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First aid for ailing pets; do you know what to do if your dog overheats or your cat takes a nip of a live electric cord?


Pet medical emergencies occur at the least opportune times: at night, on weekends, or while the regular vet is at a convention in Hawaii. On such occasions, or when an injury is severe enough that immediate care is vital, it pays to be prepared with some knowledge of first aid.

The first rule is to avoid injuring yourself while aiding your pet. Distressed animals should be approached with caution, for they can be dangerous. Wrap the pet in a tower or a blanket to keep it immobile. If an injured dog attempts to bite, wrap gauze or a long strip of fabric around its muzzle and tie the ends behind its ears.


If the pet is bleeding profusely, apply direct pressure with your hand or with a bandage over the bleeding area. Place a clean cloth or a gauze pad over the wound and fasten it snugly with fabric strips or tape. If the animal shows signs of shock--cold paws and ears, pale gums, and rapid, shallow breathing--keep it warm while transporting it to the veterinarian. A temporary stretcher made with a blanket, a jacket, or a board will suffice to move an animal from an accident site.


Should you find an animal unconscious, determine first whether it is breathing and has a heartbeat. Look, listen, and feel for its breath. If there is no sign of life, form a channel to blow air through its nostrils by turning the animal on its right side, extending its head, and using your hands to seal its jaws. After four breaths, feel for a pulse by pressing the inside of the pet's upper hind leg at about mid-leg. If the animal's heart is not breating, start CPR immediately. Initiate heart compressions by placing the heel of your hand over the lower left chest at the sixth rib. Make the compressions firmly at a rate of 80 per minute, and breathe into the dog's nostrils every five seconds. When the heart begins beating, stop the chest compressions and continue artificial breathing at 20 to 40 breaths per minute until the animal is breathing on its own.


For burns, apply cold water or ice compresses to the wound for 20 minutes. Cover the burned area with a damp cloth or a bandage while transporting the animal to the vet. For chemical burns to the eyes that cause severe pain, blinking, and avoidance of light, try to determine the offending chemical. Wash the animal's eyes thoroughly with clean water, and remove any sticky paste or powder from its inner lids with a cotton-tipped applicator.


When animals chew on electrical cords, the result can be a shocking experience. Labored breathing, localized burns, (especially of the lips and toungue), muscular contractions, and loss of consciousness are all signs of electric shock. Keep the animal quiet, and provide ventilation while transporting it to a hospital.


Dogs and cats may occasionally suffer seizures that result from a variety of conditions, including epilepsy, poisoning, and hypoglycemia. Most seizures are short-lived, and the animal recovers quickly. A seizures victim will usually lose consciousness and will have one or more of the following reactions: involuntary muscle contractions, twisting of the neck, stiffening and relaxation of the legs, salivation, dilated pupils, and excretion of urine or feces. Remova hazardous objects from the area, and do your best to keep the animal quiet. Consecutive seizures constitute an emergency, and the animal should be taken to a hospital as soon as possible. If, however, the pet appears to recover from its attack, you may safely wait until regular office hours before seeing the vet. Seizures may not recur for months or years. Record the date, the time, and the circumstances that brought on a seizure; note its duration and the animal's behavior. A good history is essential for diagnosis.


Unless your pet happens to be a python, be prepared for the possibility of snakebites. The most common poisonous snakes in the United States are cottonmouths or water moccasins, copperheads, rattlesnakes, and coral snakes. If your pet is bitten by one of these, keep the animal quiet and seek treatment as soon as possible. For nonpoisonous snakesbites, clip the hair surrounding the bite, clean the area with soap and water, and apply a sterile, dry dressing. Because the mouths of snakes contain bacteria, your veterinarian will probably administer antibiotics and tetanus antitoxin.


On a hot, humid day, animals can suffer heatstroke from confinement in a car or some other small space. Old or obese dogs and such brachycephalic breeds as the pug are especially susceptible. An animal suffering heatstroke may evidence reddened mucous membranes, rapid heartbeat, and excessive panting. Taken by rectal thermometer, the normal temperature of a dog or a cat is 101[deg.] to 102[deg.] F. If an animal's temperature reads 105[deg.] to 110[deg.], you should immediately begin to lower the body temperature. Immerse the pet in cold water. Provide ventilation and prevent physical activity. Closely monitor the animal's temperature. Overzealous treatment could cause hypothermia.

If you are unable to contact your regular veterinarian during an emergency, look in your phone book for the nearest emergency veterinary hospital. Many cities now have them. Staffs at these hospitals are prepared to take cases nights, weekends, and holidays.

Questions for the Vet Dear Readers:

I have had many letters concerning dogs that chase cars. Dogs have a natural instinct t chase prey or other moving objects. The excitement and noise of the chase become a "reward" for the dog, and elimination of this behavior is difficult. Most dogs continue to chase cars even after being hit or injured by them.

Negative reinforcements, such as dousing a chasing dog with cold water or jerking back on a long leash and yelling "No," work in about 40 percent of chasing cases. H.E.W. Dear Dr. White:

I'm responding to the letter about Duke, who hates Volkswagens (May/June '86). I have a ten-year-old cocker-collie female who responds identically to UPS trucks and nothing else--not garbage trucks, school buses, U.S. postal trucks, moving trucks. She, too, was hit by a UPS truck as a puppy and, though unhurt, cannot forget it.

We have moved across the country, and she is now slow moving with some arthritis, cataracts, and some hearing loss--but a UPS truck two blocks away has her chasing to the edge of the yeard and barking for all she is worth. Anna Sime Libertyville, Illinois Dear Anna:

I am learning that dogs have long memories in terms of "getting even." H.E.W. Dear Dr. White:

In response to "Duke hates Volkswagens" (May/June '86), I also have a male, a beagle-Lab mix, who hates VWs. Ever since he was six months old he has chased them, but he won't chase other makes of cars. VWs do seem to have a distinctive "ring" to them, if you listen closely. When he recognizes the sound, there's no holding him back. The one saving grace seems to be that there are fewer and fewer Beetles around each year! Hilary Cherry Wayne, Pennsylvania Dear Dr. White:

I know how Mrs. Stewart must feel about her boxer chasing Volkswagens. We have an almost perfectly marked black-and-white (border) collie that is smart about most things until it comes to VWs.

Eight years ago, when she was a puppy, we had a paper-delivery man who had a VW with a worn-out muffler. I don't know if it hurt her ears, but to this day she chases them.

I thought we were the only ones who have a dog that hates VWs. We sure hope she doesn't get hit by one. Rollin and Thelma Vass Beaver Dam, Wisconsin
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Author:White, H. Ellen
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Sep 1, 1986
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