As an overprotective mom of two rambunctious furbabies, I try to make sure our dogs are worshipped properly. They eat good food. They have (more than) plenty of toys to stimulate their brains and help burn off energy. They’re socialized. They’re adored.
But there are certain components to pet-ownership that we, as a family, haven’t addressed: how to handle medical-related emergencies and who would take care of the pups if one or both of us are incapacitated. I’m not addressing the latter here today. Don’t worry. No tears.
When I realized my Type-A Virgo mind had neglected to prepare for the worst, I vowed to resolve it. I’m a planner. I plan. This is yet another New Year’s Resolution. 2014 is shaping up to be a very busy year.
And so, last night James and I attended a humans-only American Red Cross Dog & Cat First Aid/CPR Certification class. It just so happens that Olde Town Pet Resort (are you tired of us mentioning them yet?) was hosting the class, which made the decision to attend very easy. It’s convenient, we like how they take care of our dogs, and the staff is welcoming and friendly; basically, a no-brainer.
From 6-8pm, 6 parents gathered with two instructors and five resusci-dogs to learn the basics of Pet First Aid, Rescue Breathing and CPR. We watched a video and gained hands-on experience administering first aid response for:
- Rescue Breathing and CPR
- Abrasions, Cuts and Tears
- Pad Wounds
- Eye and Ear Injuries
- Fractures or Broken Back or Neck
- Car Accidents
- Hypothermia or Frostbite
- Heat Stroke
- Electric Shock
Obviously, I’m now paranoid about all of these occurring, because I possess a highly overactive imagination. Our resusci-dog looked like the latte version of Zozo:
in the middle of practicing ear bandaging.
Here are some key lessons that we learned:
1. Make sure you know your pet’s resting breathing count, pulse and temperature. If you have a baseline, you’re better prepared to tell if your pet is in distress. This means spending some quality time with your dog, a tub of vaseline and a digital thermometer. Apparently the over the ear animal thermometers aren’t accurate enough. James and I are going to flip a coin for this one…
2. Don’t panic. The instructor said this 13 times during our training. I kept tally marks on my notes. In the event of an emergency, don’t panic. Keep your voice calm and your own pulse steady. Like emergency response with children, if you’re calm you’ll temper their freak-out. However, I suspect that if a snake is hanging from my dog’s nose or a bone is sticking out of her skin, I might not be able to temper my own freak-out. Maybe that’s a good opportunity to put my theatre school education to use.
3. Before administering treatment to an injured animal, create a soft, temporary muzzle. If your pet’s not a biter, you still need to do this. You never know how an animal will react when he or she is in distress.
4. If you suspect your dog has been poisoned and you call the National Animal Poison Control Center, they will ask for your credit card information prior to giving you treatment information. There is a fee. Pay the fee.
4a.– if advised to use Hydrogen Peroxide to counter-act suspected poisoning, try to administer this on a tile or wipeable floor. Whatever you get down is coming right back up.
4b. in case you’re wondering, pretty much everything humans use every day is a poison and/or choke hazard to pets.
5. While we’re on the topic of choking: the easiest first-step way to clear a small dog’s throat of foreign objects is to pick them up by their hind legs with their backs against your legs, and let them hang upside down. For larger dogs, try a wheel-barrow method of raising only their hind legs. You can also try a finger sweep, but watch out because your dog may respond to the dislodging by biting down. And of course, there’s the Heimlich.
6. Just like we have a go-bag for our dogs for weather emergencies, we will now be preparing an official Puppy First Aid Kit, to include these items:
7. We’re going to need to keep a lot of gauze pads and vet wrap in the house. MJ is forever scratching her paws and her nailbeds attempting to climb trees and catch wildlife, so paw compression wrapping is something we’ll master quickly.
Step one: clean the wound and apply ointment, if you can. Step two: apply gauze pads to the area.
Step three: cut the vet wrap to make a stirrup around the gauze pads, applying pressure to the wound.
Step four: using more vet wrap, start wrapping around the stirrup in the middle of the leg, covering the entire leg and making sure no fuzzy bits of gauze are sticking out.
Step five: make sure to end the wrapping at the back of the animal’s leg, so he or she can’t unravel your effort. You’ll know you’ve wrapped too tightly if you can’t get one finger under the top of the wrapping.
6. Always call your vet or the emergency veterinary hospital. ALWAYS.
At the end of the training, we received our official certificates of completion, which I promptly snapped pictures of and posted to Facebook. Because I’m a nerd. We also received a little something for the dogs, who were not invited to the training. And on our way home, while I rambled on about how helpful it was, and how I’m excited to make a first aid kit, and wasn’t the instructor open to all sorts of questions, and isn’t it a shame she has so many real-world experiences working in rescue, James put the whole night into crystal clear perspective:
“So, now we have to put a thermometer in their poopers. Do they each get their own or will they share?”