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May 2011

Are You Prepared to Help Your Pet in a First Aid Situation?

Although unfortunate, situations requiring first aid for your pet happen. Would you be properly prepared to help them? A crucial part of being a pet owner is learning how to assist your pet in a first aid situation. With April being National First Aid Awareness Month, take the time to learn about first aid, ensuring your pet receives the best care they deserve!

To be prepared for first aid it is necessary for your pet to have received a health assessment by his or her veterinarian. Dr. David Wirth, Veterinary Emergency Specialists, says knowing a pet’s complete history is vital in performing health assessments.  You and your veterinarian will be familiar with your pet, allowing you to act promptly in emergency situations. 

Immediate action is sometimes needed before your pet sees it’s veterinarian.  Dr. Wirth suggests following some basic guidelines in first aid situations.

  • Wounds: Gently flush the wound with clean water and cover it with a loose bandage to limit contamination prior to veterinary care.  Wearing latex gloves will help to limit bacteria spread.
  • Choking: Be careful not to get bitten when removing anything from your pet’s mouth.  If possible, remove the object from the mouth and seek veterinary care as soon as possible.
  • Overheated: Slow cooling to 103 degrees is recommended. This should be done under the observation of a veterinarian.
  • Frostbite and hypothermia: Gradual heating is needed.  Be cautious of rebound hyperthermia.  Tissue damage may be caused which is not apparent for several days.  Complications of hyperthermia often do not surface for several hours, so blood work evaluation by your veterinarian will be needed.
  •  Insect bites: If a reaction is present, treat with an antihistamine (such as Benadryl).  Contact your veterinarian before giving antihistamines.  Antihistamines can cause anaphylactic (severe allergic) reactions.   If your pet becomes lethargic, weak, or has a lack of muscle coordination, veterinarian evaluation is needed immediately. 
  • Toxin ingestion: Inducing vomiting at home may be recommended.  Obtain instructions from your veterinarian or poison control before inducing vomiting. Induced vomiting can be contraindicated for some ingestions.


In life threatening events, CPR, or rescue breathing, can be performed on pets. According to Dr. Wirth, taking a first aid class and learning pet CPR is a good idea.  A first aid class and CPR training will inform pet owners what to watch for and when to seek veterinarian assistance.

Not only will your pet and his or her veterinarian benefit from regular check ups, you will too!  You will be knowledgeable about your pet’s health status, and know of any conditions that could lead to emergency situations.   Regular check ups also provide the opportunity to diagnose any diseases or health problems early.  Dr. Wirth says pets can be very good at hiding illnesses until advanced stages.  More treatment options will be available when the problem is diagnosed earlier rather than later. 

Unfortunately, situations can happen that are out of your control.  It is important as a pet owner to know when to contact your veterinarian.  Dr. Wirth advises to contact your veterinarian in any of the following events.

  • Significant trauma – injuries may not be visible at first but can progress rapidly.
  • Eye injuries – to limit long term damage to the eye.
  • Repeating vomiting – multiple episodes of vomiting can sometimes indicate organ dysfunction or gastrointestinal obstruction.  Blood work and x-rays may be needed.
  • Significant lethargy.
  •  Severe lameness that does not improve within an hour.
  • Seizures – seek veterinary care immediately. 
  • Difficultly breathing.
  • Straining unproductively to urinate.


Now you know what to do in situations requiring first aid. Do you have the resources available?  A pet first aid emergency kit should always be accessible.  Items that must be included in your kit are bandage material, nail clipper, cautery pen or powder (used to control blood loss), antihistamine, eye flush, your veterinarian and poison control numbers.

By following these suggested steps, you can be confident your pet will receive the care he or she deserves.  Contact your WVMA member veterinarian to learn more about first aid preparedness!

What You Need to Know to Prevent Lyme Disease

As temperatures rise, so do the number of ticks and an animal’s susceptibility to tick-borne diseases. Whether you own a poodle or palomino, it is important to know about tick-borne diseases and what you can do to prevent them.

Lyme disease is the most prevalent disease attributed to ticks. According to Dr. Chris Olsen, UW School of Veterinary Medicine, Lyme disease is an infection caused by the bacteria, Borrelia burgorferi. The bacteria are transmitted mainly by deer ticks, through biting an animal.

Lyme disease is most commonly diagnosed in dogs and horses. When dogs become infected they may show symptoms of decreased activity, loss of appetite, fever, and lameness. Although symptoms in equine are not as well documented as dogs, they show similar symptoms. In addition, horses may get eye infections.

Specialized and advanced testing has made it easier to make a diagnosis of Lyme disease with a blood test than it has been in the past.

Animals diagnosed with clinical Lyme disease are treated with antibiotics. Dr. Olsen stresses the importance of giving the antibiotic for the full duration as directed by your veterinarian. Animals are usually treated for a minimum of four weeks.

Despite treatment, chronic symptoms and health problems may occur. Animals can develop advanced arthritis, kidney, heart, or neurological diseases. This is another important reason to follow through with treatment duration!

On a positive note, Lyme disease is very preventable! For ticks to transmit the Lyme disease causing bacteria, they have to be attached to the animal for at least 24 hours. By being diligent and checking over your animal on a daily basis, ticks can be removed immediately, greatly reducing your pets chance to contract the disease.

To remove a tick, grasp the tick firmly with your fingers and pull slowly and gently. This should encourage the tick to unlatch from the animal. Do not squeeze the tick, because it could break it in half, leaving the mouth attached to the animal and continue to transmit the bacteria. Dr. Olsen suggests wearing gloves during inspection for and removal of ticks, as the tick can give that same disease to you! Owners should refrain from using tweezers to remove ticks because it usually breaks the ticks in half.

It is critical for small and large animals to have annual exams and checkups by their veterinarian. Not only will this benefit the overall heath of the animal, it will allow screening for Lyme disease.

Other preventative methods are available to help reduce flea and tick infections. Discuss with your veterinarian safe and effective preventative products that will work best for your animal. Tick prevention should occur all year round.  Extra care is needed when ticks are most abundant in March through November.

Daily inspection of large animals is more difficult. Dr. Olsen recommends grooming with a curry comb, looking in hard to reach areas (such as behind ears and folds of skin), and keeping pastures down. Ticks prefer long grass because they are closer to animals, allowing them to “jump” on to the animal.

As an animal owner, seek veterinary care if you suspect Lyme disease. By treating Lyme disease promptly, long term consequences can be prevented. Prevention, through diligent tick control and inspection of your animals, is the best strategy for dealing with Lyme disease.

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