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Pet first aid

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It's important to be well informed about first aid for pets, in the event your pet suffers a minor injury. Remember, it's always best to check with your vet if your pet has an accident, but these are some home remedies for common pet illnesses and injuries.

In the nick of time

Chances are that sometime during your dog's life, it's going to experience at least a mild cut or abrasion that will require prompt treatment to control bleeding and avoid infection. Knowing how to treat the wound properly can prevent costly, painful and even life-threatening complications.

"First, remove any foreign objects and dirt and rinse the wound thoroughly with clean water,'' said Deon van der Merwe, assistant professor of toxicology at the College of Veterinary Medicine, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kan. "Then, be careful to clip any hair around the area to prevent it from sticking to the wound.''

Dr. Anna E. Worth, president of the American Animal Hospital Association, recommends cleaning the wound thoroughly with saline or water, "but don't use soap, because it may be irritating. Triple antibiotic cream and antibacterial solution can be applied after it's clean. If the cut is bleeding badly, hurry up and get pressure on it with clean gauze sponges or a clean wash cloth. Apply pressure until it stops bleeding, and then bandage it.''

If the cut or scrape is longer than a half-inch, "you may want to have it seen by your veterinarian for suturing,'' Worth said.

Occasionally, dogs also suffer a broken toenail which, if severe enough, can lead to severe blood loss, said Dr. Tony Kremer, DVM. Stocking your cupboard with a styptic powder product like Quick Stop, which can quickly clot the blood, is a good idea, he said.

Poison panacea

One of a dog owner's biggest fears is the ingestion of a poisonous or dangerous substance by their pet. If you suspect that your dog has swallowed something toxic, you should not hesitate to immediately phone your local veterinarian or the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' (ASPCA) poison control hotline at 888-426-4435 (this call may incur a $60 consultation fee). Your vet or an ASPCA poison control professional can quickly walk you through the steps needed to expel the substance from your dog's body, van der Merwe said.

"You may be asked to give your dog a 3 percent solution of hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting, or perhaps activated charcoal, which is a powder that can be mixed into food or water that binds toxins together,'' van der Merwe said.

The worrisome substances most commonly swallowed by dogs are antifreeze, rat poison and many household foods, Worth said. These can include chocolate, coffee, onions, garlic, macadamia nuts, avocados, grapes, raisins, yeast, xylitol-sweetened products, alcoholic beverages and spoiled or moldy foods, van der Merwe said.

Treating doggy diarrhea

A diarrhea discharge can be more serious than a nose-holding nuisance, Worth said.

"If it is a one-time event, then being careful with food for the next several meals usually fixes things up,'' Worth said. "But if there is any blood in the discharge, I would recommend an immediate visit to your veterinarian.''

"The best treatment is to rest the digestive system and provide no food for 24 hours,'' said Kevin Chapman, DVM, owner of Hoschton Animal Hospital in Hoschton, Ga. "Feed your dog rice and either boiled chicken or boiled hamburger over the next three days, while gradually mixing in its regular food with this bland diet. Diarrhea that persists over three days needs a veterinarian's attention - sooner if vomiting occurs or if your pet is depressed or lethargic.''

Eye-opening advice

When it comes to an irritation or infection of one or both eyes, nearly all vets unanimously agree that this is a job best left to a professional.

"Eye irritations can be very dangerous if there is an abrasion to the cornea,'' Worth said. "Oftentimes, it is just an allergic conjunctivitis or mild bacterial infection and wiping the eye with warm water two to three times a day will help.''

But to determine exactly what the problem is and avoid serious complications, including loss of sight, "the dog should be seen by your vet immediately,'' Worth said.

Credit: Reviewed by Amy I. Attas, V.M.D.
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