By Arden Moore
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 first-aid kit is handy or a veterinary clinic is nearby.
As a certified master instructor in pet first aid 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 of a dog or cat.
So, in honor of 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) — I created a litany of “Mutt-gyver” tips and tricks. I’ve tapped into Angus MacGyver’s ability to think outside the box and applied it 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:
Cool down 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 evening to avoid the hottest hours under the South Florida sun. On a walk, bring a bottle of 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 to use as a makeshift bowl for drinking and 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’s getting stung by keeping him from reaching ground cover on leashed walks. If your dog or cat gets stung and you can see the stinger, simply scrape out the stinger 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. 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 pets.
If the sting site swells and your pet has trouble breathing, contact your veterinarian immediately. Your veterinarian may recommend you give your pet an 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 products that are cherry-flavored or contain the pain reliever acetaminophen.
Ease jellyfish stings. If your beach-loving dog gets stung by a jellyfish, coax him to the sand. Rinse the sting site with salt water and use a seashell to safely scrape the tentacles off your dog so you do not get stung.
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 tricks to consider. You can squirt bottled water to clean the paw. Then elevate the paw above the dog’s heart and apply pressure with a folded bandanna to stop the bleeding. You can take one of your socks to cover the injured paw and snug it in place using a spare plastic poop bag or hair tie if you are wearing one.
Muzzle pet to keep you safe. Even the sweetest dog or cuddliest cat can bite or claw you if he’s in pain. Keep yourself safe. You can make a temporary muzzle by using the drawstrings from a hooded sweatshirt, your shoelaces or a spare 6-foot nylon leash. You can calm 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. Depending on the length of your pet’s leg, you can use Popsicle sticks, emery boards or paint stirrers as splints. You can place a water bottle against the injured leg. To hold the splint in place, you can use a rolled-up magazine or folded newspaper and tie with shoelaces. The goal is to stabilize and prevent your pet from putting any more weight on the injured leg.
In the veterinarian-approved Pet First Aid 4U classes I teach with the help of pet safety dog Kona and pet safety cat Casey, I always welcome Mutt-gyver tips and tricks from my students. One shared how she used her bra to lasso her loose dog. That’s quick thinking! What are your favorite tips to keep dogs and cats safe? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My parting message: Our pets give us unconditional love and loyalty 24/7. One of the best ways we can show our love for them is by taking a pet first-aid class. 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.
Arden Moore, founder of FourLeggedLife.com, is an animal behavior consultant, editor, author, professional speaker and master certified pet first-aid instructor. She hosts the Oh Behave! show on PetLifeRadio.com. Learn more at www.ardenmoore.com.