted to check every few minutes to check whether it has stopped or not.
Again, don't tie a bandage too tightly, and tourniquets are a no-no. Call the vet!
If your pet has difficulty breathing, and if this is not related to choking, check for a heartbeat where the elbow touches the chest. Hear a heartbeat but no breathing? Hold the animal's nose shut and blow directly into its nose till its chest expands. Repeat this 12-15 times a minute.
If there is no heartbeat, place your hand on the lower half of the chest, behind the elbow of the front leg, and massage the heart area gently. For cats and other small pets, use the thumb and forefingers of one hand, pressing 80-120 times a minute for larger animals, and 100-150 times for smaller ones. Alternate this heart massage with breathing (blowing through the nose).
Call your vet immediately.
If you see hair that looks burned or singed, or if swelling, redness and blistering are visible, it could be that your pet has just been burned. The first thing to do is pour lots of cool, running water on the area, and then apply an ice pack that has been wrapped in a towel to its skin. If there are some dry chemicals on the skin or fur that have caused the burn, brush these off, as it may worsen when you add water. Next, call the vet.
Your pet's breathing may stop because it is choking, and if so, it will begin pawing at its mouth; its lips and tongue might even turn blue. Be careful, as it is most likely to bite at this time. If it can still breathe partially, try and get it to stay calm, and get it to the vet as fast as you can.
If you can see the object in its throat, try and remove it very carefully with a pair of tweezers, but take care not to push it further down the throat. It might be lodged too deeply, and your pet might even collapse, but the important thing is not to lose your cool.
Put your hands on both sides of the animal's rib cage and apply quick, firm pressure. You could also place it on its side and strike its rib cage firmly with your palm three or four times. Repeat this until the object is dislodged or until you reach the vet's office.
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Copyright © 2004 Leonard Rego. All rights reserved.