Many families know the value of emergency preparedness and often take the precautionary steps to keep loved ones safe by establishing an emergency plan. Pets also depend on us in emergency situations, yet few pet owners know how to respond when an emergency arises.
Learning more about pet first aid during a crisis is a great place to start, and you’ll have peace of mind knowing how to respond in case a situation does occur.
Pet Emergency Basics
From natural disasters to physical injuries, accidents, and sudden illnesses, emergencies come in many different forms. For our small, furry family members, our intuition comes into play when trying to decipher the signs of a possible emergency (after all, pets can’t tell us when they’re in pain).
Situations that warrant the need for immediate medical attention include car accidents, animal bites or attacks, and fractures. Signs of severe illness, such as persistent vomiting, restlessness, loss of coordination, or other health/behavioral changes may also constitute an emergency.
For a longer list of pet emergency signs and symptoms, please refer to How to Recognize a Pet Emergency.
Pet First Aid
Pet first aid means being able to respond quickly and having easy access to all of the items you might need during an emergency situation. The first of these items would be your pet’s medical records and list of current prescriptions, along with your veterinarian’s contact information and after hours emergency number.
In addition, you’ll want to create or purchase a pet emergency first aid kit, with helpful items like:
- Adhesive tape and nonstick bandages
- Activated charcoal or Milk of Magnesia (used for absorbing poisons, but not to be used until instructed by Poison Control or your veterinarian)
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Syringe or eyedropper
- Tweezers and bandage scissors
- Extra leash and collar
- Blanket (for instances of possible shock)
- Pet stretcher (or a large towel)
Keeping a few basic first aid kits with items like antiseptic wipes and small Band-Aids can also be helpful for less serious cuts or scrapes.
Emergency Preparedness for our Furry Friends
Being trained to provide pet first aid is a great idea for any owner (classes are offered by the American Red Cross and several other organizations). Just remember, the purpose of first aid is to stabilize a pet while in transit to an emergency clinic or hospital. It’s not a replacement for medical care.
Because there’s no one-size-fits all approach when responding to an emergency, a good visual reference is the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Pet First Aid brochure or the Pet First Aid App offered by the American Red Cross.
It’s important to use quick judgment when handling an emergency that requires you to move your pet. Situations like a dog fight or heavy traffic (in the case of a pet who is struck by a car) may call for immediate intervention. Use caution and do not put yourself in harm’s way. Whenever possible, have a friend, family member, or anyone nearby assist with making calls while you stabilize your pet.
Thinking about a pet emergency is never pleasant, but being prepared can have a tremendous impact should a situation ever arise. If you have any questions about pet first aid or require pet emergency care, please know that we are here for you 24 hours a day, every day.