Pet Columns, Office of Public Engagement, College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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How To Help Emergency Vet Save Your Pet

Pet Column for the week of July 11, 2000

Office of Public Engagement
2001 S. Lincoln Ave.
Urbana, Illinois 61802
Phone: 217/333-2907
By Carrie Gustavson
Information Specialist

The best thing about summer is spending time outside. And like their human companions,
most pets love the chance to romp in the woods, swim in the streams, and frolic with their
friends. Fortunately, keeping your pet out of harm's way in the summer just takes a little
common sense.

"Keep your dog on a leash or under control at all times. When unattended, dogs should be
inside or in a secure, escape-proof outdoor enclosure. Never let a dog ride in the back of a
pickup truck," says Dr. Marc Raffe, emergency critical care veterinarian at the University of
Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Urbana.

But even when you have the best intentions, accidents do happen. Whether it is your dog or
cat that is hurt or someone else's, the more you know, the better you'll be able to help. "The
first thing to think about in an emergency situation is your safety," says Dr. Raffe. "Don't turn
one accident into two. Look for cars before dashing into the street after a pet. If your pet is
injured in the street, have someone redirect traffic so you can move the animal to a safe
place where he can be carefully looked over."

Before moving an injured animal, check the following. Is the animal conscious? Breathing?
Bleeding? "If a dog has stopped breathing, try nose-to-mouth ventilation. Seal the lips by
pinching them shut, then blow through the nose to ventilate the lungs. If a pet is bleeding
profusely, use direct pressure with a clean towel or T-shirt," says Dr. Raffe.

But don't try any of this with a conscious animal in severe pain. "Pets will not behave
normally in a traumatic situation. Even friendly pets may bite when in pain," says Dr. Raffe.
"Try wrapping the animal in a towel or blanket. Covering the animal's head and eyes serves
two purposes: calming the pet and protecting you from getting bit. Leather gloves, if handy,
are another option to protect you from injury."

As you assess the animal, think about how you will move it out of harm's way and to the
veterinary hospital. We've all seen how the paramedics strap human trauma patients to a
backboard to prevent jarring of the spine, neck, or a fractured limb on the way to the
hospital. Before moving an injured animal, take the same precautions. "Fractures are
common with traumatic events, so place an injured animal on a board, door, or any solid
surface before moving it," says Dr. Raffe. But leave the technical bandaging and splinting of
a broken leg to the veterinarian. "The key thing is to make sure neither you nor the animal is
further injured in the process of getting to the veterinarian."

If possible, call the veterinarian while you're on your way to give an idea of the time you'll
arrive. "Make sure you know how to get there -- and drive safely!" reminds Dr. Raffe. It is
a good idea to have a relationship with a veterinarian before an emergency occurs. If your
pets don't already have a regular veterinarian, now is a good time to locate one.

Pet first-aid kits are important for all animal households. Besides medical supplies, your kit
should contain the name, address, and phone number of your veterinarian for quick
reference. Some chapters of The American Red Cross, including the Illini Prairie Chapter at
217-344-2800, offer a class in pet first aid. It is a great idea for all pet owners!

For more information about animal emergencies, contact your local veterinarian.