Common Pet Injuries
It is inevitable. At some point in our pet's life, they will suffer some sort of boo-boo. While the majority are minor and easily handled, some injuries are more serious, and knowing what to do during emergency situations can help not only reduce the pain your pet experiences, but also promote a quicker recovery and even save their life.
By always keeping a well-stocked pet first aid kit in an easily accessible place, you are helping to make sure you are best equipped to handle any emergencies that may come up. Learn more about what to include in the first aid kit and about how to read your pet's vital signs.
If your pet experiences an injury
FIRST: Stay calm and controlled
Small cuts and upset tummies? No problem... But staying calm and controlled is much more difficult when the unthinkable has happened and your beloved pet has suffered a serious injury. Your immediate actions and how you approach the situation can mean the difference between the life and death of your pet. Remain as calm as possible, and focus 100% of your attention on the task at hand as much as you can, not on panic or fear.
THEN: Take appropriate action
As the term implies "first" aid is the first treatment you give your pet when an incident occurs. First aid varies depending on what happened. Usually, your goal is to call a vet or take your pet to a vet as soon as possible. But sometimes, there are immediate actions (see below) you can take yourself to prevent further damage from the injury before you can reach a vet. Examples include inducing vomiting if your dog has swallowed a poisonous substance, or relieving a blocked windpipe from a swallowed object. These treatments can save your pet's life.
Understand that when a pet is scared or in pain, they may unintentionally bite and may need to be muzzled for both their own safety and yours why you apply first aid.
Let's take a look at some of the most common pet injuries and how we can best treat them.
If your pet is poisoned, timing is critical for successful treatment. Try to remain calm, as any panic you show will cause further distress to your pet.
If they have eaten something that you suspect is toxic, seek emergency assistance regardless of whether you see adverse effects. Whether calling a hotline or heading to your vet, quickly collect as much information as possible about what substance has been eaten and in what quantity. Include information on any product packaging or labels if you have it.
Do not give any food or liquids other than water, as this can increase the absorption of the poison in the bloodstream.
In the US, there are two poison control centers open 24 hours:
Let's take a look at what to do for some common types of poisoning:
When NOT to induce vomiting
- If your pet is already throwing up.
- If your pet has lost consciousness, is very weak, or has trouble standing.
- If your pet has swallowed bleach or highly toxic liquids such as drain cleaners or petroleum products. They will cause additional burns if regurgitated.
- If it has been more than 2 hours since the poison was eaten. It has already reached your pet's small intestine, and vomiting will not remove the toxin.
When to induce vomiting
- If your pet has swallowed rodent poison, mushrooms, berries, chocolate, or other physical substances within the past 2 hours. Newly planted bulbs that your pup has dug up can also be poisonous.
- If your pet has swallowed antifreeze within the past 2 hours.
How to induce vomiting
To induce vomiting in cats, a prescription medication is needed from your vet. To induce vomiting in dogs, take the following steps:
- Immediately open your pet's mouth and sweep your index finger around the back of their throat to remove any remaining poisonous substance.
- The easiest and quickest way to help your pup throw up is to use 3% hydrogen peroxide (the kind you can get from your local pharmacy). Do NOT use anything stronger than 3%. Hydrogen peroxide is an intestinal irritant that causes vomiting within 15 mins or less. Calculate a dose of 1 teaspoon (5ml/CCs in a syringe) per 10 lbs of body weight. Hydrogen peroxide must be given orally, and the easiest way is to use a syringe. You can also mix it with a little food or honey, but when timing is critical, a syringe works far better. After administering the hydrogen peroxide, walk your pup around for several minutes.
- If your pet has not vomited by this time, give a second dose. If this does not do the trick, do not repeat a third time. Instead, head to your vet who will use specific and more vigorous substances to induce vomiting.
- After vomiting has ceased, give your dog by mouth activated charcoal mixed with water to a slurry consistency. The dosage is 1 teaspoon for dogs less than 25 pounds and 2 teaspoons for dogs over 25 pounds (it is also available in capsule form). Activated charcoal binds to poisons to help prevent them from being absorbed by the body.
Hydrogen peroxide is not dangerous when used to induce vomiting. After being swallowed, it breaks down to become oxygen and water and is harmless to your dog. It is one of the best antidotes for phosphorus, which is often used in rat poisons.
While the odd chocolate chip cookie may not cause problems, depending on the weight of your pet and the amount of chocolate eaten, chocolate can cause a fatal reaction in dogs. The chocolate we are referring to is dark chocolate - the darker (bitter) the chocolate, the more toxic it is (including bakers chocolate).
The reason dark chocolate is dangerous to dogs is because it contains methylxanthines that dogs cannot properly metabolize and excrete. White chocolate is not dangerous to dogs as it does not contain these substances. Symptoms of chocolate poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, inflammation of the pancreas (i.e., pancreatitis), an abnormal heart rhythm, seizures, and death. A close friend who owned a Sheltie suffered a terrible tragedy after her dog found a box of chocolates and ate several pieces. Despite the best efforts of the vet, she passed away from the poisoning.
For chocolate poisoning, follow the instructions above to induce vomiting, and head to your vet.
The mushrooms we purchase in the grocery store for human consumption are not dangerous to household pets. But mushrooms encountered outdoors should be kept away from pets, unless you are absolutely certain they are safe. Most wild mushrooms cannot be identified by the layperson.
We often assume that only mushrooms exhibiting bright colors are poisonous, but when it comes to mushrooms, some of the most deadly are the small, light brown, and most innocent looking varieties. Fool's Webcap (see image) is a great example of a plain, yet very lethal mushroom. To make it even more confusing, there are some toxic mushrooms that look very similar to the harmless button mushrooms in the produce department.
Many dogs will completely ignore mushrooms in the wild, but some will not hesitate to chow down on something new and unusual that pops up. Inquisitive puppies are especially at risk. Some dogs will eat mushrooms unintentionally as a result of "grazing" on grass.
Take wild mushrooms seriously. Poisonous mushrooms can be fatal. The problem with mushroom poisoning is that symptoms may not be immediately apparent. In fact, there may be no immediate symptoms at all. However, as the day progresses, your pet may experience gastrointestinal problems such as vomiting and diarrhea. Mushroom poisoning can cause liver damage that may take days to become symptomatic, and progress to liver failure.
If you see your pet has eaten a wild mushroom, follow the instructions above to induce vomiting, and head to your vet.
Some species of toad, especially in the more tropical regions such a South America, Florida, and in parts of Australia, produce toxins that are very poisonous to other animals. Immediate symptoms depend on the amount of toxin absorbed, but a dog will often drool or froth at the mouth, and then may experience muscle tremors that progress to seizures. If your dog is found licking or trying to eat a toad:
- IMMEDIATELY begin washing out their mouth with either a hose or a bottle of water. The goal is to rinse out their mouth, but not cause the water to go down their throat.
- Intermittently use a fresh, wet cloth and wipe their gums, tongue, and roof of their mouth every few minutes, remembering to either use a fresh cloth each time, or thoroughly rinse out the cloth you are using.
- Keep your pet confined and monitor them closely. If there are any symptoms of concern, such as shivers or tremors or muscle stiffness, head to the vet immediately.
When animals are bitten by snakes, it is generally around the mouth area, head, or the paws. Puncture wounds may or may not be visible depending on their size and the thickness of fur. Symptoms include painful swelling at the bite site, drooling, trembling, paralysis, collapse, vomiting, and dilated pupils. Poisonous spiders can cause severe pain at the bite location, and may or may not cause other symptoms.
If you suspect your pet is a victim of a poisonous snake or spider bite:
- MINIMIZE any movement - the more your pet moves around, the faster the poison will spread throughout their body. IMMOBILIZE any joint that has been bitten to slow the spread of poison.
- Do not try to suck or squeeze the venom out.
- Firmly bandage the area, which will help slow the spread of the poison.
- See your vet immediately. Call ahead to see if your vet has antivenin - not all do and they may refer you to another local area vet who does.
Your vet may or may not administer an antivenin. To be most effective, antivenin should be administered within 4 hours of the bite, as it becomes less and less effective as time passes. Your vet will likely also administer IV fluids and antibiotics.
If a snake has bitten your pet and you are not sure whether it is poisonous or not, even if your pet exhibits no symptoms whatsoever, please still call your vet with a description of the snake and monitor your pet closely for the next 48-72 hours. Keep an eye on the bite area for any signs of infection. Some poisons may not have immediate or apparent symptoms but may cause internal injuries such as organ damage. There are many harmless snakes, but it is always better to be safe than sorry.
Human Foods Toxic to Pets
Here are some of the common foods we may love to eat but which are not healthy for our pets. These include:
- Dark & milk chocolate (the darker, the more toxic - see above)
- Yeast dough
- Macadamia nuts
- Onions (garlic is NOT toxic for cats or dogs(1) ...read more)
- Healthy & balanced pet diet
- Why pets are getting sicker
- Bones - nature's toothbrush
- Pet food recalls
- Fleas, ticks, & mosquitoes
- Natural dog grooming
- Pet dental care
- Pet vaccinations