Useful advices for the very first aid
Did your dog or cat get injured to a paw? Did they eat your sock? Do they lose their hair? If you don’t know how to deal in this and other situations, here you can find some precious tips which might turn out to be very useful while you are waiting for your vet.
The most important rule, indeed, is to contact immediately your trustworthy vet (keep at your fingertips his phone number and record it on your mobile phone), because he already knows your dog or cat.
Explain clearly and concisely the situation and follow his directions.
The intervention of the vet should always be considered necessary because even small problems can be just symptoms of more
complex diseases or degenerate, if not properly treated.
Here you will find some tips to be followed for the most common situations in case you are not able to contact quickly your vet. Keep always in mind that an injured or ill dog/cat must be treated with gentleness and should not be reprimanded nor peeved.
Feces collected from the ground or from the cat litter for a parasite exam must be kept in appropriate tightly sealed containers and placed in the refrigerator or on the balcony during the winter season. The sample should be delivered for the examination within 24 hours.
The venous blood sample taking can be performed just by your veterinarian. Your dog or cat must stay without food for 12 hours before taking the sample from an inner limb vein (cephalic), from a hind limb (femoral) or from the jugular vein in the neck.
Syrup and liquids must be administered with extreme caution. The head must be slightly raised up so as to facilitate swallowing. If the animal begins to struggle or to cough, stop the administration and allow him to recompose himself.
The best method is to hide the product inside a very tasty morsel of food (ham, cheese, mincemeat) to alter the taste. Especially cats, discover sometimes the trick and refuse the bite or spit the medicine: in these cases we must force our four-legged friends.
Grab firmly your pet`s muzzle, without causing him any pain or making him suspicious and induce him to revolt. Tuck the thumb and the forefinger of your left hand behind the upper canines and lift his head: in this way he will opens his mouth. At this stage, you have to put the pill as deeply as possible into his oral cavity at the base of the tongue and keep his mouth closed for few seconds, massaging his throat to stimulate the swallowing reflex.
If it is necessary, lift the animal`s tail and, once inserted the suppository, lower it immediately, keeping it pressed against his anal opening so as to prevent its ejection.
This position should be maintained for about 3 minutes.
After having prepared the syringe containing the drug to be injected and the cotton soaked with disinfectant approach slowly to the animal by talking gently and reassuring him. Before using the syringe turn it up and let a few drops of product out, to make sure that the needle is free. The best area where to make a subcutaneous injection is the chest: just lift with your fingers a small area of skin and, after having disinfected it, insert the needle parallel to the ground and inject the medication. Finish with a massage.
Making an intramuscular injection is not so simple and free from hazards such as the subcutaneous one. You should perform this type of intervention in the back of the thigh, mid-height between the pelvis and the knee where there are large muscle groups. Prepare the syringe with the drug and the cotton with disinfectant. Keep your dog or cat still preferably in a lying position. After having disinfected the specific part, slowly slip the needle into the muscle and draw slightly with the plunger to make sure you didn’t accidentally penetrate a blood vessel. In this case you would see some blood in the syringe. Finally inject the product, remove the needle, and make a light massage with the cotton.
In adult dogs and cats the body temperature is around 38-38.2 ° C, while in puppies is around 38,5-38,8°C. Temperature should be measured preferably in the morning or in the evening, away from meals and not after a run or a walk. Usually in the morning the temperature is lower in comparison to the evening. The temperature is taken from rectum with the thermometer for children. Before using the thermometer lubricate it with Vaseline oil, or in case with olive oil. Lift the tail and insert the thermometer into the anal opening making sure to keep it slightly slanting so that the bulb is in contact with rectal wall. Keep the thermometer in the same position for almost a minute, pull it out and read the temperature.
Often a foreign object such as stones, shards of glass or wood, thorns or spikes of oat grasses plunge into the paws of dogs and cats causing more or less serious injuries and making the animal limping. In particular spikes once plunged into the skin continue to advance forming fistulas which, if not treated on time, can only be solved by surgery. When the animal starts to limp first of all examine thoroughly the affected paw even between his toes: the only visible sign is often just a small hole or a cut.
Cut the hair in the concerned area. Once you see where the foreign body entered, try to remove it by pressing the edges of the injury by using tweezers. If the attempt is successful, once the extraction is ended, disinfect the wound with hydrogen peroxide and apply an antibiotic ointment for some days. In case of failure, after applying a bandage go to the vet.
It is possible sometimes to find sharp foreign bodies in the mouth mucosa or in the animal’s palate. Or else you can find cords or rubber bands which coil around the base of the animal`s tongue. In dogs it is more frequent to find some bone splinters or pieces of wood coming from planks launched by the owners.
Examine carefully his mouth starting from his lips and labial vestibule, and then, by opening his mouth, examine it carefully, checking also under the tongue. Once you have identified the foreign body, remove it only if the operation is possible without risking any further damage to his mouth. Once the operation is finished, check his wound, and if the dimensions seem relevant, consult your vet.
Foreign bodies are more common to be found in dogs with hanging ears. In most of the cases there are spikes of oat grasses which once entered, due to their particular shape, dogs find hard to eliminate even when they shake their head. These spikes of oat grasses tend to enter deeper and deeper until they reach their eardrum. The presence of spikes in their ear duct causes much pain and annoyance and dogs scratch continuously the affected ear and emit yelps and moans and keep their head crooked.
While someone holds the dog, it is important to check if in the auricle there are any wounds, then if you are able to see the foreign body you should grab it with tweezers, paying attention not to let the dog make abrupt movements. If the spike is situated deeply in the duct, don’t try to pull it out at any cost, as it may cause injury to his eardrum. In any case go to the vet as soon as possible.
The injury may be superficial or it may affect the cartilage creating real tears or even detachment of parts of the auricle. It may cause a massive bleeding because it afflicts a very vascularised area and also because the animal is so painful and annoyed that he tends to shake his head, preventing the blood
clot formation. To stop the bleeding it is necessary to press the margins of the wound with some cotton or even better by hemostat and then apply ice on it. Once the bleeding has stopped, disinfect the wound with hydrogen peroxide and immobilize the auricle so that the dog does not open it again by shaking his ears.
The loss of blood from nose in dogs and cats can be caused by foreign bodies, traumas, falls from balconies or terraces, diseases involving the internal structures of the nasal cavity (turbinates) or defects in the process of blood clotting. If bleeding is caused by a superficial trauma it is enough to wash the surface, apply ice and then disinfect with hydrogen peroxide. If there is no visible external wound and the blood comes from inside the nasal cavity, it is necessary to apply a bag of ice on the nose and if you have at hand a coagulant in vials, inject it subcutaneously and drip another one directly into the nostrils, then go immediately to the vet.
In dogs and cats bleeding from the mouth is due to traumas of the oral cavity caused by accidents. You should observe their lips, labial vestibule, their gums and teeth and remove with cold water any presence of blood. In order to explore their oral cavity open their mouth with caution because if they have suffered a major trauma, there might be a fracture of the jaw. Observe the palate, where the longitudinal fractures often occur in cats felt from balconies, and whose tongue wounds bleed a lot. Bleeding wounds of the oral cavity should be padded with cotton wool soaked in cold water and pressed with tablets of cotton – possibly the hemostatic one. If the bleeding is massive, you can inject a coagulant subcutaneously and apply a few drops directly on the wound while you urgently go to the vet.
Cover the wound with a gauze and then wrap it with a bandage by twisting it on itself every three or four laps in order to make the bandage more stable. After the bandage apply the patch crosswise and edgewise. In order to avoid that the animal takes off the bandage, cover it with a small sock or a stretching net you can find at the chemist.
After having put a gauze over the wound and made it stable with a patch, prepare the
bandage by making several laps around the animal`s neck and chest, passing between the front paws in order to make the bandage more stable. To make the bandage steady cut its last section longitudinally in the central part and use the two edges to form a knot. Cover the bandage with proper elastic nets available at the chemist.
Wherever the wound is, make a bandage covering thighs, hips and abdomen. To make the bandage steady cut its last section longitudinally in the central part and use the two edges to form a knot.
Apply directly on the eye the sterile gauze pad which must be kept steady by using a bandage passed around the dog’s neck and his opposite ear. Repeat the same operation on the opposite side to make it more stable.
Often dogs and cats do not tolerate the presence of dressings and bandages and try to take them off in any possible way. You can then with the Elizabethan collar which is generally stood both by dogs and cats. It is a kind of plastic funnel fastened around the neck of the animal to contain his neck and face inside of the conical part. Its use has to be limited to the time when the animal is not supervised. These collars are available in different sizes in specialized pet shops.
The fractures of limbs occur as a result of accidents or abuse. Dogs or cats can’t put their paws, which appear dead and most of the times swollen and deformed, on the ground. Fractures can be of two types: “closed” or “open.” In the first case, skin and tissues above the fractured bone are intact, while in the second case they are torn and the two bones stumps appear outside.
Do not move absolutely the two stumps, just clean the wound with hydrogen peroxide or boiled water and cover the limb with a sterile gauze or a clean cloth without trying to block it and go immediately to the vet.
In case of a fractured limb the immediate intervention has the purpose of limiting the movements while waiting to reach the vet. The fractured limb should be handled with extreme care, without pulling or twisting it, or even worse, try to adjust the bone stumps. The injured part must be protected with cotton, bandages or newspapers on which you can place rigid supports such as cardboard or wood sticks
Paw injuries cause quite abundant bleedings since this region is richly vascularised. The first thing to do is to stop blood flowing. As tourniquet it is possible to use a handkerchief, a tie or a belt to be tied around the limb of the animal above his wound. It should be loosened every 5 minutes, and should not be kept for more than half an hour. If you cannot find immediately a veterinary’s assistance, it is necessary to cut his hair around the wound and disinfect it thoroughly with hydrogen peroxide, then dry it up and apply an antibiotic ointment before the bandage. After these operations, you can remove the tourniquet. If the bleeding stops and the wound is not too big, change the
bandage and apply the ointment every day, otherwise it is necessary to find a veterinary.
Wounds on the trunk should be washed, disinfected with water peroxide and swabbed with ice to stop the bleeding. The intervention of the veterinarian is still essential in case of large wounds which need stitches.
Bite wounds are common in dogs and cats as a consequence of fights. If the wound is about two centimeters long and it is not deep it is enough to cut carefully the hair around it and after disinfecting with hydrogen peroxide, apply an antibiotic ointment. In these cases, a suture is not recommended as it does not allow the removal of purulent stuff or blood. In the next days keep the wound clean, washing it with water and antiseptic and gently squeeze the surrounding area to make possible exceeding fluids leak. Repeat the application of the ointment twice a day, administering antibiotics if necessary. If the wound is large and the underlying tissue come unstuck it is necessary to wash and disinfect the part. In case, reduce bleeding by applying ice and hemostatic cotton and seek immediately a veterinary.
Insect bites sometimes cause in dogs and cats serious symptoms that alarm owners. The animal suddenly begins to moan and rub his snout which, within a few minutes, swells so much that the dog is unrecognisable and his eyes become two narrow splits. These are allergic attacks caused by toxic substances produced by spiders, bees and hornets. Rarely an edema may extend to the dog’s mouth, larynx and pharynx, causing breathing difficulties sometimes with dramatic consequences. If you are able to locate the insect bite, check if there is still the sting, which must be removed with tweezers. On the bite you must apply ice or cold water. The therapy is based on the administration of cortisone though a subcutaneous injection. If there are no improvements the therapy has to be repeated after 8-10 hours. In most cases, the symptoms disappear after 24 or maximum 36 hours. At any rate it is better to contact the veterinarian.
Poisoning are most of the times treated by vets with symptomatic therapies (i.e, designed to combat the symptoms) and general detoxifying therapies. That is because many times the responsible substance of the poisoning remains unknown and in other cases the specific antidote is not available.
Both in case of ingestion of substances or poisonous plants, different alterations may occur depending on the action of the toxic principle. Most common symptoms are:
– absolute food refusal, vomiting and diarrhea (sometimes with blood); bruises all over the body (poisoning by anticoagulant
rodenticides), increased salivation, muscle tremors and convulsions;
– In other cases, the animal may appear strongly depressed or even unconscious, with dilated pupils and have a too low body temperature. Do not use home remedies, such as the administration of milk which in some cases can worsen the situation by promoting the absorption of the toxic substance, nor induce vomiting, because in case of ingestion of caustic substances it may increase the seriousness of the problem. At any rate go to the vet urgently.
Toxic substances can, even without being ingested, have a toxic action when they come in contact with the animal’s body (skin, eyes, mouth). In these cases it is essential to clean thoroughly the affected area with warm water and mild soap. If you are unable to remove the product (paint, tar) do not use solvents, just cut the smeared hair. The lesion must be medicated with an antibiotic ointment, covered with gauze and examined by the veterinarian.
In dogs and cats burns can be caused by home accidents: hot water, coffee or oil and from excessive exposure to the heat of the dryer after washing. Frequently in stray cats, burns are caused by overheated parts of cars. The seriousness of burns is evaluated according to their size and depth. In superficial burns the hair is singed and the skin is reddened and covered with vesicles (swellings in the epidermis filled with clear fluid) followed by scabs. In these cases, it is appropriate to apply immediately on the lesion cold water or ice compresses for twenty minutes and then apply a special burns ointment. Deep burns are characterized by a suffering of the deeper layers of the skin which appear eroded and blackish or whitish because of the death of the tissues. In these cases it is necessary to clean the wound using cold water, sprayed with previously boiled syringes and cover them with sterile gauze while you look for the veterinary’s assistance that should be sought with the utmost urgency.
Convulsions in dogs and cats are caused by sudden and unexpected disturbances in brain activity and cause twitching and tremors all over the body. During seizure, which may last from a few seconds to a few minutes, animals are unconscious and may lose feces and urine. Crises can occur only once in a lifetime or can recur at a rate ranging from a few times a year to several times a day, depending on the different causes: genetic, or metabolic disorders, infectious or congenital diseases.
The appearance of a convulsive attack is always a dramatic event for the owners who get very impressed. You should remain calm because in most cases the crisis stops spontaneously. Remove all objects from the animal which could hurt him and cover him with a blanket. Avoid any noise so as not to aggravate his psychic state. Do not shake him, talk to him softly. The treatment of convulsions always requires veterinary’s attention. Just in sporadic cases if the crisis doesn’t stop and the vet can not intervene, it is necessary to inject subcutaneously the sedative.
In dogs and cats heat strokes occur especially when they are left in closed, poorly ventilated areas such as in a car park in summer or when dogs make excessive efforts, such as running after vehicles or bicycles in particularly hot days. Animals cannot counteract the increase in body temperature through perspiration as humans do, they can only increase their respiratory rate but in many cases it is not enough. When animals are closed in a car they start to get hot, are distressed and feel suffocating. If you do not intervene promptly they might die for asphyxiation. Make compresses of cold water on their heads and soak their body in cold water so as to bring their temperature back to standard. Go to the vet immediately and in the meantime inject subcutaneously corticosteroids to combat cardiovascular collapse. Therefore in order to prevent these accidents never leave pets in the car during the hot days. In case, park in shading places with car windows open and without leaving them for long. In summer days never let them make excessive efforts.
Dogs and cats are covered in hair, so they are quite resistant to low temperatures. However, if they are wet some problems may occur; therefore falling into lakes or ponds or spend long time in the snow can be dangerous to our four-legged friends. The body temperature drops dangerously and if it is not brought back to standard in a short time their vital activities may be compromised. Certain areas of their body might get frozen: the most affected parts are ears, tail, limbs and genital organs as they are less protected by their hair. The affected area is numb and can appear dark in color due to lack of blood circulation and tissue death. You should immediately intervene on one hand by heating the animal’s body and on the other hand trying to restore blood circulation in the affected area. Bring the animal in a warm place, wrap him in a blanket and warm it up with some bottles of hot water. If by measuring his rectal temperature you detect hypothermia (36-37°C), put him in a bathtub with hot water and then carefully dry him with a hair dryer.
On the frozen part apply moist heat, using for instance dump cloths. Act gently without rubbing the fabric so as not to cause any damage. Do not apply any medication before the arrival of the veterinarian.
Cases of drowning in dogs and cats are not very frequent, as they instinctively know how to swim. It may happen, however, that a pet falls into the water and gets injured and he cannot swim or get out of the water and therefore he drowns because he is exhausted. Remove the water from his lungs. In case of cats or of small size dogs it is better to put them upside down, lifting them by their hind paws. Compress their chest with your hand for 2-3 seconds several times to help water come out.
In large size dogs carry out the same massage, using both hands, while they are lying on one side with their head in a lower position compared to their body. Respiratory movements and coughing show that the animal has started breathing again. If there are no spontaneous respiratory movements provide artificial respiration while waiting for the vet.
Snakes represent a serious danger for dogs who have the possibility to wander through the woods and stick their nose in clefts and bushes where these reptiles are used to hide. The bite of a viper is very poisonous and painful for the animal and, if he does not die instantly, he begins to moan and whine desperately. The seriousness of the bite depends on the affected area, in which the blood circulation can be more or less abundant, it depends on the amount of venom injected, on the species of the viper, on the season, on the individual hypersensitivity to the venom and on the age and size of the dog. The affected area is swollen, hot, painful, and you can see two small holes made by the teeth of the reptile, surrounded by little bleeding. Once the site of the bite has been identified act quickly to prevent the poison from spreading in the body by applying a tourniquet of 5 centimeters not too tight above the wound, so as not to stop the arterial circulation, and loose it every 5 minutes.
At this point proceed to remove as much venom as you can, by practicing a 2-3 mm deep cross cut on the wound, with caution so as not to damage the big blood vessels. Press with the fingers to make the wound bleed. Afterwards wash and disinfect the lesion with abundant hydrogen peroxide. At this point, inject the snake-bite serum if available, half of it around the wound, and after 10 minutes if there are no allergic reactions, the other half intramuscularly. Now remove the lace and make an injection of cortico-steroids intramuscularly to prevent shock state. Take the dog to the vet as soon as possible.
The curiosity and tendency to chew everything they find, make dogs and cats – especially cubs – sometimes come into contact with electrical wires and sockets which might not be adequately protected. In the most cases the lesions (burns) are localized at the level of the oral cavity, while the effects of the passage of electricity in the body is evidenced by a shock, decrease in blood pressure, alteration of cardiac activity and loss of consciousness. If one of our fourlegged friends has suffered an electric shock the situation is serious and an urgent action is required. The seriousness of the general symptoms depends on the intensity and duration of the shock: the animal may have muscle twitching, convulsions, cardiac fibrillation, pulmonary edema and unconsciousness. If the animal gives no sign of life a cardiac massage and artificial respiration is required while waiting for the vet.
Cubs both of dogs and cats are inclined to play with many different objects and swallow them. Sharp bodies such as fish and chicken bones can pierce palate, tongue or the jaws, causing problematic reactions: the animal tries with his front legs to pull out the foreign body from to his mouth, he has retching and signs of suffocation. With calm and caution a person grabs the animal’s head with his left hand, while with the right index finger downs the lower jaw. Another person once he has identified the foreign body can try to remove it with tweezers. If you are unable to resolve the situation immediately ask for the vet’s help. Foreign bodies in many cases can go along the digestive tract and remain in the stomach or in the intestines. In these cases the symptoms appear more slowly, but the situation is not less serious: uncontrollable vomiting, particularly after water intake, food refusal, absence of defecation and deep prostration. Do not ever induce vomiting or give laxatives in the attempt to expel the foreign bodies as it may cause very serious damages. Only the vet can deal with the situation.
If a foreign object is plunged into the pharynx or trachea, the animal is upset, pants, holds his head extended forward, loses abundant saliva from his mouth and his tongue may appear bluish: the situation is serious and a prompt intervention is required. First open wide his mouth grabbing with your left hand his right upper jaw and with your right hand lower his lower jaw and if you locate the foreign body, try to remove it. If this attempt fails, hold the animal from his hind legs, turn him with his head down and shake him vigorously. If this is not enough, press his chest with your hands. If it is a large size dog and you cannot lift him, lay him down sideways and press his chest rhythmically to favor the expulsion of the foreign body. In these situations every single minute is precious and you must act as quickly and determined as possible.
In puppies and kittens anal prolapse may occur, due to a congenital problem or as a result of a severe diarrhea. On the anal opening it is possible to see a section of intestinal mucosa stretching out, with a length varying according to the severity of his lesion. In these cases, do not intervene, just cover the area with a sterile gauze and contact immediately your veterinarian.
When an animal is hit by a car the first thing to do is to arrange his transport to the vet. Meanwhile, without losing your calm, control if the animal is still alive and the severity of his injuries by checking:
– respiratory activity;
– the presence of possible internal bleeding.
If you do not see vital functions, try to reanimate the animal by performing artificial respiration and cardiac massage, while awaiting the intervention of the veterinarian.
The proper transport of a wounded animal is of great importance because some incorrect and reckless movements may create damages or worsen the situation. The best way is to use a stretcher built extemporaneously by using a carpet, a jacket or a sweater. Lay down the animal with caution on the rudimentary stretcher which has to be lifted from all four ends simultaneously. Take particular care of his spine avoiding any sudden movement. Another excellent transport can be any rigid support such as a board of wood or cardboard on which you can slowly slide the animal. If you do not have anything available and there is no help, transport the wounded animal in your arms. If the animal’s size is small you have to put an arm around his neck and the other one under his chest paying attention not to crush his wounds (if the lesion in on his chest do not compress it). Cats should be wrapped in a blanket or a towel to prevent him from moving. In case of a large dog put your arms around his shoulders and around his thighs.
As a result of accidents or falls internal bleeding that affects organs or vessels in the abdominal or thoracic cavity may occur putting the animal’s life in danger. The symptoms are a state of unconsciousness, weak pulse, heartbeat barely perceptible and very pale mucous membranes of eyes and mouth. In these cases, do not attempt any action, just immediately go to the nearest first aid.
As a result of a serious injury it is important to assess the characteristics of the animal’s breath: presence or absence of respiratory movements, their frequency and type. Observe his rib cage and check if it lowers and raises with regularity and rhythm.
A very shallow breathing with short and quick movements of the chest may indicate lesions which cause pain at his respiratory system, while an exaggerated involvement of the abdominal muscles during breaths may indicate a diaphragmatic hernia or a spilling of fluids in his lungs.
In dogs and cats you can feel the pulse in femoral artery. Put the middle finger, index finger and ring finger of your right hand on the inner side of the animal’s thigh at the groin level and then let them slide without exerting a strong pressure until you feel a “drawstring”: it is his artery.
Exert a mild pressure until you feel the pulse of the artery which can be identified through its rhythmical vibrations.
The arrest of the cardiac activity is a dramatic event that certainly ends with the death of the animal if you do not carry out an immediate intervention which, even in these desperate situations, sometimes might solve the situation. Sometimes the interruption of heartbeats is accompanied by the arrest of breathing, involuntary loss of urine and feces and dilation of the pupils: dramatic symptoms that herald the death of the animal. You can feel the animal’s heartbeat by lying him sideways. Move forward his front leg and put your palm on his chest.
Artificial respiration is an extreme attempt to save the animal’s life, so you need to act quickly but calmly and decisively. Lay him down sideways with his head slightly extended on his neck. Introduce air into his nasal cavities, keeping his mouth closed, or else in his oral cavity keeping his nostrils closed. Blow with force for 2-3 seconds, watch his chest rising and then help empty it by compressing it after having removed your hands from his nasal cavities and his mouth. The animal has to take 7 to 10 breaths per minute until he breaths spontaneously. If the heartbeat is not perceptible and the function of the heart has ceased make immediately a cardiac massage, which is the only intervention that in these extreme situations can save the animal. Put the animal lay sideways. Put the palm of your hand (or both hands if it is an animal of large size) on his chest immediately behind his elbows carrying out a series of 60 compressions per minute.
In small animals, such as cats and mini dogs the compression can be carried out manually grabbing their thorax where the heart is, behind their elbows, with just one hand and squeezing rhythmically. While you compress you must count up to 2, while when you release.
only up to 1. Often in very serious cardiac trauma, the cardiac arrest is associated with the respiratory one. Therefore the cardiac massage should be performed together with the artificial respiration by carrying out a breathing about every 5 compressions of cardiac stimulation. Since these are all cases of serious emergencies, all these operations must be performed while you urgently go to a first aid or to see a vet.