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While we think of packing an emergency kit for ourselves, we often forget about our pets! In the event of a natural disaster, a home evacuation, a camping trip, or even a quick trip to the park, it is always best to be prepared. In this webinar, Dr. Emily Gaugh discusses how to pack an emergency kit for your pets and how to perform basic first aid care for our furry companions. Watch below to learn more about building first aid kits for your pets!
First aid kits should be individualized and customized to your pets. Ideally, you want one kit for every pet in your home. Include the following:
- Emergency info sheet with the contact info of your regular veterinarian, your local veterinary emergency hospital, and Pet Poison Helpline or ASPCA Pet Poison Control hotline phone number.
- Include your pet’s normal vitals (heart rate and respiratory rate) and weight.
- A medication listing any prescription or OTC medications your pet is taking. Also talk with your veterinarian about what OTC medications are safe to use and have on hand in the event of an emergency. Your vet can provide info on OTC antacid or antihistamine dosing for instance.
- Have recent photos of your pets in case they are lost.
A basic pet health assessment includes temperature, respiratory rate, and heart rate. Having a watch with a second hand or a phone with a timer, will be needed. It is important to know what your pet’s normal vitals are, in order to determine when they are abnormal.
To obtain an accurate temperature, you will need a rectal thermometer, gloves and lubrication. Only take a rectal temperature if you can do so safely. Even the best dogs and cats aren’t always cooperative. Alternatively, an armpit or axillary temperature can be taken. Add 1.5 – 2.0 degrees to the reading for accuracy. Normal temperature ranges from 100-103 F. However, if your pet is stressed or anxious, the temperature can be falsely elevated. If your pet has just woken up or needs to have a bowel movement, the temperature may be falsely low.
Respiratory rates (how many breaths are taken in 60 seconds) should be obtained when the pet is awake. During sleep, they can experience rapid or slow breathing, twitching, snorting, and other normal behaviors that will make it difficult to get an accurate respiratory rate. Make sure your pet is relaxed and not panting. To obtain a heart rate (how many times the heart beats in 60 seconds), place your hand on the chest behind the point of the elbow, or inside the thigh on the femoral artery.
In addition to the contact info, photos, and medications list, you will want to include a cone or ecollar that is already fitted to your pet. Place the cone on to prevent licking or chewing which will reduce inflammation and decrease the risk of infection. Ideally the hard plastic ones are best. Inflatable donuts to wear around the neck are an option as well, but they do not prevent the pet from reaching extremities. Include an old t-shirt to cover a wound or injury and a large towel. The towel can be used to provide pressure if bleeding, and can be rolled and wrapped around the neck to keep your pet from biting in the event that they are in pain. Consider packing a muzzle. Basket muzzles allow your pet to breath, pant, and drink while offering protection. Roll gauze can be fastened into a temporary makeshift muzzle if needed. Include a slip leash for handling and a carrier for small pets. Your first aid supplies can be stored in the carrier as well. Some miscellaneous items to include are canned pumpkin. This is a fiber source that can help alleviate diarrhea, Pack Karo syrup in the event of low blood sugar, tweezers for tick or thorn extractions, and a 3 days supply of food and water.
Basic First Aid Care
Reverse sneezing, although scary, is often not an emergency, but a reflex due to irritation in the back of the throat. This can be temporarily resolved by getting your pet to swallow. Offer food or water.
For superficial wounds, mild soap like Dawn dish soap, and water is all you need.Wash gently with clean cloth or rags. If a deeper wound or puncture is present, especially on the chest or abdomen, do not wash or flush as we do not know how deep these wounds go.
If there is an eye problem, you can flush with OTC eye rinse. If the problem is not remedied after flushing, the eye is red, held shut, or hazy, more extensive vet care is needed.
Some mild ear issues can be alleviated with ear cleansing. Use a canine specific ear cleaner. Ask your vet what product they recommend. If you see redness, debris, or your pet is painful, they will need more care than just cleansing alone.
Peroxide, although helpful for use in de-skunking baths, is a skin irritant. Do not apply to wounds. Also, peroxide is a gastric irritant and can cause vomiting when ingested. Never do this unless instructed by a veterinary professional as this could lead to esophageal burns, esophageal obstruction or gastric ulceration. Never use in cats!
Epsom salts can be used for mild inflammation especially for paws. You can soak a cloth in epsom salts and wrap around the affected area.
Ice packs and warm compresses can be used for pain control and to reduce inflammation. Always place a dry towel in between the skin and compress. Do not force your pet to accept heat or cold therapy as we could be causing more harm. Allow them to move away if they chose.
Rest is best for injury. Do not use OTC pain medication for your pets. They are unsafe and could be toxic. Also do not use aspirin. It is not effective at reducing pain and inflammation, it causes stomach ulceration, and prevents vets from using effective meds.
In the event of bleeding, use non-stick, non adherent telfa pads. Apply pressure with a towel on top of the pad. Do not bandage as there are often complications if not applied correctly, such as more pain, inflammation, and increases the chance of infection. Include nail trimmers and styptic powder, flour, or cornstarch in the event of a broken nail.
Itching can be alleviated by applying a cool compress and wiping feet with cool damp washcloth after being outside. Include in your kit itch spray and calming shampoo. Your vet may have recommendations on what products to use.
Heatstroke occurs commonly in spring and summer months. Dogs will become weak, may vomit or collapse. Keep pets in cool shaded areas. Check the temp if you are concerned. Do not delay care in this situation, have them seen right away! If this is not possible, place cool water on the body, but remove right away and repeat. Spray alcohol on paw pads as well to remove heat from body
If your pet ingests a toxin, try your best to estimate when it happened, how much was ingested, and what the ingredients were. Poison control or your vet will be better able to help you and your pet with the more info you can provide.
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