What to do in These 5 Common Emergency Pet Senarios
It’s a pet owner’s worst nightmare: Your cat gets sick after eating a houseplant, your dog starts choking on a treat you’ve tossed him, or some other emergency happens, and it’s a long drive to the veterinarian or animal emergency hospital.
The most important thing is not to panic, which is easier said than done. And it’s a good idea to keep the phone numbers of your vet, closest animal emergency hospital and ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435) on your cell phone and posted near your landline.
You can also take pet first aid and pet CPR classes to help you be more prepared. Your vet can recommend a local class.
Here’s advice compiled from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), ASPCA and other experts for the immediate steps to take for five of the most common pet emergencies: ingesting something poisonous, choking, bee stings, heat stroke and seizures.
Your Pet Ate Something Poisonous
The symptoms that your pet has been poisoned can range from lethargy to seizures. If you suspect your pet has eaten something poisonous, don’t wait for any symptoms to appear. Immediately call your vet or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435
- Remove your pet from the source of the poison.
- If possible, have the poisonous item available for your veterinarian to check, including the container and labels, if applicable.
- Do not induce vomiting unless your vet or the poison center tells you to do so, because it can make things worse. If your pet vomits, put some of it in a plastic bag for your vet to examine.
Prevention tips: Everything from dark chocolate to some common houseplants can be poisonous for pets. Be aware of items that are toxic and keep them far away from your pet.
Your Pet Starts to Choke
Besides gagging, the symptoms that your pet is choking include difficulty breathing, pacing, drooling, excessive pawing at the mouth or a blue-tinged tongue.
- Remove your pet’s collar or anything constricting his throat.
- Look inside your pet’s mouth to see if the object is visible. If you can see it, try to gently remove it with your fingers, or with tweezers or pliers. Just be very careful not to push it farther down your pet’s throat.
- If your pet is small enough, lift him and, securely holding him, suspend him with his head pointed down and his hind end up. For larger dogs, lift their rear legs so their heads are tilted down below their shoulders. This may help dislodge the object.
- If you can’t remove the object or your pet loses consciousness, you may need to perform a version of the Heimlich maneuver by giving your pet’s chest a sharp rap. Ask your vet to demonstrate how to do this the next time you visit, or watch a video demonstration.
Prevention tips: Never give your dog real bones, especially chicken and turkey bones, and keep your trash can tightly covered. Supervise your pet around chew toys. Make sure the treats you give your pet are size appropriate.
Your Pet Gets Stung by a Bee
A bee sting can be very serious if your pet has allergies. The main targets are usually the nose area and paws. If your pet shows symptoms besides swelling, such as vomiting and pale gums, take him to a vet ASAP.
- To stop the venom from spreading, use the edge of a credit card to scrape out the stinger as soon as you find it. “Do not try to squeeze the stinger out with your fingers or use tweezers because the venom sac may rupture, further exposing the pet to more venom,” warns Dr. Arnold Plotnick, DVM.
- Press a cold compress against the sting site to help reduce swelling.
- Keep an eye on your pet to make sure there is no further swelling.
- Your vet may advise you to give your pet an over-the-counter antihistamine, such as Benadryl, that only contains diphenhydramine. Be sure to use only the recommended dosage.
Prevention tips: Don’t let your pet wander through flower gardens. Avoid wearing sweet fragrances when you’re outdoors with your pet. Walk your dog at dawn or dusk, when bees and wasps are less active.
Your Pet Suffers Heat Stroke
For both cats and dogs, the signs of heat stroke begin with labored breathing and drooling. More serious symptoms are vomiting and diarrhea. In the worst cases, dogs may suffer seizures.
- Move your pet to a cooler place and direct a fan on him.
- Place cool, wet towels on the back of your pet’s neck, the armpits and the groin area.
- If possible, take your pet’s temperature. The normal temperature for both dogs and cats is about 101.5 degrees. Pets suffering heat stroke may have temperatures of 105 degrees or higher.
Prevention tips: Be sure your dog has a cool place to rest and plenty of fresh water on hot days. Never leave your pet alone in your parked car, even when it’s not warm out. Go easy on walks and exercise on hot days. Short-nosed (brachycephalic) dogs like pugs and bulldogs are especially susceptible to heat stroke, so take extra precautions with these breeds.
Your Pet Has a Seizure
Along with convulsions, the symptoms of a seizure can include stiffening, drooling, chomping or foaming at the mouth.
- Gently slide your pet away from furniture or any objects that could hurt him.
- Don’t put your hand in your pet’s mouth – you may get bitten. Dogs and cats can’t choke on their tongues.
- Don’t try to hold down or restrain your pet during the seizure.
- Most pet seizures last from two to three minutes. If it lasts longer, turn a fan on your pet and put water on his paws to cool him.
- When the seizure stops, call your vet. Keep your pet warm and quiet.
Prevention tips: Seizures can occur if your pet ingests common household toxins such as ibuprofen, mushrooms, xylitol or rat poison. The most common cause of toxin seizures in cats is the ingestion of flea-prevention products made for dogs. Be sure to keep all these products away from your pet