Paging Dr. Dolittle – Part I
If you’ve got pets in your home, say a cat or a dog, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve experienced a medical emergency at some point during their lives (nine lives, in the case of the cat). If you’re like me, you remain calm while your spouse immediately believes every incident requires a trip to the vet to fix whatever ails your little buddy. If one of our GSDs lifts a paw and limps, she immediately checks for any item that may have punctured their paw pad. And, if she finds none, off to the vet we go if they don’t stop limping in a few hours. Now, imagine the same scenario (or worse) but there’s no accessible vet as the SHTF. You’ve done all you can to prepare for the worst for your family, but did you consider your furry family members in that equation? Granted, a pet dog or pet cat may not seem like they merit concern when all else is failing around you, but your pet brings immeasurable comfort to your family members (you too, admit it) and, let’s face it, is part of your family. So, while you’re prepping for every imaginable scenario, be sure to fold in actions you can take to prepare for your pet’s safety and become your own Dr. Dolittle. One way to prepare is to read the following articles; this is part one of a four-part series in basic pet first aid.
A few disclaimers before we get started. The following advice in no way should be taken over a medical professional’s advice. I am not a medical professional, but I’ve had many years of medical training for humans (some of which is common sense and translates to domestic pets) and have been a lifelong pet owner (even more so now that we have five dogs – Woof! Woof!)
With that out of the way, the following articles are to help you and your family members act as your critter’s EMT when no other help is possible. Know that you won’t be able to save little Rufus from every medical malady and there are some instances where death is certain. But, for those instances when some basic intervention can make the difference between life and death, don’t you want to be prepared? If you take the time to read all the articles, you should walk away with the knowledge to reduce their pain in the event of injury, manage them going into shock, and steps to take to prevent permanent organ damage.
So, let’s get you started with some basics. First, let’s stock a general Pet First Aid Kit. While you may believe your human first aid kit is sufficient for all family members, that’s not necessarily the case.
Some suggested items to include in your Pet First Aid Kit:
► Hypoallergenic tape and sports tape
► Sterile eye wash
► Vaseline or other petroleum type jelly
► Triple antibacterial ointment
► 1% hydrocortisone cream
► Rubbing alcohol
► Witch hazel for ears
► Antihistamine spray and stick up pills like Benadryl (acts as a sedative when you need to calm your pooch – usual dose is 1mg per pound, most tabs come in 25mg dose i.e., 100lb dog gets four 25 mg tab)
► Aspirin (non-buffered type, dose is 5mg to 10mg per pound. Check the milligrams of the aspirin you buy to determine number of tabs to give) UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES DO NOT GIVE YOUR FURRY FRIEND TYLENOL OR ANY ACETAMINOPHEN.
► Pepto bismol dry tablets
► Imodium ID for intestinal distress
► “Hot spot” spray or foaming sanitizer
► Cotton swabs and squares
► Ace bandages or non-stick wrap style bandages
► Scissors with blunt tips for the bandages
► Pediolyte for electrolytes (to avoid dehydration)
► Muzzle for safety
► Thermometer for rectal temperature
► Needle and nylon thread (dental floss in an emergency)
► Honey packs for fast acting energy to the liver to avoid shock
► Big volume syringe
Of course, you may add or remove items depending on your pet’s circumstances. If they're on any type of prescription meds, plan for that as well. And, be sure to rotate any expiring stock in their kit as you do yours.
While we’re at it, you’ve probably got your own bug out bag, but did you do one for your loyal buddy? Nope? Well, we’ll get to that in another article.
Emergency Shock Kit
Yes, your dog or cat can go into shock just as humans. And, any extreme condition, such as injury, stress, or toxic ingested matter can result in shock and once the body goes in shock, it’s often fatal.
Items to include in your Pet Shock Kit include:
► Mylar sheet for warmth
► New Skin
► Honey – gets glucose to the liver to continue proper functioning
► Glucose Pills
► Vaseline for eyes/gums/nose if they go dry
► Paracord (550 cord) for a make-shift muzzle
► Baking soda
It can be a terrifying experience to watch someone go through a seizure, and knowing what to do in those instances can help the person (or pet) manage the episode. So, take the time to learn how to quiet and comfort your pet during and after a seizure to avoid feeling like a helpless buffoon.
Often, seizures happen suddenly, or if you’re paying attention, you may notice signs like shaking and unsteadiness. Admittedly, there’s not much you can do during the seizure, other than hold your pet and gently restrain them until it passes. Keep away any sharp or hard edges and objects, and talk soothingly to them (admit it, you talk baby-talk to them most days anyway). Wrap them in a towel (or any suitable textile) to quiet them and prevent flailing. Riding out the episode is about all you can do. If it’s a particularly bad seizure, put a towel edge or Popsicle stick across their tongue to keep them from choking or biting down on their tongue. And, if your pooch or kitty is on the senior side, find a quiet, calm environment to avoid future episodes.
First Signs of Shock and How to Prevent It
As mentioned above, there are many things that can throw your pet into shock. And, to prevent that from happening you need to be in tune with your fluffy friend to recognize that something is amiss (they can’t talk, so you need to interpret what they ‘say’ through other means). So, if your pet has experienced any trauma, been injured, ingested something toxic, was stung or bit by a nasty critter (scorpion, snake, wasp, etc.) set yourself into hyper vigilant mode and look for:
► “Black” eyes as their pupils have enlarged
► White gums or light colored
► They feel cold (check their paw pads, ear tips, nose)
► Drooling and dazed appearance
To do a cursory blood pressure check, inspect their ears. An ear with healthy blood flow is pink on the inside and about matches a Caucasian person’s fingertip. If its ear is dull, that signifies low blood pressure, or an unhealthy blood flow. Check their gums too, which should be pink. If not, you may find freckled, light gums, which is also an indicator of low blood pressure.
As they say, the eyes are the windows to the soul and if they have dilated eyes and are in a fixed stare and their eyelids are pale, they most likely are experiencing low blood pressure. In the next article, Paging Dr. Dolittle Part II, we’ll discuss how to take their pulse and other measures to help your pup if they're going into shock.
Stay alert, stay alive!