Pet Talk: What to do if your pet is injured

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Seeing an injured or distressed animal can make some people feel helpless, especially those who have never approached an injured pet. Because injured pets could be in pain, scared, or confused, it is important to act appropriately to ensure they see a veterinarian and get medical help. Dr. Medora Pashmakova, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), offered some insight on what to do if your pet is injured.

“Pet owners should be careful not to be bitten by a pet, even one that has no record of biting anyone before. They may do so when injured,” she said. “Typically, this means immobilizing the animal until you’re able to get it to a veterinarian. You can also purchase a commercially made muzzle or fashion a homemade muzzle out of gauze or a leash to prevent the animal from biting while being transported to veterinarian’s care.”

Sometimes pets can be in pain with no obvious or visible wounds. In this case, Pashmakova recommended looking for key signs of internal pain, such as abdominal pain. “Pets can be in pain when they show signs of guarding a particular area of the body to prevent anybody from touching that area. They may also avoid bearing weight on a limb,” she said. “Abdominal pain in particular can occasionally cause the animal to get in a praying stance position with the forelimbs down and the rear limbs up. Animals will also often vocalize when in pain, be reluctant to touch, have a fast heart rate or breathing rate, or they made hide from their owners. Cats are especially good at hiding signs of pain and often just become reclusive and detached.”

In emergency situations, such as when a pet is hit by a car, the animal may be seriously bleeding. In such critical situations, it is important to act fast to slow blood flow.

“Just like a person, a tourniquet can be applied to a proximal part of the limb in the case of a bleeding limb injury until blood has slowed down to a trickle,” Pashmakova said. “It’s important not to completely occlude blood flow so that the limb can preserve some blood supply. Applying external pressure is also often a good idea. A towel can be used to apply pressure over a bleeding site until the pet is able to be seen by a veterinarian. In cases where a bleeding vessel is clearly visible, the bleeding can be held off with fingers or another gentle but firm device, such as a hemostat, while the pet is transported.”

No pet owner ever wants their pet to be rushed to the veterinary clinic because of a tragic accident, but it doesn’t hurt to be prepared. One of the best ways to prepare for an emergency pet situation is developing a strong and trusting relationship with your pet’s veterinarian.

“Many veterinarians have an emergency phone line that reroutes after hour questions and emergencies to a local clinic that is open 24/7,” Pashmakova said. “Many local veterinarians see some patients after hours for emergencies. It’s a good idea to establish a relationship with your veterinarian as well as find out what they would like pet owners to do in the event of an emergency. Also, pet owners should have access to a pet poison control hotline for any possible toxicity ingestions.”

Another great tool to have at home is a pet-specific first aid kit. This could include some bandaging material, a muzzle, a splint, and basic supplies to help you in case of emergency while transporting your pet to the veterinarian. First aid kits can be made at home or pre-purchased online.

Pet owners never want to see their furry companion in pain or injured, but some accidents are unavoidable. Developing a relationship with your veterinarian and keeping important phone numbers on hand, such as your veterinary clinic and pet poison control hotline numbers, can make a significant difference in the event of a pet emergency.

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University.

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