Paging Dr Dolittle – Part II
In part one of this four-part series of articles, I discussed what you could do to prepare medically for any emergency needs for your furry loved ones. We left off talking about how to determine if your pet is suffering from low blood pressure and possibly entering shock. Here, we pick up with checking his pulse and other topics related to your role as Dr. Dolittle when no vet is available.
Checking His Pulse
There are a few areas on their body where you may be able to feel the pulse, which occurs with every heartbeat. Sometimes, it’s as simple as placing your hands low on their chest, near the elbow joint, and you should feel the heartbeats. Once you’ve got it, count the beats you feel in 15 seconds and then multiply that number by four. That’ll give you their pulse.
A second place to find their pulse is high on the inner side of their thigh where you’ll feel around until you get their femoral artery. Put two fingers on the middle of the thigh near where the leg joins the body and you should feel the 'femoral pulse.' For felines, it’s not so easy, as the femoral pulse can be very difficult to feel in cats.
Know that it’s always best to use your fingers to feel the pulse. And, if you use your thumb and press too hard, what you’ll feel will actually be your own pulse, DOH!
Now that you’ve got their pulse, you’re now asking what’s a normal pulse? A dog’s normal pulse range spans from 70 to 180 beats per minute. Keep in mind the larger the dog, the slower the pulse rate. Puppies generally have a fast pulse, up to 220 beats per minute. And, cats usually have a pulse of 120-240 beats per minute.
It’s good to keep in mind that their pulse is not always steady. Sometimes, the rate changes as they breathe in and out. Their pulse will be faster on inspiration and slower on expiration. That’s all totally normal and is called sinus arrhythmia.
So, now that you’ve determined they're going into shock based on their blood pressure and low pulse rate, wrap them in a towel or blanket to comfort and warm them. Give them a dose of Pediolyte or Gatorade to restore electrolytes and restore brain/systems chemistry with the necessary mineral. They will need a quick source of calories; honey packets and a glucose pill mixed together will do the trick. Their liver needs glucose immediately. Good thing glucose pills are cheap and can be found at your pharmacy next to the diabetic supplies.
To administer the honey (with a little water added) and crushed up glucose pill, use a straw to suck it up from the cup you mixed it in and insert the loaded straw into their mouth. They are certainly not going to feel like lapping it up and in this way, you’ll prevent spilling the mixture that’s intended for their mouth.
Insect Stings and How To Prevent Shock
I don’t think there’s anyone who enjoys getting stung by an insect. Despite their miniscule size, they sure do inflict a mountain of pain. And, for small dogs, bees and hornet stings can be fatal. Our pups love to traipse through the yard in hot pursuit of insects that dared enter their territory! And, we do try our best to curtail the chase, as insects affect the nervous system in one of two ways. It can be acidic, like bees, so baking soda or something neutral will work on the actual sting. Hornets and wasps are alkaline, and you need to go to the other end of the scale and use lemon juice or vinegar to counteract the toxin.
If your little nugget gets stung, treat them as above for shock, it’s as important as removing stinger, which continues to pump venom even after it’s broken off.
Clearing Blocked Airways (This is Not CPR)
One skill you should most certainly have in your repertoire is how to clear blocked airways and perform "Life Breathing" for your furry one. On that terrifying occasion you find them unconscious, you need to get them breathing again. First, check their throat for any blockages by pulling their tongue out and use your finger to gently reach down their throat. When you’ve confirmed that the airway is clear, you’ll now need to perform “Life or Rescue Breathing”. That entails breathing air through the animals nose by sealing off the mouth. Watch for their chest to rise, but be gentle, as you don’t want to blow up their lungs. Repeat the steps four to six times to hopefully get them breathing on their own. If they don’t respond, try every four to five seconds.
There are a few phases of choking to consider, so take a moment to determine in what phase your puppy is:
Acute phase: If your dog is wheezing, scratching at the throat, hunching over, and seemingly trying to vomit, they could have an object lodged in their throat.
Middle phase: They're panicking, so watch out, as they could bite from fear. You’ll find them wide-eyed and loosing air and their ability to think.
Severe phase: Their gums and lips are turning bluish, and their eye rims and ear tips are getting lighter from failing oxygen in their blood supply. The tongue begins to lose color. Check their throat and mouth for any foreign objects or signs of a blockage. You’ll need to be extremely careful, especially with your fingernails against soft tissue, probing the mouth gently. You don’t want to push anything further down if at all possible (or worse, into their lungs).
BE AWARE - there are 2 openings; one goes to the throat and down into the stomach, and one into the lungs. On smaller dogs, use your pinky. Go in at an angle, kind of like a Q-tip or when removing a splinter, as you want to prod it up, not force it down if you find anything.
For small breeds, hold them up and hopefully, the object will dislodge. A few taps may help.
For larger breeds, hold them as you would a person and squeeze to help do the Heimlich maneuver. A few sharp jabs, like you would slap a person on their back may help too.
Your Pup Has Ingested Foods or Chemicals Toxins:
As dogs love digging in stinky things, like compost, garbage heaps, and other unmentionables, they can contract toxic materials pretty easily. I’ll never forget the time my Goldie decided to munch on the carcass of a Remora fish (the long kind that stick on to sharks and whales). It had been festering in the sun for several days/weeks and he decided it was a fine time for a snack. As he happily trotted his way toward me with the stanking remnants in his mouth, I knew I had to pull it away from him. Good thing I did, as I managed to pull out a full 1.5 feet of rotting fish.
Perhaps you won’t be as lucky to experience a rotting Remora fish, but if you do suspect your pooch (or kitty) has ingested something they shouldn’t, look for the following signs:
► Tummy churning
► Shaking and trembling
While some pets will refuse what we humans consider a treat, you may question the many things they'll want to eat, which at times can be very bad for them and affect them the same as chemical poisoning.
The following foods that can give dogs a toxic reaction:
► Macadamia nuts
► Real chocolate, the more pure the worse it is- bittersweet is a lot worse than say M&M’s
► Too much salt
► Tea and coffee
► Any artificially sweetener that contains Xylitol
► Guacamole (it’s the avocado)
► Dairy based products like ice cream, sour cream, etc.
And, chemicals that are deadly to dogs and cats include antifreeze (it’s sweet and a few drops are deadly) cleaning products, household poisons for pests, mold & mildew and their cleaning agents.
It’s a good idea to prevent accidental toxin ingestions to begin with, so here’s a list of deadly chemicals to keep well away from their curious minds:
► Tylenol and Ibuprofen
► Household cleaners
► Detergents and fabric softeners
► Ointments and creams
► Pain medications
► Carpet deodorizers
► Specific Plants (Sago Palms are particularly lethal, check the internet for other species)
► Stagnant toilet water or ponds
While using activated charcoal can help pull the toxins from their kidneys and flush it out, it can only do so much. One of the only things you can do if your pet has ingested something toxic is induce vomiting. A mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water can do the trick. Factor one teaspoon per 10 lbs. of their body weight in a 50/50 blend with water. Be prepared, it works pretty quickly and needs to be syringed into your dog’s mouth.
In part three of this four part series we’ll discuss how to perform CPR on your pet and more.
Stay alert, stay alive!