Have you ever suspected your pet may be suffering from an injury and you weren't sure what to do? Bleeding skin, broken bone, eye injury, convulsion, obstruction, choking and not sure what to do. Here's a few tips on how you can make your pet more comfortable whilst you are on the way to the vet.
Bleeding skin and broken bones
- Choking or airway obstruction
- Convulsions (seizures or fitting)
- Eye injury or problems
- Penetrating objects
- Puncture and fight wounds
- Temperature changes (too hot or cold)
- Wounds and grazes
Control the bleeding by applying pressure to the wound with your hands for 3 minutes or with a bandage.
Check the chest area. If the injury is near the chest it may indicate broken ribs, these can be very painful and may penetrate into the lungs. Apply a dressing if necessary.
Is there an obvious fracture? If you find a bone poking through, do not delay your visit to the vet. If a bone is below the elbow or knees it is a good idea to temporarily splint or dress it. Use rolled up newspapers or cardboard as a splint (be careful not to get bitten). If there is an open wound, and you can't get to the vet immediately, apply a bandage to the wound area.
Motor vehicle accident. Many small animals fracture their pelvis when they are in a motor vehicle accident - this can be extremely painful so take care when moving them. Try to use a sling to move the animal. Learn more about road accidents involving pets.
Burn damage to the surface and/or deeper layers of the skin will occur immediately regardless of the source of burn. Visible signs can be seen immediately or it can take up to 12-24 hours after the accident depending on the cause or type of burn. Burns can be caused by a dry heat, such as flame, corrosive chemicals, radiation, electricity or cold. A scald is caused by a moist heat, such as hot oil, wax or water.
First aid for a burn
- Cool the area immediately with cool running water or a cool compress
- Immerse in or flush with water or apply a cool pack to the effected area for a minimum of 5 minutes
- Apply a moist, cool compress to the effected area
- Keep your pet warm by wrapping in a blanket
- Transport your pet to a vet
Choking or airway obstruction
This is an EMERGENCY. Transport your pet to a vet immediately. On the way check that the tongue is not causing the obstruction and if you can see an object which is causing the obstruction, try and remove it gently if possible. You can also attempt the Heimlich manoeuvre but follow these instructions with great caution and care.
Heimlich Manoeuvre – used for when your pet is choking
- Raise your pet onto their hind legs; the hind feet can rest on the floor or you can lift the pet off the ground depending on their body weight
- Place your pet's backline against your front (for larger dogs you may have to lower your body position); your pet’s spine should be supported against your front at all times
- Place your arms around your pet just under the ribs, where the ribs finish and the abdomen starts
- Squeeze your pet firmly up and forward
- Repeat 4 times
- Hold your pet upside down by their back legs, suspend in the air
- Firmly deliver a blow using your hand to the abdomen of the pet, in the area of where the ribs finish and the abdomen starts
- Repeat 4 times
First aid for convulsions
- Clear any danger away from your pet, make the room quiet and dark, wait until the convulsion has stopped before touching or moving your pet
- If unconscious, check your pet is breathing and there is no airway obstruction
- Do not place your fingers into your pet’s mouth or try to restrain your pet while convulsing
- Do not attempt to give food or water while your pet is convulsing
- Reassure your pet when he/she comes out of the convulsion
- After the convulsion has stopped, see a vet promptly
Eye injuries or problems should be considered emergencies. They can be extremely painful and if they are left untreated can quickly result in blindness. The most common causes of eye problems are trauma, corneal ulceration, eye prolapse and foreign bodies (such as grass seeds).
Any redness, swelling, increased tear production, squinting, closing of the eye/s, cloudiness or blueness of the eye ball, discharge, change in the size of the eye ball, uneven pupil size, a membrane (third eye lid) has come across the eye, pawing or rubbing the eye are all signs of an eye problem.
Eye injuries or problems should be seen by a vet immediately at the time they are noticed. Changes to the eye and its associated structures can occur quickly after an accident, even over a few hours.
DO NOT put any medications in your pet's eye unless advised by your vet.
First aid care for penetrating objects
- Do not attempt to remove the item
- If possible and without causing any damage to your pet, reduce the size of the protruding part of the foreign body to 3-4 centimeters above the skin level
- If it is a penetrating wound to the chest, do not attempt to move the object, restrict your pet’s movement and if at all possible wrap the chest, covering the wound with a plastic wrap such as glad wrap, without putting any pressure on the impaled object.
- Control bleeding, but without applying pressure to the penetrating object
- Keep your pet warm
- See a vet immediately
First aid for puncture or fight wounds if you know your pet has been in a fight
- See a vet promptly, a course of antibiotics will stop a deep infection from developing, but this must be done within 6-12 hours from when the fight happened
In the case of your pet sustaining severe attack wounds
- Control bleeding
- Keep your pet warm by wrapping them in a blanket
- Avoid being bitten or scratched as most pets are in shock and in pain
- See a vet immediately
Resuscitation may consist of artificial respiration and/or cardiac massage.
- If your pet does not have a heart beat you should undertake cardiac massage.
- If your pet is not breathing but has a heart beat then perform artificial respiration.
- CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation) is required if the animal is not breathing and does not have a heart beat. This involves a combination of massaging the heart and breathing for the animal (artificial respiration).
If a pet stops breathing for 3-5 minutes there is a very poor chance of survival as brain damage is likely to have occurred.
- Lay your pet on their right hand side
- Check firstly for any obstructions in the mouth or throat
- Gently pull the tongue out of the mouth as far as it will comfortably go
- Gently hold the pet’s mouth closed without hurting the tongue
- Cup your hands around the nose
- For small pets, cover the pet's mouth and nose with your mouth and gently blow into the nostrils and mouth until the chest rises
- For larger pets, cover the pet's nose with your mouth while holding their mouth closed to reduce air escaping and gently blow into the nostrils until the chest rises
- Adjust the strength and volume of your blowing for the size of the pet - enough to see the chest rise
- Blow every 3-5 seconds for the first minute, check the pet after a minute to see if breathing has restarted and if there is a heart beat
- Continue a breath every 6 seconds, regularly check the pet for breathing and a heart beat
- Transport to a vet immediately, if you have a driver continue artificial respiration while in transit
Warming your pet
- Wrap your pet in a thick blanket, jumper or layer of bubble wrap to stop the loss of body heat
- Place a heat pack close to your pet’s body, check the temperature of the heat pack and your pet regularly to avoid your pet getting over heated
- Warm the pet slowly
- Wet pets loose body heat rapidly, so dry your pet as quickly as possible
Cooling your pet
- Soak a towel in cool water, drizzle the water over your pet, concentrating on the head, stomach, under the neck, inner thighs and the pads of the feet
- Wrap your pet in a cool, wet towel
- For larger pets, gentle hosing or bathing with cool water is recommended followed by damp towels applied to the head and stomach
- Cool your pet slowly
- DO NOT apply ice packs to the pet
- Once your pet’s temperature comes down to 39 degrees celsius, stop cooling the pet and wrap in a dry towel or blanket
Wounds and grazes
Any break in the skin, such as an abrasion, cut, puncture or penetrating wound is susceptible to bacteria which can cause an infection. Damage to muscles, tendons and other vital structures of the body can also occur with deep wounds.
Most wounds require a thorough flushing using sterile saline, removal of contaminating matter and devitalized (dead) tissue, surgical repair of the wound, specialised wound dressings depending on the type of wound and medication. This must be performed by a veterinarian.
Graze type wound
A graze affects the surface layer of the skin and doesn’t usually go through the full thickness of the skin. Depending on the cause it can be a large or small wound, it can be either fairly clean or contaminated with road gravel, dirt, fur and grass.
First Aid for grazes
- Flush wound gently with saline/ clean tepid water
- Apply a sterile/ clean dressing
- See a vet promptly