Quality, professional veterinary care, tailored for you and your pet.
JULIE INNES VETS, HAMILTON
It goes without saying that all emergencies should be presented to a vet as soon
as possible, but there are some first aid measures you can take until you get there
ROAD TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS
Sadly these are common, in both dogs and cats. People sometimes worry about whether
or not to move the animal, as you would worry in a human, but it is usually better
to lift the animal carefully and get him or her off the road and on the way to the
vet as soon as possible.
If the animal is concious, it is likely to be upset and frightened, so try to be
as calm as possible. A warm blanket can help to keep the animal from struggling too
much and also help to stave off the effects of shock. Give no food or drink etc until
the animal has been examined and assessed, in case an anaesthetic or sedative is
If the animal is unconcious, wrap in a blanket and take him or her straight to the
vet. If someone can telephone the vet and give them a bit of information about the
animal, what happened and how the animal seems, they can be ready to treat your pet
as quickly as possible, with all the necessary equipment ready and waiting when you
arrive at the surgery, so if you can call ahead, always do.
ACUTE VOMITING AND DIARRHOEA
If your pet is vomiting several times in a short space of time, it could quickly
become dehydrated, especially in puppies and smaller animals. This is also true in
the case of severe diarrhoea.
One of the tests you can do to check your animal’s hydration status is the skin-tent
test. To do this, lift up the loose skin at the back of your pet’s neck. If the skin
falls down again quickly, your animal is probably not very dehydrated, but if the
skin stays up in a “tent”, this indicates dehydration. If your animal is dehydrated,
it will usually be given intravenous fluids (a drip), and will have to be in hospital
while this is administered.
If your pet’s hydration seems to be ok, you can give small amounts of an oral rehydration
solution, either a commercial product, or a home made sugar and salt solution (check
the composition with a vet first!)
Regardless of hydration, your pet should be seen by a vet as soon as possible to
determine the cause of the upset.
If your pet cuts itself somehow and is bleeding, it can be very frightening, as a
little blood goes a long way! The best thing you can do before bringing your animal
to the vet is to wrap the wound tightly in any material you have to hand, just to
keep some pressure on the wound and slow the bleeding. If there is a lot of bleeding,
don’t bother trying to clean the wound- we will do that at the surgery.
Don’t give food or drink to an animal with a bleeding wound, as we may well have
to stitch the wound under either sedation or general anaesthesia.
If your pet is bitten, and the skin is broken, it should come to the vets as soon
as possible, even if it doesn’t look too bad. The problem with bite-wounds is that
infection is often introduced deep under the skin, leading to painful abscesses later
if untreated, so we would usually make sure your animal has some antibiotic cover
as soon as possible.
With cut pads/ skin wounds etc, it’s better to get them checked out relatively quickly
too, as if they need stitching it is far better to do it early on, before the wound
gets infected or starts trying to heal, which can involve having to cut out more
tissue before we can stitch, so even if you are not sure whether a wound needs stitching,
it’s better for us to check.
Above all, don’t panic! In 20 years I have never seen an animal bleed to death from
a skin wound, and that includes the dog who came in having had his head run over
by a lawnmower, and was sporting a nice pair of red fountains from the top of his
Witnessing your pet having a seizure can be very frightening and distressing for
an owner, especially if you have never seen it before. Many seizures have a typical
pattern, and some breeds are more prone to them than others (collies, German Shepherds,
boxers, among others). They often happen when the animal is sleeping. Things you
might witness during a seizure that are “normal” are:
“Paddling”- moving the legs as if running
Passing urine and/or faeces
Vocalisation- many dogs howl during a seizure, which makes people think that they
are in pain, but it is a reflex response.
Seizure activity usually lasts about 2-3 minutes (although can seem like far longer)
Any seizure activity that continues beyond that should be seen by a vet as soon as
Once the animal starts to come round, they can appear disorientated and even as though
blind. This is what’s known as the post-dromal phase, and is normal. No attempt should
be made at this point to go near the animal as he or she may bite, without realising
who or what they are biting.
If your pet has a seizure, the best thing you can do is to ensure he or she can’t
hurt themselves (eg put cushions around them, make sure they can’t fall down the
stairs) and then watch without trying to interact with or touch the animal. If possible,
put the lights out and any tv’s etc off, to minimise any stimulation to the animal.
It is always helpful if you can time the seizure from start to finish, and even better
if you can video it for your vet, even on a phone- it’s always hard to describe a
seizure and a video is a great help to the vet in seeing what exactly happened.
It’s always best to phone a vet, but not usually necessary to rush the animal to
the vets, as moving the animal, the car journey etc could actually stimulate the
animal more and extend the seizure. If the seizure is showing no sign of diminishing
after a couple of minutes , there is a danger of status epilepticus, a rare condition
where the seizure activity continues, and which needs urgent attention. This is,
however, very rare.
It is not uncommon for an animal which has had a seizure to come out of it and then
have another or more seizures subsequently. These are known as cluster seizures.
Sometimes they require treatment, so don’t panic, but discuss it with the vet.
And finally, it may console you to know that I have known quite a few people who
have had seizures, and they assure me that they are completely unaware of what is
happening. So although your pet may be paddling/ howling/ wetting/ crying, he or
she will have no knowledge- it is definitely more upsetting by far for you than it
is for your pet!
If you KNOW your pet has eaten something poisonous, telephone the vet at once and
then bring the dog in. The vet will ask you about the thing your pet has eaten, so
it’s ideal if you can have the packet handy, so you can give the active ingredient.
This gives your vet time to call the Poisons Bureau and find out the best treatment/
advice for your pet by the time you get there, and to be able to implement treatment
If you are not sure if your pet has eaten something poisonous, but have reason to
suspect he or she may have, telephone the vet and bring the pet along. In some cases
we will be able to make the animal sick, or even just monitor the animal, and treat
symptoms as necessary
It is very difficult to determine what an animal might have been poisoned with without
having the package. Many poisons have no specific treatment, and symptoms can be
vague. These cases usually receive supportive treatment, often involving fluid therapy
(a drip) and monitoring.
Some things are more toxic to dogs than people realise. Some of the things on this
list will be obvious, but others are less so. Substances toxic to dogs (and cats)
Ibuprofen (very dangerous in dogs and cats)
Some cat flea products can be very toxic to dogs and vice versa, so always read the
This is not a comprehensive list, so if in doubt about something your animal has
ingested, call your vet!