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Scratches to CPR: First Aid Skills That All Pet Owners Should Know

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As a pet owner, you assume the responsibility of taking care of your pet in times of great need such as medical emergencies. Therefore, first aid skills for pets are just as important of a skill to develop as first aid skills for humans.

While there is some overlap between basic first-aid for animals versus humans, here are a few animal-specific first aid skills that you should add to your repertoire.

Wound Care

If your animal gets a boo-boo from a fall or scrape, best practice is to clean the wound quickly to prevent infection. While long fur can make the process more difficult, overall, wound care will be similar to patching up a human. Over-the-counter pet wound care products can help clean and cover the wound. It’s a good idea to keep some on hand.

Poison Control

Animals are notorious for eating things that they shouldn't, whether they find food or something else. Examples in the case of dogs and cats include toxic foods like chewing gum (often containing xylitol), grapes, and chocolate.

So, what do you do if your pup eats something you think might be toxic? Fortunately, in the United States, animal poison control specialists can be reached immediately to give advice on best steps and, when necessary, to direct you to bring the animal to an emergency vet for assistance.

One common tactic to counter animal poisoning using household materials is to induce vomiting via hydrogen peroxide.

Heimlich Maneuver

In addition to eating hazardous products, dogs and cats are also prone to gnawing on non-edible materials that can frequently become lodged in their throats and lead to choking. Examples include sticks, small trinkets, and batteries, among many other things. If they can fit it in their mouth, they can choke on it.

If you think your pet might be choking, you may be able to carefully reach inside the mouth and pull the offending object out. However, in some cases, this method may not work and you will have to resort to the Heimlich maneuver. To perform this procedure, wrap your arms around your pet's stomach and grasp one hand with the other, just behind the rib cage. Then apply pressure (with strength) while pressing in and up into the midsection to force the object out of the animal's throat. If your pet is a small animal, use just two knuckles of one hand instead of both hands. Use your free hand to steady your pet.

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)

Signs that your pet is experiencing cardiac arrest include pale gums, unconsciousness, and the lack of pulse. In these situations, time is critical. You likely don't have time to rush to an animal ER to save your pet.

Accordingly, the burden will fall on you to perform CPR. To do this, place the animal on its side and join your hands over the rib cage. The exact placement will depend on the size and shape of your pet. Then administer chest compressions similar to the type used on humans experiencing cardiac events. You will also give them rescue breaths by completely covering their nose with your mouth.

With these four practices, you can be in a better position to render necessary aid to your beloved pet in an emergency situation.

About the Author: 

Anita is a freelance writer from Denver, CO. She studied at Colorado State University, and now writes articles about health, business, family and finance. A mother of two, she enjoys traveling with her family whenever she isn't writing. You can follow her on Twitter @anitaginsburg.

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