Dear Aggie: My dog hurt his paw the other day and there were no vets available! What should I do in an emergency?
With the north country being home to pets as large as cows and as tiny as mice, there’s a very high demand for veterinarian services. I have two pets, and almost all of my coworkers have at least one dog. When I first moved to this area, finding a vet that was accepting new patients proved to be extremely difficult. Even now that we have a regular vet, making an appointment can be a hassle, sometimes having to book months out!
Just like many other places across the country, veterinarian offices are seeing a shortage of workers which is affecting their abilities to take on new patients and see regular patients on short notice, even though they are working as hard as they can. Unfortunately, Jefferson County currently has no 24-hour ambulatory veterinarian services either, which can be frustrating when your furry friend gets hurt.
Dogs are especially prone to accidents and depending on their breed, temperament, or the type of injury, it can be difficult to care for them if you’re not properly trained. That’s why its extremely important for pet parents to have knowledge of basic first aid at a time where finding a vet can be hard. The reason dogs are prone to injury over other animals is because they have access that other animals don’t usually have.
For example, dogs typically live indoors and choking hazards such as toys, human food, trash, or other small household items that are more accessible to them than those items would be for a reptilian pet or larger farm animal. For this reason, every dog owner should be familiar with conducting the Heimlich maneuver and CPR on their pet. There is a plethora of free online resources available on how to properly perform these live saving techniques on pets of all sizes.
For a situation like you described — an injured paw —there are a few items that you should always have on hand. No matter the temperament of your pet, you should always have a correctly fitting muzzle at home. This is because with a serious injury, your dog might be scared, stressed, or disoriented which can create some uncommon behavior such as aggression, even if your dog has no history of this. If you find yourself having to restrain your dog for up close first aid and you don’t have a muzzle, you can also try to keep their mouth closed with a leash, belt, or necktie. Using blankets or towels to wrap their body can help calm and immobilize them if they become agitated or unmanageable. Just be careful not to make constraints too tight where it might disrupt their breathing. It’s also important to keep typical first aid items on hand, such as gauze bandaging, antiseptic or alcohol wipes, and antibiotic ointment. For more animal-specific first aid items, look for tick removal tools, elastic nonstick bandaging that you can easily wrap around your animal’s paws or other body parts, quick blood stopper, and large syringes to easily administer oral medication or use to flush wounds.
Of course, no matter how prepared you feel to care for your animal, it’s always best to consult with a veterinarian in emergency situations. Although you might have trouble being seen in person immediately, they should offer some assistance over the phone and be able to direct on what to do at home to control the situation.
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