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Animal Attraction: April is National Pet First Aid Awareness Month

by Stacy Fox

Posted on April 3, 2013 at 5:20 AM

Knowing how to handle a pet health crisis is important year-round, but this April, in recognition of National Pet First Aid Awareness Month, No. 1-rated Petplan pet insurance wants pet parents to know that learning pet first aid can literally be lifesaving. According to the American Animal Hospital Association, one out of four pets would survive if just one pet first aid technique was applied prior to getting emergency veterinary care.

Furthermore, AAHA data reveals that 60% of all vet visits are emergencies, and statistics show that preventable accidents are the leading cause of death among pre-senior dogs and cats. So the time to get the family focused on pet first aid has never been more urgent.

“One of the best ways to begin educating yourself and your family about how to handle a pet health emergency is to take a pet first aid class,” says Dr. Jules Benson, VP of Veterinary Services at Petplan. “Courses are offered through the American Red Cross and many local animal shelters, but you can also find information and instructional videos online to help you learn the basics. Knowing a few simple techniques, as well as which common human medications or foods are toxic, can be a huge help when every second counts.”

According to Dr. Benson, some of the most common emergencies veterinarians see with dogs include lacerations, poisoning and fractures, while cats are more likely to suffer bite wounds or be hit by a car. In any emergency, administering basic first aid at home can help a pet’s prognosis before they can get to the veterinarian.

In addition to signing up for a pet first aid class, there are a few simple things pet parents can do at home to ensure they are prepared in an emergency.

The Whole Kit and Kaboodle
Every household with pets should also have a pet first aid kit that includes basic medical supplies like gauze, hydrogen peroxide, a medicine dropper and bandages. Besides supplies, stock your kit with essentials like your pet’s vaccination records and medical history, pet insurance information and a recent photo. It’s a good idea to keep your kit somewhere easy to grab it and go – or keep a spare in the car for when emergencies happen away from home. For a full list of what to include, check out Petplan’s “Pet 911” post on the Vets for Pets blog. 

Vital Importance
Learn to check your pet’s vital signs, including heart rate, breathing rate and body temperature. Take his vitals once a week or so, and jot down his normal numbers in a journal in your pet first aid kit. It could come in handy as a baseline in case of emergency.

Spot the Signs
For some of the most common pet health conundrums, learn how to spot warning signs and how best to take action:

Poisoning: If your pet is lethargic or experiencing vomiting or diarrhea, she may have eaten something toxic. Try to identify what your pet ate, and how much – are there candy or gum wrappers nearby, chewed leaves, a spilled bottle? – and call your vet. Keep your first aid kit nearby in case you’re directed to give your pet something to counteract the toxin. Do not induce vomiting unless directed – some chemicals can cause more harm if they’re brought back up. Get your pet to an emergency vet as soon as possible.

Seizures: Seizing pets might twitch and shake, foam at the mouth and/or vomit. Try to remain calm and clear away anything that could injure them, such as furniture. Do not try to hold your pet still, as they could inadvertently kick or scratch you. Try to track how long the seizure lasts, and keep your pet quiet once it’s ended. Call your vet as soon as your pet is calm.

Bleeding: If you spot an open wound, don’t worry about examining it – focus on using clean, dry cloths to apply direct pressure to stop the bleeding. Do not wrap it tightly, but loosely tape a bandage over it as you transport your pet to the vet. If the bleeding is from a severe injury, such as a fracture, support the injury gently and get your pet to the veterinarian.

“Remember, practice makes perfect,” says Benson. “Take a cue from school fire drills and stage pet-drills in your home. Rehearsing with the whole family can help ensure everyone knows where the emergency kit is kept, and help them remember what steps to take when a pet is in distress.”

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