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Are You Prepared for a Pet Health Emergency?

No one wants to think about his or her pet being injured, poisoned or suddenly sick. Unfortunately, accidents and health crises happen — all too often after your regular veterinary clinic has closed for the evening or weekend. (Some dogs and cats just seem to know when the clinic is closed!) But if a medical emergency involving your best furry friend does occur, being prepared is not only the best way to deal with an emergency but can make all the difference for your pet.

Here are five things you can do that will help you handle the unexpected.

Know where to find 24-hour emergency pet care — before you need it.

Before you actually have to deal with a pet medical emergency, talk with your veterinarian about what you should do if one occurs. You’ll want to know if your veterinary clinic provides 24-hour services, has an on-call veterinarian to handle after-hours emergencies, or refers evening and weekend emergencies to a nearby emergency veterinary hospital.

Keep your veterinarian’s name, clinic name and phone number as part of your emergency contacts sheet at home — along with the names and phone numbers for your doctor, hospital and human poison control hotline — and in your phone’s contacts list. If your veterinarian refers evening and weekend emergency cases, you’ll want the name, address and phone number of that hospital listed in the same places. Having these phone numbers as well as one for a pet poison control center listed in one location and programmed into your phone before they’re needed may help lessen some of the initial anxiety you feel when addressing your pet’s urgent health situation.

And don’t forget about your car’s navigation system (if it’s equipped with one). You can get to the nearest emergency clinic quickly if the hospital’s address is already programmed into your GPS.

Keep your pet’s medical history in an easily accessible and portable file.

If you need to seek emergency care, you’ll want to bring your pet’s medical records and possibly their medications with you. A quick call to the clinic prior to leaving home will not only alert them to your pet’s condition but also gives the veterinary staff a chance to direct you on what to bring with you.

When you arrive at the emergency veterinary hospital, one of the first things you’ll do (while your pet is being assessed and/or stabilized) is provide the staff with critical information about your dog’s or cat’s health, including chronic diseases, current medications and vaccinations. It will be easier for you to complete this paperwork under stress if you have your pet’s medical records handy.

Have a pet first-aid kit. Actually, have two — keep one at home and one in your car.

You should keep a well-stocked first-aid kit at home and one with only the essentials in your vehicle, especially if your dog frequently visits parks or travels with you. A first-aid kit can help you treat your pet prior to getting them to a veterinary clinic.

According to the Merck Veterinary Manual for Pet Owners and Pet Poison Helpline, your pet first-aid kit should include:

Pet First-Aid Infographic | Diamond Pet Foods

  • Bandages
  • Scissors
  • Sterile saline eye wash
  • Water, a 1-gallon jug
  • Medications, including styptic powder, diphenhydramine, sugar (glucose) tablets and a small number of your pet’s regular medications
  • Liquid dishwashing detergent
  • Rectal thermometer and lubricating jelly
  • Contact information for veterinary clinic, emergency veterinary hospital and pet poison control center
  • Restraints (muzzle, Elizabethan collar, leash)
  • Towel or blanket
  • Treats

These items can be stored in plastic, waterproof containers that are kept out of your pet’s reach. At least once a year you’ll want to review the kits’ contents, check the expiration dates of any medications, sterile bandages and hydrogen peroxide, and restock used or outdated materials as necessary.

Make sure your pet’s microchip registration is current.

What could be worse than coming home to find your dog or cat has escaped? That your pet escaped and was seriously injured while on the lam. If a good Samaritan brings your injured pet to a local clinic, the treating veterinarian can determine your dog or cat is a beloved pet (not an abandoned one) and call you if your pet’s microchip registration is up-to-date.

Consider taking a pet first-aid course.

You, as a pet parent, can provide basic medical care to your furry family member at the scene of an injury. However, it’s important to know what to do — and what not to do — until you reach the veterinary clinic. Because knowledge can be empowering, you may want to consider taking a pet first-aid course. To find a hands-on training program in your area, first check with your veterinarian, local veterinary emergency hospital or animal humane society as they may know who offers such a course. Several organizations — the American Red Cross, Pro Pet Hero and Pet Emergency Education — offer online courses in pet first aid, too.

The very nature of emergencies is that they occur suddenly and unexpectedly. The best thing you can do at the time of a pet health crisis is stay calm. Knowing some basic pet first aid ahead of time and having your pet first-aid kit ready to go may help you do just that.

The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.

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