What constitutes a veterinary emergency?

The thought that our pets might need medical care is not something many of us like to dwell on but the fact remains that as pet owners we need to have a clear understanding when a trip to the vet is essential. Knowing when our furry friend needs professional medical care and when common illness can be treated at home can mean a healthier and happier life for your pet! With that in mind, these are facts EVERY pet owner should know...

What is an emergency?

Any situation you believe is potentially life-threatening for your pet within a short period of time, or that may lead to permanent health problems if not attended to immediately.
- South African Veterinary Council

What signs indicate a medical emergency?

  • Sudden weakness
  • Sudden difficulty walking
  • Severe bleeding
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Collapse
  • Ongoing seizures
  • Sudden and ongoing pain (including shaking, hiding, yelping, refusing to interact)
  • Vomiting blood

When are home remedies safe?

The key to knowing when home care is suitable and when a trip to the vet is needed comes from understanding your pet's health and when he/she is behaving abnormally. While the information we offer here in no way replaces proper veterinary care, here are some guidelines concerning some of the more common ailments where home care can be carried out:

Our pets can be susceptible to picking up worms all year round whether from other infected animals, less-than-desirable eating habits or from the soil in your back yard. A parasite infection can range from being mildly frustrating to life-threatening. While many pet owners resort to over-the-counter medication these treatments can be excessively harsh with continued de-worming treatments weakening your pet's immune system. Find out what symptoms to look out for, how you can naturally expel internal parasites such as roundworm, tapeworm and hookworm and when you should seek veterinary help by clicking here .

What owner is not all too familiar with the nuisance of fleas? Fleas are a common and pesky problem that can cause unending frustration for your pet and you – and can lead to harmful infections. Itchy skin, flea bite dermatitis and skin and coat health can be effectively treated alongside a conventional flea prevention program with these natural solutions, see here for more info.

Ear Infections:
Being very common amongst dogs and cats, antibiotics are commonly prescribed for most ear infections which can lead to decreased immune functioning through repeated use. Find out which symptoms are indicative of an ear infection, learn about mites and how you can treat and prevent ear problems at home by clicking here.

Cats tend to be more susceptible to UT infections compared to dogs and if left untreated these infections can lead to serious kidney problems. However, pick up on the signs and stop the reccurring cycle of UT infections from the start with these home care tips. Find out more here.

Dental Health:
Teeth and gum problems are one of the most commonly seen ailments in pets. Teeth and gum disease can lead to serious health risks if left unchecked. Maintaining a proper cleaning regime and addressing problems such as calculus from the start is key! What signs should you be looking out for, how can you treat dental problems and when should you seek medical attention? Find out all you need to know right here.

Stocking your pet-friendly first aid kit

Most people keep a first aid kit at home for themselves and their family, but it’s equally important to keep one on hand for your furry friends. Accidents do happen and when they do, it’s best to be as prepared as you can be. Here are a few must-haves to go into your pet-friendly medical aid kit so if disaster strikes, you have everything you need!

  1. An up to date list of all relevant emergency numbers in your area. This should include your pet’s vet, an emergency or after hours vet and an animal poison control centre.
  2. Photo copies of all your pet’s relevant documents such as medical history and vaccinations.
  3. Medical gloves to avoid contamination and to keep things sterile.
  4. Bandages, gauze dressing, cotton wool, scissors and adhesive tape to secure a bandage in the case of bleeding. Note that human plasters should never be used on a pet.
  5. A cleansing solution such as Clenzor which can be used to clean, disinfect and soothe cuts, scrapes and insect stings.
  6. A topical ointment such Wound Dr. for minor injuries
  7. A muzzle or bandage roll that can be used to muzzle your dog in emergencies. Pets can get aggressive when injured and resist your help. Never muzzle a pet that is vomiting.
  8. Large cotton towel to wrap up smaller injured pets
  9. Tweezers for removing splinters, ticks and other foreign objects from the skin or paws.
  10. In the event your pet ingests a poisonous substance don't attempt to treat your pet yourself. Go to your vet immediately. The most common forms of poison include snail bait, rat poison, common garden pesticides and human drugs.

Other useful remedies to have on hand include:

And as always, for all signs of illness, poisoning or serious injury, be sure to take your pet to a vet for a thorough examination and professional treatment.

How to handle a medical emergency

  1. Make sure you are prepared by having your vet's contact details on your fridge, including the after hours and emergency contact details.
  2. Remember to stay calm when calling your vet! Going into panic mode won't help your pet and may delay relaying the right information to the vet, wasting potentially valuable time.
  3. Supply your vet with info: where you live (area and terrain) describing what is wrong with your pet and how long symptoms have been showing for.
  4. Depending on what your vet says, keep a pen and paper handy to write down any instructions he or she may give you.
  5. When transporting your pet, handle with care, being prepared for bites if movement causes your pet more pain.
  6. For a smaller pet use a pet carrier; for a larger dog wrap him or her in a blanket for carrying.
  7. Drive carefully!
  8. Let your vet take over once you arrive and give them your full cooperation.

First Aid Basics for Pets

Keep a mental note of these basic first aid principles:

  1. Try to stay as calm as possible; this will help to keep your pet calm.
  2. Remember your pet is in pain so he or she may bite – use a muzzle if necessary.
  3. Avoid touching your pet as much as possible, especially stroking and patting as this will only aggravate them further if they are in pain.
  4. For acute bleeding apply direct pressure with a clean towel.
  5. Should your pet have a seizure, leave them be and don't try to pull out their tongue. The best you can do is to make their environment as comfortable as possible.
  6. Do not give your pet any human medication unless specifically instructed to do so by your vet.
  7. Get your pet to the vet as soon as possible!
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