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Summer is a popular time to get outside and have fun with your dog. Despite the current COVID-19 crisis, more people are out and about with their pets than in previous years. In an effort to fight off cabin fever, 15% are hiking more than usual, with 43% of Americans participating in more outdoor activities than previous years.
Outdoor exercise and play are a great way to spend time with your dog, but this activity should be conducted in a safe manner. It’s always important to have a human first-aid kit on hand for these adventures and, with a few modifications, this kit can be expanded to have the basic first-aid needs for your dog.
Planning for Common Emergencies
Outdoor emergencies are always a possibility. Being aware of possible dangers and having a plan is essential for you and your pet.
Common summer pet emergencies include:
- Allergic Reactions. Allergic reactions can be triggered by anything, but are commonly associated with insect bites. Unfortunately, dogs are typically stung on their nose/muzzle region because they are sniffing or investigating insects. Signs of a minor allergic reaction include: mild swelling of the face and itchiness or generalized irritation. Signs of a more severe allergic reaction are weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, collapse, severe facial swelling, trouble breathing, and/or pale mucous membranes. All allergic reactions should be evaluated by a veterinarian.
- Snake Bites. Snake bites are usually seen when hiking, but can even occur in your backyard. Having a knowledge of the types of snakes that are present in a geographical area is important. Snake bites can cause severe swelling at the site of the bite. Venomous snake bites can cause systemic illness that needs immediate and life-saving care. If your pet encounters a snake, and the snake in question is easily identifiable, a photo can be helpful for your veterinarian to confirm if it’s a venomous or nonvenomous species. Do not put yourself or your pet at risk to acquire this photo. A pet with a snake bite needs to be evaluated immediately by a veterinarian to initiate treatment. Do not apply a tourniquet or attempt to extract venom from the bite wounds. The best first aid a person can provide for a dog with a snake bite wound is to keep them calm and limit activity until they can get to a veterinary hospital.
- Lacerations. Lacerations can occur from inanimate objects, such as trees, posts, or from other animals. First aid for a laceration involves flushing with water and covering with a loose bandage until your dog can be evaluated by a veterinarian. Lacerations can be painful, so if your pet seems distressed from handling, avoid further measures until a veterinarian can provide pain control. If your pet is bleeding excessively from their wound, application of a pressure bandage can help to minimize bleeding. This should be tight enough to apply pressure, but should not be a tourniquet, as this can cause further injury.
- Heat Stroke. Heat stroke is secondary to overheating, either from strenuous activity or exposure to high ambient temperatures. Initial signs of heat-related injury include: excessive panting, weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, and collapse. If heat stroke is suspected, immediately remove your pet from the heat, ideally by bringing them indoors to an area with air conditioning. Offer your dog room temperature (or slightly cool) water, apply fans, and place cool towels on their body to help reduce core temperature. Do not submerge your dog in water or apply ice packs. They should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible and, during the car ride, make sure the air conditioning is on or windows are open to maximize the breeze and continually cool your pet. The sooner treatment is started for heat stroke, the better the chances of a positive outcome.
- Car Accidents. Unfortunately, pets can be struck by cars any time of year, but numbers increase during the summer months. Accidents should be minimized by keeping pets on leashes, making sure gates and yards are secure, and your pet has appropriate identification (microchips, collars, and tags). If a vehicular accident occurs, be careful picking up your pet and transporting them to the veterinarian, as they could be in pain and react aggressively as a defense mechanism. During the ride, they should be kept calm and activity should be minimized. Keeping a blanket or towel in the car can be helpful for picking up injured animals.
- Eye Injuries. Eye injuries can occur from interaction with shrubbery or branches, or from altercations with other animals. They can be severe and painful, and, if an eye injury is suspected, flushing the eye out with contact solution or eye wash should be done immediately while en route to a veterinary hospital. Also, minimizing rubbing and scratching of the eye can help prevent secondary injuries.
- Drowning. All animals should be supervised when around open bodies of water. If a pet falls into a body of water, they should be immediately removed and assessed by a veterinarian.
What You Need for a Dog First-Aid Kit
Here are all of the items you’ll need for your pet’s first-aid kit:
- Vet Wrap
- Bandage Material (soft-padded material like gauze sponges)
- Eye Wash Solution
- A Towel or Blanket
- An Extra Leash
- Thermometer (normal temperature for a dog is 99-102.5°)
- Bottled Water and a Bowl
- Triple Antibiotic Ointment
- Benadryl Tablets (make sure diphenhydramine is the only active ingredient)
- Copy of Rabies Certificate
Hopefully, this kit will never need to be used, but it’s always good to be prepared in case of an emergency.