Practical Tips to Help You Remain Calm During a Pet Emergency
Despite any pet owner’s best intentions and diligent care, emergencies happen. And it might sound strange to plan for an emergency, but we do it for ourselves every day with things like health insurance and disaster plans. So why not prepare for a pet emergency? When something happens, a plan in place will nearly always equate to a better outcome. In fact, there are things you can do as a pet owner to try and prevent emergencies in the first place.
In the following blog post, we’ll be offering tips on the following:
- How to prevent pet emergencies
- How to plan for pet emergencies
- What to do in case of pet emergencies
Getting your ducks in a row (pardon the pun!) will allow cooler heads to prevail when life throws you inevitable curve balls.
How to Prevent Pet Emergencies
To prevent a pet emergency, you must be aware of the things in your environment that have the potential to cause harm. Some are fairly obvious (living on a busy street), while others you might be surprised to learn (certain toxic flowers). Either way, knowledge is power.
Some things in your home that can cause potential pet emergencies are as follows:
Purse or bag contents — As veterinarians, we see this often, as it makes sense that many people get home from work or elsewhere and throw their purses or bags on the ground. In doing so, you might forget that chocolate candy bar you picked up at the 7-Eleven or the pack of gum that contains xylitol, which is toxic to pets. Try to make it a habit to put your bags out of pets’ reach.
Your medicine cabinet or container — Many human medicines are made to taste good, so if your dog got a hold of it, they’d likely eat the whole bottle! Make sure your meds are locked up, and never give your pet anything like ibuprofen or human allergy medicine without talking to your veterinarian.
Open door policies — This is simple, but it’s also far too easy for it to happen. Perhaps you’ve got a contractor over to discuss some home renovations. A door or gate gets left open, and your pet(s) escape. Of course, you want your pets to be microchipped and to have their ID tags/collars on, but it’s best to be mindful of keeping doors closed to avoid The Great Escape.
Toxic trash — We like to think our dogs are civilized (insert laugh here). Still, the truth about most canines is that they will gleefully dumpster dive in search of things that could very well be dangerous for them, such as bones (that can cause obstructions), chocolate (toxic in large doses), or other items that can, at the very least, cause intestinal upset. Please consider keeping your trash in a closed pantry or cupboard.
Potentially nefarious flowers — Who knew something that brings so much joy could be dangerous? Of course, not all flowers are toxic if ingested, but some are quite dangerous—even causing rapid kidney failure and potential death (i.e., lilies, if eaten by cats). To be sure you’re safe, check out the ASPCA’s list of plants that could be poisonous to pets.
Besides things in your home that can cause potential pet emergencies, some scenarios can quickly turn dangerous.
Some other general environment pet safety tips are as follows:
- Be discerning about dog parks — Dog parks can be an excellent outing for the right dog, but not all dogs enjoy that level of socialization. If your dog seems to be giving you cues that they are uncomfortable, go with your gut. Unfortunately, crowded dog parks can cause incidents that stem from pack mentality, so consider taking your small dog to a “small dog only” dog park or avoid them altogether if your dog seems fearful. If you keep dog park safety in mind, you can hopefully enjoy these outings.
- Take proper dog-walking precautions — First and foremost, have a collar that fits. If you have a pet store with knowledgeable employees, you can get their help or follow this two-finger rule. The latter mandates that the collar be tight but not overly so, which could restrict your dog’s breathing. Always keep your dog on a leash, and if you approach an off-leash dog and anticipate a problem, pick your dog up, if possible. If a dog fight ensues, have your dog checked out by your veterinarian or the nearest emergency veterinarian. Even if they didn’t receive lacerations, there could be internal injuries.
- Avoid excessive heat or cold — You’ve likely asked yourself, “How hot is too hit for my dog?” Hopefully, you know by now the dangers of dogs in hot cars, as it only takes minutes for them to overheat, particularly if they’re a brachycephalic breed like a pug or bulldog. You also want to ensure you’re not walking them in sweltering weather and feel the pavement with your hand before walking your dog in the summer months.
“Pavement, like asphalt or artificial grass, can become incredibly hot and cause discomfort, blisters, and burn a dog’s paw pads,” says Jerry Klein, DVM and the American Kennel Club’s Chief Veterinary Officer.
Conversely, paw pads can be stricken by frostbite and hypothermia in frigid weather, so keeping any exposure very short in these extreme conditions is best.
How to Plan for a Pet Emergency
Again, “planning” for a pet emergency might sound counterintuitive. Still, the reality is that having meticulous actions ready and in place will help you stay calm if an emergency does occur.
Some things you can do to plan for a pet emergency are:
Have an emergency contact — Have someone you trust that you can call to either help you with your emergency or possibly watch other pets that need care.
Have a pet first-aid kit — This article by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has a good checklist of things to have in your kit, including nonstick bandages, gauze, emergency phone numbers, hydrogen peroxide, towels, and more.
Have your pet’s medical history readily available. Whether knowing how to access your pet portal or having this printed out, be sure you have information on what medications your pet is on, their vaccination history, etc.
Have an evacuation plan in case of natural disasters — If you live in an area prone to things like hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and more (and even if you don’t!), you should have a plan in place to evacuate your pets. Many emergency shelters can’t take pets, so have a list of nearby boarding facilities, pet-friendly hotels, or a friend who can take you and your pet. Have the contact info for your local Animal Care Center handy. Lastly, have a plan in place as to how you will transport your pet in the case of evacuation.
What to Do in the Case of Pet Emergencies
Again, emergencies happen, so it’s best to familiarize yourself with some best practices for handling them.
Some things you can do in a veterinary emergency are
Avoid Dr. Google — Not only could you easily stumble upon misinformation, but whatever you find will only increase your anxiety.
Call your veterinarian — Contact your veterinarian right away. If it’s after hours, call your nearest emergency animal hospital and tell them what to expect when you arrive so they can prepare.
Handle any immediate first aid before leaving — We say this with hesitation, as we certainly don’t want you trying to treat your pet in the case of an emergency. However, if you can provide some basic first aid in the case of your dog bleeding or not breathing, you could give life-saving support that your veterinarian can expound upon once you bring the pet into the hospital. It’s a good idea to bookmark the AVMA’s list of basic pet first-aid you can provide in various scenarios.
Take care of yourself — We know it’s a tired metaphor, but putting your oxygen mask before your child’s is a worthy one here, as you can’t help your pet if you’re not doing well yourself. Contact a trusted friend or family member for moral support, and don’t forget to breathe!
Are you looking for further tips on what to do in case of a cat or dog emergency, or are you seeking a 24-hour emergency vet? We’re happy to help, so contact us any time.