It is very possible that during the course of your animal’s lifetime, he or she may be injured in a way that requires immediate assistance. You may also encounter a stray animal who is hurt. When a situation like this arises, it is important to be well-informed.

NOTE: The information provided here is very basic. Even though first aid is temporary, it can be very complex. In all cases of injury, a veterinarian’s care and advice must be obtained as soon as possible.

Be Prepared
Always keep the following items available in your home and vehicle:

  • phone numbers and addresses of veterinarians, emergency clinics, animal shelters, and/or an animal rescue service
  • a blanket (for shock or moving large animals)
  • clean towels (various uses)
  • heavy gloves (protection against bites and scratches)
  • tape and gauze rolls and pads (for bandaging)
  • a small rope, strong string, or leash (for muzzling)

If You Find an Injured Animal
Approaching the Animal. An animal that has been injured may be frightened and could be more likely to bite or scratch. Therefore, be cautious when handling an animal in pain. Move slowly and talk to the animal reassuringly. If you feel that you are in danger of being hurt, try to contact animal control, an animal shelter, a police officer, or a veterinarian for assistance. If this is not possible, try to find someone to assist you.

Handling the Animal. Remember that an injured animal may be in pain and could bite defensively. For a small dog or cat, wear protective gloves (if available). Wrap the animal in a thick towel or blanket, or throw the blanket gently over the animal and then use it to scoop up the animal. In many cases, a muzzle may be required as a temporary means of preventing biting. Using a small rope, belt, or leash, tie a slip knot leaving a large loop. Hold the ends, gently draping the loop around the upper and lower jaw. Pull the knot firmly. No matter what you use as a muzzle, you need to make sure that it is long enough to tie again under the jaw and then to carry the free ends below the ears and behind the head. The ends should then be tied firmly with a knot that will not slip. CAUTION: DO NOT MUZZLE AN ANIMAL THAT IS CHOKING OR HAVING TROUBLE BREATHING. WHEN USING ANY OF THESE METHODS, MAKE SURE THE ANIMAL CAN BREATHE.

Moving the animal. If it is necessary to move the animal, you must be very careful, so that you do not cause further injury to the animal and can protect yourself. A small animal may be placed in a box if one is available, or it can be wrapped in a towel or blanket. A larger animal may be carefully placed onto a flat board or blanket by first lifting the hind end and sliding the board or blanket under, then repeating with the front end. If these options are not available, lift the animal by the torso, not the legs. If you have access to a vehicle, immediately proceed to the nearest veterinarian, emergency clinic, or animal shelter.

If the Animal is in Shock
Signs of shock include: pale gums, rapid heart and respiratory rate, lowered body temperature, inactivity, and a rapid and faint pulse.

Shock is the partial or complete collapse of the blood vessels that supply oxygen to the body’s vital organs. Time is crucial in this situation. Any injured animal may be overcome by shock. Cover the animal with a blanket to preserve body heat and be sure the animal can breathe, and transport the animal to a veterinarian immediately.

Bleeding, Open Wounds
Signs include: excessive bleeding, cuts, abrasions, and gashes.

Open wounds and bleeding must be attended to immediately. You must first attempt to stop the bleeding. This can be done by using a clean towel or bandage to apply direct pressure to the bleeding area. A bandage should then be applied and a veterinarian should be consulted as soon as possible. The use of tourniquets can result in the loss of body parts—or even life—if they are used incorrectly or inappropriately.

Signs of heatstroke include: excessive panting, reddened gums, a blank or anxious stare, or sudden collapse.
When an animal suffers from heatstroke, brain damage or death can occur in a matter of minutes. Body temperature must be brought down immediately. Wet the animal, or if possible, immerse the animal in cool (never cold or ice) water. Continue until panting subsides. Even if the animal appears to recover, it is important to bring the animal to the veterinarian as soon as possible.

Other Injuries
Treatment for other injuries, such as burns, poisoning, choking, vomiting, cardiac arrest, etc., may be very involved and complicated. A veterinarian should be consulted immediately.

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