Basic First Aid for Pet Owner’s Part 2

This month we continue, where we left off last, with some more frightening emergencies in Pets:

Insect stings and bites:  An allergic reaction to insect stings or bites, may show up as hives (circular swellings, where the hair is raised all over the face and body). The animal may show difficulty in breathing  – consult a vet at once.

Wasp stings: These are alkaline  – Treat by washing the area with a diluted acid e.g. vinegar.

Bee stings: Try to remove the stinger with tweezers  – stings are acid  – bath the swelling with an alkaline e.g. bicarbonate of soda.

Snake bites: The site of the bite is usually on the head or legs  – it will swell rapidly. In South  – Africa snakes can be grouped into 3 categories: 

  1. Cytotoxic venoms: The effect of  the poison is locally – at the site of  the bite, with little absorption into the blood stream and therefore usually not fatal (the area that is bitten swells excessively, bleeds and the tissues might even die off). Even so, veterinary attention for the patient is necessary. Snakes that fall into this group include all adders (except the berg adder) and especially puff adders.
  2. Neurotoxic venoms: included in this group are the mambas and cobras,Rinkhals and one exception to the adders  – the berg adder. The effect of the poison is recognizable on the nervous system – there is little or no swelling or pain at the site of the bite, but symptoms include restlessness, in coordination and paralysis; death usually occurs due to failure of the respiratory system (breathing). Death may occur rapidly.
  3. Coagulopathic venoms: include the boom slang and the vine snake. The venom causes bleeding tendencies. Blood transfusions are usually necessary.

Do not allow the animal to exert itself excessively, as this will increase the heart-rate and the venom  could spread more rapidly around the body  – if possible apply an ice-pack or cold water to the wound to slow down the flow of blood. GET TO THE VET AS FAST AS POSSIBLE. In case a spitting snake managed to spit venom into an animal’s eye, try to profusely wash the eye with clear luke water or milk. If possible try to recognize features of the snake, so the vet can try and identify it.

Accidental poisoning: This occurs most commonly when the dog eats a toxic substance, such as prescribed drugs or pesticides used in the garden or around the house. Some poisons can also be inhaled or absorbed through the skin. If the substance swallowed is not corrosive or irritating, try to induce vomition  – if no more than an hour has past and the animal is still alert and conscious.

Vomiting may be induced as follows:

  • Hydrogen peroxide (2 teaspoons for a toy breed up to 4 tablespoons for a large breed).
  • A large crystal of washing powder (sodium carbonate) on the back of the animal’s tongue.
  • Syrup of ipecac (available from pharmacies).

Waste no time in getting the animal to a vet, especially if it’s level of consciousness are affected and try and take a sample/package of the substance if possible.

Common poisons and their effect on your animal:

SubstanceSigns of poisoning Action
Corrosive fluid eg car battery acid, paint stripper, oven cleaner.Inflamed skin, vomiting, diarrhoea. Don’t induce vomiting, do wash skin and coat, contact vet.
Slug and snail bite. Dogs like the taste. Tremors, convulsions, coma. Can be fatal.Induce vomiting. Contact vet.
Rat & mouse poison. Dog /cat eat poisoned rat or eats poison (tasty)Can be fatal. Causes bleeding tendencies (but when these symptoms are seen it may already be too late). Bleeding gums/nose, bruising to skin. Induce vomiting. Contact vet.
Antifreeze, animals like the taste. Leaks from car/container open in garage.Convulsions, vomiting, collapse, coma.Induce vomiting. Contact vet.
Sedatives/antidepressants/blood pressure tabs. Owners medicine lying around.Depression, listlessness, staggering, coma.Induce vomiting. Contact vet.
Lead from old paint, fishing weights, discarded batteries, golf balls.Vomiting and diarrhoea followed by collapse and paralysis. Induce vomiting. Contact vet.


Foreign objects in the mouth & throat.

Sticks and bones: may splinter when the animal chews it and may become wedged between the teeth

or the back of the throat  – be careful such animals are stressed and may bite! If possible keep the mouth open by placing a wooden object (e.g. kitchen spatula) between the upper and lower jaw and try and carefully remove the lodged object with tweezers/kitchen tongs.

Small balls: may cause asphyxiation if trapped at the back of the throat  – grab the animal around the waist and squeeze  – elevating the stomach  – this should force the ball back over the tongue (Heimlich maneuver); or press on the throat from the outside and try and push the object back up over the tongue.

Fish hooks: may imbed themselves, esp. in the lips. Don’t try to pull it out, as the barb will cause further damage! Usually the vet’s assistance is needed to tranquilize the animal, but if the animal is calm enough  –  cut the hook in two with pliers and push the barb end to the outside  – clean the    wound with antiseptic.

Fight injuries: Dog bites most commonly occur on the face, ears, neck or chest, cat bites and scratches most commonly on the neck or base of tail. Even though a wound may seem inconspicuous or clean, it is best to have it looked at, as cat’s claws and dog’s and cat’s teeth are highly infective and quickly cause sepsis and infection.

Ears: will often bleed profusely  – clean the wound and apply a pressure pad to stop the bleeding.

Eyes: may sometimes prolapse (fall out), especially in short-nosed breeds such as Pekingese or pugs –  speed is vital to save the eye! Keep the eyeball covered with a moist cloth and take the animal to the vet immediately.

Heatstroke: can prove to be fatal in minutes! Certain breeds are more prone such as bulldogs and boxers. The first signs are rapid, heavy breathing. The animal becomes distressed, salivates, gasps for breath and collapses. Take the animal out of the heat, pour cool water over it  – use tepid water first and gradually use colder water, cover the animal with damp towels (not too long-as it can heat up under the towel too) and offer it water to drink. If the animal fails to recover within a few minutes, take it to the vet.

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