The month of April is National Pet First Aid Awareness Month, sponsored by the American Red Cross. It was created to teach pet parents the lifesaving skills they need in the event of an emergency with their dog or cat.
Learning first aid is important for all pet parents, but for those of us with disabled pets knowing skills like how to perform pet CPR or how to safely move an injured pet are crucial. If you live with a special needs dog or cat there is a strong possibility you could have to put some of these first aid techniques to use.
The Red Cross understands that our fur kids are part of the family so they’ve developed two ways for pet owners to learn first aid skills. One way is through their free Pet First Aid App that gives you step-by-step instructions for specific emergencies. And the second method is through their Pet First Aid course. This hands-on class includes instructions on how to administer pet CPR and how to safely handle common emergency situations.
Do you think you have the first aid skills to save your dog or cat in an emergency? Test your knowledge with the Pet First Aid Quiz. See how well you’d handle some typical health dangers that can happen to any animal.
The Pet First Aid Quiz:
1. Can you name the 6 most common emergencies that effect dogs and cats?
Answer: Heat stroke, choking, being hit by a car, seizures, falls and poisoning.
2. Which of the 6 common emergencies in question #1 require the attention of a veterinarian?
Answer: All of them.
3. What are the signs of heat stroke in a dog or cat?
Answer: Collapse, body temperature of 104 degrees F or above, bloody diarrhea or vomiting, wobbliness, excessive panting or difficulty breathing, increase heart rate, brick red gums and increased salivation. Pets may not exhibit all of these symptoms.
4. What first aid technique should you apply if you come across an animal with heat stroke?
Answer: Cool down the animal by placing them in the shade and run cool water from a garden hose over them. Offer water to drink.
5. If your dog is having a seizure what can you do to protect them from hurting themselves or you?
Answer: Make sure the pet is in a safe place, but do not restrain the animal. Keep your hands away from their mouth because the dog or cat may try to bite during the seizure or when they first awake.
6. If you think your pet has eaten something poisonous when should you seek veterinary attention?
Answer: Immediately! You can also call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center which runs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Their number is: 888-426-4435.
7. Can you name the 4 common signs of poisoning?
Answer: Dilated pupils, drooling or foaming at the mouth, bleeding externally or internally and seizure.
8. How can you determine if your pet is dehydrated?
Answer: Pinch the skin between the shoulder blades. If the skin stays in a tented position this is a sign of dehydration.
9. What steps should you take to stop a bleeding wound?
Answer: Apply direct pressure to the wound by using gauze or a towel. If the bleeding doesn’t stop take the pet to a veterinary hospital.
10. How would you move your dog or cat if they are injured in a fall or hit by a car?
Answer: Examine your pet, but do not hug them or get them too close to your face. Even the most mild mannered dog or cat can bite when they’re in pain. Try to stabilize the injury with a splint, bandage or even a towel before gently lifting the pet. If you are transporting them, keep the dog or cat in a confined area to reduce the risk of further injury.
Bonus Question: What steps do you take if your dog is choking?
Answer: Almost any small object can get lodged in a dog’s throat so check the back of the throat for any foreign objects. Dogs may panic or paw at their mouth so be careful to protect yourself by gently restraining the dog, but do not muzzle them. Use both hands to open the mouth, look inside and remove the obstruction with your fingers. If this doesn’t work the Heimlich maneuver might have to be performed.
Here are two helpful videos for emergency situations
The Heimlich maneuver for dogs that are choking
CPR instructions for an animal that’s unconscious
Have a Pet First Aid Kit On Hand
Another great way to protect your dog or cat is by having a pet first aid kit on hand. You can keep one at home and another in your car.
Here’s a list of the basic items that every pet first aid kit should include. Pet parents of specially-abled dogs and cats should also include a copy of the medications your pet takes.
Pet First Aid Kit:
- Muzzle or strip of fabric to prevent biting in case the pet is in severe pain. Only apply the muzzle if the injury is not around the pet’s throat or neck and the animal is not vomiting or having trouble breathing.
- Pediatric digital rectal thermometer plus water-based lubricant
- Oral syringe
- Saline eye wash
- Rubber gloves
- Mild soap
- Stretchable gauze wrap a limb or wound / ace bandage
- E- Collar
- Hydrogen Peroxide and cotton balls
- Blunt scissors
- First aid adhesive tape
- Hand sanitizer
Or you can buy a ready-made First Aid Kit like the ones listed below
Two additional videos for emergencies
How to move an injured dog
How to make an emergency sling
I hope you’ve found this information helpful. No one wants to encounter an emergency with their fur kid, but it’s better to be prepared than risk the chance of losing a treasured member of the family.