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Pet parents often panic when their pet is injured due to an accident, and panicking can lead to inaction or bad decisions. Knowing exactly what to do in the spur of the moment could mean the difference between a successful recovery and a tragic outcome. Advance planning provides a mental blueprint for pet parents that helps them stay focused and on track when emergencies arise. Here's what pet parents need to know about handling a crisis involving pet emergency care.
The first thing to do when an animal becomes injured is to seek an evaluation from a veterinary professional. Keep in mind that external injuries such as wounds and cuts may not portray an accurate picture. In some cases, such as when the heart and/or lungs are injured, the situation quickly becomes fatal without any visual indications. All pet parents should have their veterinarian's phone number and the phone number and address of the nearest after-hours emergency veterinary clinic among their emergency contact numbers. Call the office ahead of time to let them know of the impending arrival, give them a brief account of what happened so they'll know what to expect, and follow any instructions they may give.
Although pet parents will need to transport their pets to the clinic, handling the animal as little as possible is important to protect themselves and the pet from further injury. They should avoid placing their hands near the animal’s mouth, a pet in pain may bite or scratch. Move the animal as gently as possible onto a board or other strong, flat surface covered with a towel with another towel or light blanket covering the pet.
After arrival at the facility, the veterinarian will evaluate the animal's condition. They may ask some basic questions to help determine how severe the pet’s current condition is such as if they are breathing, if there is active bleeding, and if they are awake/alert.
The doctor will do a thorough physical examination of the pet and vital signs will be collected - blood pressure, temperature, oxygen saturation and electrical activity of the heart. In cases of severe pet trauma, or concerns about vitals, it will be necessary to stabilize the pet before moving forward with treatment. For instance, pets in obvious respiratory distress may be placed on a ventilator, and an IV may be placed in pets experiencing shock.
Pet parents will be asked to wait in the waiting room. Being unable to speak directly with the veterinarian during this time may be stressful, but the veterinarian must be allowed to focus solely on taking care of the pet. Pet parents need to be patient and remain as calm as possible during this critical time. The veterinarian will speak with pet parents after the animal is out of the danger zone. It's important to listen carefully during this conversation because it will include recommendations for the next steps in treatment. This may include x-rays, ultrasounds, or bloodwork.
Fast action and clear thinking combined with the expertise of veterinary emergency response professionals provide the best possible results in emergencies involving trauma.