Emergencies include serious injuries from accidents, burns, poisoning, a new and sudden illness, or worsening of an ongoing illness. These conditions often require immediate veterinary attention. A call to your veterinarian can help you decide what needs to be done next.
As a caretaker, you can reduce the likelihood of many of these situations, by providing a safe environment and keeping harmful substances away from your pet. However, it is impossible to ensure that your pet will never have a medical emergency. By their very nature, emergencies are typically sudden and unexpected, but you can be prepared to respond if an emergency occurs.
Keep information about your pet’s medical history and your veterinarian’s phone number easily accessible. Make sure you know where the closest 24-hour veterinary emergency hospital is located. It is also a good idea to keep a first aid kit on hand to treat minor emergencies.
Emergency patients present special challenges, not only because immediate, life-threatening problems require rapid intervention but because the full extent of problems may not be evident for 24 to 48 hours. Many things contribute to the overall success of emergency treatment, including the severity of the illness or injury, amount of blood or fluid lost, age of the animal, previous health problems, and time delay in beginning treatment.
Knowing your pet’s habits will help you recognize when something is wrong. Sudden changes in your pet’s normal physical condition, gait, activity level, eating habits, elimination habits, or grooming habits can indicate a medical problem. Being able to recognize an emergency and get your pet to a veterinarian quickly is one of the most important things you can do to ensure successful treatment.
You can purchase a ready-made pet first aid kit or make one yourself. A pet first aid kit generally includes basic items similar to those of a human first aid kit. The first aid kit should have a secure lid and be kept where you can get it quickly.
Be sure you know how to properly use the items in your first aid kit. You may be able to take an animal first aid and CPR class through your veterinarian’s office, local community college, or groups such as the Red Cross.
Of course, a first aid kit is not a substitute for veterinary care. Take your pet to your veterinarian as soon as possible to determine the extent of the injury or illness and for followup care.