It’s a really good idea to have a Pet First Aid kit. Having a plan and a set of necessary items will help you to remain calm and have quick access to whatever you need in the event of an emergency.
But what about a problem you face in an unexpected place, and your first aid kit is out of reach? Like the legendary MacGuyver, you may have to improvise and adapt to a situation with whatever you have on hand. Here are some pet first aid tips for when all you have is what’s around you.
1. Your Cell Phone is Your Greatest Advantage
Download the pet first aid app from the American Red Cross (click here). Most people now have smart phones, so downloading one of the apps built to give you access to pet health information, such as the American Red Cross Pet First Aid app, is a no-brainer. Having access to first aid information is a huge advantage. The app can also help you find AAHA-accredited veterinarians near you. An emergency might happen when you’re too far from your regular veterinary office, so it’s important to know how to get to an emergency clinic. If you have an older cell phone without internet capabilities, you can still store the phone numbers of your regular veterinarian as well as a nearby veterinarian for places you go on vacation or parks you visit that are farther away from your vet. The phone number for Winslow Animal Hospital is 856-875-1323.
During a serious emergency, you can talk to a veterinarian on speakerphone while following instructions for CPR or other emergency aid. And when you are headed to the animal hospital, ALWAYS call ahead, if possible, to give them time to prepare an exam room. In an emergency, seconds count.
2. Practice Restraint
It is important to be able to prevent more damage from being done during an emergency. Even a sweet, kind, docile dog may bite when it is injured and disoriented. The goal is to have a pet that is restrained enough that they cannot bite or injure you while you care for them. Using a nylon leash or similar materials, form a muzzle to prevent biting, but don’t make it unnecessarily tight.
Form a noose and tie around the bridge of your pet’s nose. Then, tie under the chin, then tie behind the head on the back of the neck and finally thread the end back to the first noose on the bridge of the nose. Loop back to the top of the head and tie in a bow (never a knot).
3. Credit Card
The edge of a credit card or driver’s licence can be used to remove a bee or wasp stinger. Using your fingernails to try to pull out a stinger may be more likely to puncture the poison sac of the insect. If the area swells significantly or your pet has trouble breathing, take them to a vet immediately. Only give your dog an antihistamine if the only ingredient is diphenhydramine.
4. Baseball Cap Water Bowl
If your pet is outside and getting exercise, they could also be getting dehydrated. It’s important to keep your pet cool and hydrated, since heat stroke is very dangerous. If you’re looking for a water bowl in a pinch, a baseball cap may do the trick! Keep in mind that dogs and cats are not able to cool themselves as efficiently as people. Being aware of your pets’ needs can go a long way in keeping them safe.
5. Defend from Cold
Just like the heat, cold conditions can be hazardous for your pet. To defend against cold, ice, snow, and ice-melting chemicals or salts, many pet owners choose to buy shoes for their dogs. In the spirit of Mutt-Guyver, you can rub petroleum jelly on the pads of your dog’s paws to provide some protection, or use a sock or similar material tied with a shoelace or string as a shoe.
If your pet gets cold, hug them warm, rather than rubbing them. Wrap small pets in a coat or larger pets in a mylar blanket. As with any emergency, if you suspect your pet may be experiencing heat stroke, hypothermia, or other temperature-related emergencies, call your veterinarian.
6. Bandage a Cut Paw
Just as it can be helpful defending against cold and chemicals, socks tied with shoelace or hair ties can make an improvised bandage. In a situation where you are outside in the woods, for example, putting a sock over a cut paw can offer some protection until you can get back to civilization. Remember that this is just a quick fix – you still need to clean and properly bandage the injury when possible!
7. Splint an Injured Leg
This one is a classic: use paint stirrers and rolled-up magazines to make a splint! Other options include popsicle sticks and newspaper, and they can be secured with a bandanna or shoelace. If you can keep a limb firmly in place, you can prevent further damage and pain to the injury.