By Arden Moore
Pro Pet Hero Instructor Director and Master Pet First Aid/CPR Instructor
I keep a well-stocked pet first aid kit in my home and a travel size in my vehicle. In case of a pet emergency, I want to be prepared.
The reality is that not all cut paws, bee stings, sprained limbs or other pet injuries conveniently occur when a pet first aid kit is handy or a veterinary clinic is nearby. As a certified master instructor in pet first aid for Pro Pet Hero and the founder of Pet First Aid 4U, I recognize that pet emergencies can and do happen anytime, anywhere. In some cases, minutes count in saving the life or a dog or cat.
So, in honor of April being designated Pet First Aid Awareness Month — and in homage to MacGyver, one of my favorite television shows of the late 1980s (now in a 2.0 version on CBS-TV) – I created a litany of “Mutt-gyver” pet first aid tips and tricks. I’ve tapped into the same “think-outside-the-box thinking demonstrated each week by the show’s hero, Angus MacGyver, to aid pets in trouble.
No pet first aid kit handy? No problem. Let me run down a list of everyday items you can use to render aid to a pet and if necessary, stabilize and transport that pet to your veterinary clinic:
Cooldown an overheated dog. Dogs do not sweat like we do. They perspire through their paws. If possible, time your walks with your dog in the morning or evenings to avoid the times when the sun is the hottest. On walks, bring a bottled water. You can cool down your dog by getting him to shade and dipping his paws in cool water. If you are wearing a baseball cap, pour the water in there and dip the paws. Otherwise, take a spare plastic poop bag and make it in to a makeshift bowl for your dog to drink water and for paw dipping.
Treat bee stings and minor burns. Curious cats and prey-minded dogs can’t resist the fast movements of flying bees. But they pay the price for engaging with bees on pollinating missions with stings often to their face or paws. Reduce the chance of your dog getting stung on walks by keeping him from reaching ground cover on leashed walks. If your dog or cat gets stung and you can see the stinger, simply scrap out the stinger by using your driver’s license or a credit card. Do not try to remove the stinger by using your fingernails or tweezers as you risk rupturing the venom sac.
You can dab a little moistened baking soda on the sting site to alleviate pain. If you have an aloe plant nearby, you can apply gel from the plant to treat the sting. Aloe also works on minor burns. However, never use the white sap (latex) from the aloe plant on a dog or cat because that sap is toxic to your pets. If the sting site swells and your pet has trouble breathing, contact your veterinarian immediately. Your veterinarian may recommend you give your pet over-the-counter antihistamine. I recommend you keep this product handy in gel form and tape a safety pin to the packaging so you can squirt in the medicine easily and quickly. And read the label – only give antihistamine products containing diphenhydramine and never give you pet any products that are cherry-flavored or contain the pain reliever, acetaminophen.
Sock it to cut or bloody paws. If your dog cuts a paw on a long hike or on cut glass in your home, here are some Mutt-gyver hacks to consider. You can squirt bottled water to clean the paw. Then elevate the paw above the dog’s heart and apply pressure to stop the bleeding using a folded bandana. You can take one of your socks to then cover the injured paw and snug it in place using a spare plastic poop bag or hair tie if you are wearing one.
Muzzle to keep you safe. Even the sweetest dog or cuddliest cat can bite or claw you if in pain. Keep yourself safe. You can make a temporary dog restraint muzzle by using the drawstrings from a hooded sweatshirt, or your shoelaces or a spare 6-foot nylon leash. And for brachycephalic breeds with short snots like pugs and boxers, you can fold a bath towel. Then place a 6-foot leash lengthwise about 2 inches from the fold. Keep folding the towel with the leash inside and then fit this thick, wide towel under your dog’s chin and tie the leash in a bow at the back. This will prevent the dog’s lower jaw from opening to cause a bite and the cushioning of the towel will not harm the trachea. You can calm down a cat by wrapping him in a thick bath towel or popping an empty plastic laundry basket over him. Then slide a slick piece of cardboard underneath and flip it upright to have a makeshift cat carrier.
Splint a sprained or broken limb. One wrong turn, one misjudgment in jumping or unexpectedly banging into a table leg can result in your dog or cat incurring a leg sprain or worse, a fracture. Put a restraint muzzle quickly on your pet and then wrap the limb with a layer of cushion. Bubble wrap, folded newspaper or even a hand towel work great. Then you need to keep the joint immobilized. Depending on the length of your pet’s leg, you can use popsicle sticks, emery boards or paint stirrers as splints. To hold the makeshift splint in place, you can tie it in place with sneaker shoelaces or gauze roll or a bandana. The goal is to stabilize and prevent your pet from putting any more weight on the injured leg.
In our veterinarian-approved pet first aid/CPR classes, I teach with the help of Pet Safety Dog Kona and Pet Safety Cat Casey, I am always welcoming “Mutt-gyver” tips and tricks from my students. One shared how she used her bra to lasso her loose dog. That’s quick thinking! Another suggested using saline solution for contact lenses to clean debris from a pet’s irritated eye. Remember, this is a temporary relief, so seek veterinary treatment for eye issues promptly.
My parting message: our pets give us unconditional love and loyalty 24-7. Sure, April is designated as Pet First Aid Awareness month, but for those of us lucky to share our lives with pets, learning pet first aid is a must skill we need to be ready to use 24-7. Knowing what to do and what not to do in a pet emergency when minutes count is a great way to truly become your pet’s best health ally.
Learn more on ways to keep your dogs and cats safe by visiting http://www.propethero.com. Consider taking our veterinarian-approved online pet first aid/CPR course. Enter this code: CPR – ARDEN MOORE and receive a 10 percent discount! And, if you are interested in becoming a Pro Pet Hero instructor, please click on the BECOME AN INSTRUCTOR button on the home page for more details.