Spring has arrived! With the nicer weather here, many of us are outside working in the yard, taking walks and enjoying more outdoor activities. These activities often involve our favorite canine or feline friend and because of this, our pets are at a greater risk for accidents, illness and injuries. In order to deal effectively with emergencies, it is important for all pet owners to have an emergency plan in place. This includes having emergency phone numbers and a pet first-aid kit in a location that is easily accessible. Owners should educate themselves about some of the most common pet emergencies, how they can be prevented, and how to deal with them if they occur. Being prepared for emergencies will enable you to more effectively deal with situations that arise, increasing the likelihood of a positive outcome for your pet if an accident should happen. A little preparation may save your pet's life!
Here is a list of the top 10 emergencies and how to prevent and effectively deal with each one.
1. Allergic Reactions: This usually involves an acute reaction to a bee sting, spider bite, vaccination or contact allergen. Your pet will break out in hives or have varying degrees of facial swelling. They will be extremely itchy overall and may run a fever. If your pet experiences an allergic reaction, they may need to be seen depending on the severity of the symptoms. If your pet is prone to reactions, it is important to have a bottle of Benadryl on hand. Call your veterinarian for a recommended dosage. If your pet has pale gums, difficulty breathing, trembling or collapse, they need to be seen immediately as this is usually the onset of life threatening anaphylactic shock.
Dunkirk Animal Clinic’s first-aid kit could help owners in an emergency.
2. Hit By Cars: Sadly, we see this many times and the severity of the trauma varies greatly. It is very important to keep your pet on a leash at all times. It is also important to have your pets spayed and neutered. Studies have shown that 90 percent of dogs that are hit by cars are unneutered male dogs because these dogs are more likely to roam. If your dog is hit by a car, take them to a veterinarian immediately as there may be serious internal injuries that are not visible. If they are bleeding excessively, place a pressure bandage on the wound until you get to your veterinarian. Be very careful about moving your pet as they may be painful and can bite out of fear!
3. Poisonings: It is very important to pet proof your home and to be aware of what toxic agents can affect your pet. This time of year, be cautious about leaving chocolate accessible to your pets and any plant in the lily family in contact with your cats. Both of these are life threatening and very dangerous! Don't wait for symptoms to develop if your pet has ingested a toxic agent. It is important to seek treatment immediately before your pet is affected. Check out the ASPCA poison control website for lists of the most toxic agents.
4. Foreign Body Ingestion: It is important again to be careful what you leave laying around your home that your pet may ingest. Many pets will swallow toys, bones, strings and other objects such as pine cones, rocks or corn cobs. Any of these objects can become lodged in the throat blocking the airway. They can also become lodged in the esophagus or anywhere in the intestinal tract. Signs include choking, vomiting, lack of appetite, dehydration, fever and no stool production. If your pet is experiencing any of these symptoms they should see a veterinarian immediately as many of these objects can tear the bowl causing a severe blood infection and death.
5. Bite Wounds: These again are more common in roaming pets. Keep your cat inside and your dog on a leash at all times. Even a small puncture wound can develop a severe infection, so it is important to seek veterinary care for any bite wound. Also be sure to keep your pet updated on its Rabies vaccination and your cat updated on its feline leukemia vaccination, as these deadly viruses can be transmitted through bite wounds.
6. Seizures: A seizuring pet can be a very scary thing to witness. When a pet experiences a seizure, they are usually recumbent and incoherent. Their body may convulse violently and they may drool and urinate. The seizure may last 30 seconds or longer. If this is the first time your pet has had a seizure, call your veterinarian for a check up. Keep your pet away from anything dangerous if they are having a seizure, but do not interfere as your pet may accidentally bite. If your pet has a seizure that lasts more than two minutes, or the seizures are continuous, it is a medical emergency. A thorough work-up may be needed to make sure your pet has not ingested a toxin that causes seizure activity. A common cause of a seizure may be epilepsy which your pet will have for life. This requires a lifelong medication to control the seizures.
7.Vomiting/Diarrhea: Pet's can experience an upset stomach for many reasons. They may pick up a virus, a parasite or have an upset stomach because of something they ingested. Most of these cases can be managed medically. We always recommend checking a fecal sample for parasites and call your veterinarian for what can be given for an upset stomach. If the vomiting and diarrhea lasts longer than a day, the vomiting is continuous, and the pet cannot keep down any liquids, then it is a medical emergency and your pet should be seen immediately to rule out a foreign body, a toxin, or life threatening virus like parvovirus. Your pet can become dehydrated quickly especially if they are a young pet, an elderly pet or a debilitated pet. If your pet is trying to vomit, is producing no vomit and their stomach is distended, they may be experiencing stomach bloat and should be seen immediately!
8.Trouble breathing: There are many causes of difficult breathing which include asthma, heart disease, or a virus such as leukemia or feline aids in cats. All are life-threatening and should be seen immediately by your veterinarian. Keeping your cat up to date on their vaccines and bringing your pet in for a yearly exam will help to rule out heart disease or any lung issues before the pet shows clinical signs.
9. Fractures/Lameness: Trauma such as your pet being hit by a car, injured in a fall or stepped on are often causes of lameness or a fracture. If your pet is bearing no weight on the affected leg then it may be fractured and should be seen immediately. If they have a slight limp but can still use their leg, it is not an emergency, but your pet should still be seen to rule out a ligament tear or other soft tissue injury.
10. Urinary trouble: The most serious form of urinary trouble occurs in male cats. These cats' bladders can become blocked by plugs of urinary crystals or inflammatory cells in the urethra. This requires immediate emergency surgery as a blockage can lead to severe dehydration and kidney failure. Symptoms include straining in the litter box, producing no urine, crying in pain and a distended abdomen. Other forms of urinary trouble are usually related to a urinary tract infection and are important to have checked, but are not an immediate emergency.
The month of April is National Pet First Aid Awareness month. To help raise awareness for the importance of being prepared for an emergency, the Dunkirk Animal Clinic is selling first aid kits to benefit our Big Foot Fund which helps to provide care for stray and injured pets. We will also be donating oxygen masks to local fire departments to help care for pets involved in a fire. Stop in today to purchase a first aid kit and do your part to help injured pets and prevent emergencies in your own pet!
Dr. Rebekah Frost is a veterinarian at the Dunkirk Animal Clinic. Send comments on this column to firstname.lastname@example.org