Summer is a season when many families are able to spend quality time with their pets outdoors. While summer may be fun and loaded with exciting adventures, it is important to know some first-aid tips for summer-related injuries. With the warmer weather also comes a variety of insects, possibility of heat strokes, drowning, and more.
Not all insects are creepy-crawlers, but there are a few that could cause problems if they bite or sting your pets. A bite or sting stimulates an immune response than can cause swelling, itching and redness. Some animals may be sensitive to certain bites and stings and may have an allergic reaction resulting in mild hives, facial swelling, vomiting, difficulty breathing or collapse. This is why it is important that your pet be supervised if they are going to be spending a lot of time outdoors.
If your pet is stung:
1.Attempt to remove the stinger by scraping it out with a credit card or other stiff material. If you have a pair of tweezers, you may grasp the stinger which is located below the venom sac. Do not put pressure on the venom sac itself as it may inject more venom if the sting was recent.
2.Apply a cool compress to the area
3.Apply a paste mixture of baking soda and water to help neutralize the acidic venom at the sting area.
4.Take your pet to your veterinarian in case medication is needed; if your pet has facial swelling, difficulty breathing and/or collapse, take your pet immediately.
Do NOT administer medication without consulting with your veterinarian first—they should be examined so the appropriate medication can be dispensed.
Heat stroke, or hyperthermia, is caused by an increase in body temperature due to the environment—aka: hot or humid summer days. Heat strokes can be fatal and require immediate veterinary care. Normal body temperature for a pet is around 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit—any higher than 105 is a true emergency.
Causes of heat stroke:
1.Leaving an animal outdoors in hot/humid conditions without adequate shade or ventilation.
2.Exercising in hot/humid weather
3.Leaving an animal in a car, even on a relatively cool (70F) day—Stanford University Medical Center found that the temperature within a vehicle may increase an average of 40 degrees Fahrenheit within one hour.
2.Brachiocephalic (short-nosed) animal – Pug, Pekingese, Lhasa Apso, Boston Terriers, Bulldogs, etc.
The signs of a heat stroke include: distress, excessive panting, and possibly restlessness. As it progresses, dogs may drool in large amounts from the nose or mouth. Because of the distress and lack of oxygen flow, they may be unsteady on their feet. Monitor your pet for signs of inadequate oxygenation such as bright red or purple/blue gums.
What to do:
1.Remove your pet from the environment where hyperthermia occurred
2.Move your pet to a shaded and cool environment; direct a fan onto them.
3.Determine rectal temperature and record, if possible.
4.Begin to cool the body by placing cool, wet towels over the back of the neck, in the armpits, and groin region. You may also wet ear flaps and paws with cool water. Directing a fan on these regions will cool your pet.
5.Transport your pet to the closest veterinary facility immediately.
What NOT to do:
1.Do not use cold water or ice for cooling.
2.Do not overcool your pet.
a.Most pets with hyperthermia have body temperatures greater than 105 degrees Fahrenheit; a reasonable goal is to reduce the temperature to 102.5-103 degrees Fahrenheit while transporting.
3.Do not attempt to force water into your pet’s mouth; however, have fresh cool water ready should your pet be alert and show an interest in drinking.
4.Do not leave your pet unattended for any length of time.
·Ice and cold water actually deter rapid cooling with pets with hyperthermia because it will shrink blood vessels. Therefore, tap water is more suitable for effective cooling.
·Even if you are able to reduce your pet’s body temperature at home, they should still be examined immediately by a veterinarian. Hyperthermia affects every organ system in the body and your pet should be examined for any problem that came from the hyperthermia.
With the summer months being very warm, many pets enjoy swimming in pools and lakes. However, it is important that they be supervised while swimming. If your pet happens to fall in or get too far out, they may be at risk for drowning. Even pets who have seemingly recovered from a near drowning incident should be examined by a veterinarian because water could still be in the lungs and cause complications later. If your pet is not used to swimming or has difficulty, purchasing a life jacket may help. Also, be with your pet at all times. All pets instinctively swim to the nearest edge to get out of a pool, but it may not be in the right direction. Teach you pet where the steps are; if they do not know where the steps are, they may try to get out at the nearest edge and attempt to get out until he either accidentally arrives at a step or tires and drowns.
What to do:
1.Remove your pet from the water.
2.Place your pet on their side with his head and neck extended. It’s been preferable to have the head lower than the body to promote drainage of water from the lungs and to avoid aspiration.
3.To expel water from the lungs and stomach, pull the tongue forward and gently push on the chest wall and stomach; take care to avoid being bitten.
4.Begin CPCR, or CPR, as required.
5.Cover the pet with a blanket to avoid further heat loss.
6.Transport your pet to your veterinarian immediately.
7.Secure the water source to prevent other pets and children from gaining access and falling in; if applicable.
What NOT to do:
1.Do not fail to seek veterinary help because your resuscitation was successful and your pet seems to be recovering; there are numerous secondary complications that can occur.
2.Do not leave pet unattended as they may be confused and wander back to the water.
Abscesses form from animal biting/clawing; if the skin heals quickly, bacteria becomes trapped beneath the skin and creates an infectious pocket called an abscess. They may be small or large and may feel swollen or warm; they are also usually very painful. Animals with an abscess will typically become depressed and may hide. Occasionally the abscess may rupture before any other signs. Abscess of the anal glands is common and may be mistaken for rectal bleeding if they rupture. Tooth root abscesses form just below the eye and start as a bump or swelling. They may break open and the pet may stop eating due to the pain upon chewing.
Smaller abscesses may be treated with medical therapy while larger ones may need surgical treatment. This includes placing a drain or latex tubing to provide an escape route for secretions of damaged tissue. Tooth root abscesses require tooth extraction.
What to do:
1.Take your pet to your veterinarian as soon as possible and within 24 hours.
2.Clean the area around the drain twice daily with warm water, as fluid drains around the tube.
3.Apply a hot compress to the affected site at least two times daily for 3-5 days after the animal leaves the hospital. Wet a clean wash cloth with very warm water and place it over the affected site; apply gentle pressure for 5-10 minutes.
4.Wash your hands thoroughly after contacting any fluids draining from site.
5.Administer all medications as described by your veterinarian; some patients may feel better after only a few days, but continue medication as directed by your veterinarian to prevent infection from recurring
6.Restrict your animal to indoor activities until infection has resolved completely.
7.Notify your veterinarian if any of the following happen:
a.Increased redness and/or heat from the site
b.Failure of abscess to heal
c.Worsening of your pet’s general health
d.Loss of appetite lasting longer than 24 hours.
What NOT to do:
1.Do not attempt to open abscess yourself.
2.Do not attempt compressing the wounds of a fractious cat; contact your veterinarian should this situation arise
3.Do not apply medicines, potions, or home remedies unless directed by a veterinarian.
Difficulty breathing is also called dyspnea and is a medical emergency.
Respiratory distress is characterized by increased effort to breathe, noisy/squeaky breathing, cyanosis (a bluish tinge to lips and mucous membranes), and an inability to inhale or exhale. In cats, panting or open mouth breathing is a sign of severe distress and should be evaluated by a veterinarian immediately.
There are many diagnostic tests that your veterinarian may use to determine your pet’s reason for their difficulty breathing. X-rays, blood tests, and ultrasound may be needed, but they must be stabilized before undergoing any stressful activity. Brachiocephalic, or short-nosed, breeds are especially susceptible. Brachycephalic breeds include, but not limited to, English bulldogs, Pekingese, Pug, and Boston Terrier. Because their noses are so short, their soft palates can interfere with breathing. They are especially at risk in hot weather because as they try to cool themselves by panting, their soft palates can interfere and cause severe dyspnea. They should be evaluated by a veterinarian if this should arise.
What to do:
1.Keep the pet and yourself calm
2.If the pet has choked on a foreign body, perform the Heimlich maneuver and/or a finger sweep. A finger sweep is when you place your finger at the base of the tongue and attempt to sweep any foreign object forward, out of the trachea. *Please take caution and avoid getting bit*
3.Perform rescue breathing (CPCR) if needed.
4.If the pet is overheated, moisten the feet and ears with cool (not cold) water to promote heat exchange.
5.Seek veterinary assistance as soon as possible.
What NOT to do
1.Do not upset the pet.
2.Do not perform rescue breathing on a conscious pet.