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N. GA. VET OFFERS ADVICE TO PET OWNERS --- Handling pet emergencies

By Lyn Lewis, DVM

Wayside Animal Hospital

I have lived in North Georgia since graduating from Veterinary School in 2002 and I constantly hear stories about the “Blizzard of ’93.” I heard stories of how some people were stuck for up to two weeks because of the weather. When I heard those stories I would just shrug and say, “Well that was 1993; with all the improvements to the North Georgia area it would never be that bad now.” That is why last week was so eye opening for me to see how bad it gets up here.  Things are just now starting to normalize after over a week.  We managed to have a skeleton crew at the office and I helped answer the phone. For the most part, people were calling about pet emergencies and how they could not leave home and wanted advice. So, this week I decided to cover some of the major areas of pet emergencies.

Probably one of the most common emergencies is vomiting and diarrhea. Where people make mistakes is to keep feeding them. I have clients who try other things like boiled eggs, dairy products and various meats. Unfortunately, this is the last thing they need. Dairy products and things with fat in them, for example meats, will cause more vomiting. The best thing to do is withhold food from them for 24 hours. Also withhold water for the first 12 hours when the vomiting begins. The gut needs to rest and, for the most part, reset the system. Anything that they swallow causes the stomach to stretch, even water.  When the stomach stretches, nerves tell the brain that something is there and in turn the brain tells the intestines to get to work, generally leading to vomiting. This is why I don’t like to even give fluids at first, let the gut rest. In the case of diarrhea and no vomiting, it is okay to give food and water. Keep the foods very bland like boiled chicken and rice or just plain rice. You can give water or if the diarrhea is lasting a long time gatorade or pedialyte for the electrolytes.

Wounds or any injury is another common emergency.  This is very tricky and really varies from case to case. With open wounds that are bleeding, we really need to focus on getting the bleeding under control.  The best way to do this is to apply pressure to the wound.  Sometimes even this does not work and a great backup is using ice or something frozen over the wound. I personally like frozen peas, the bag really conforms over any surface so you really can cover the area. Always place a cloth or towel between the ice and wound area so it won’t cause any tissue damage. The ice causes blood vessels to shrink and usually stops the bleeding.

Once the bleeding is under control, place a bandage over the wound with some pressure.  If the bleeding was mild and easy to get under control, I want you to clean the wound first.  You can use betadyne, chlorhexiderm or hydrogen peroxide to clean the area. A word of warning about hydrogen peroxide, the oxidation of the tissues which causes it to bubble actually damages normal tissues just as much as it kills bacteria.  Using it once is okay but if you do it multiple times it actually makes the wound worse because more and more normal tissue dies. After cleaning the wound, place triple antibiotic ointment over the area. Now it is time to bandage the wound; if you have non-stick pads it is great to cover the wound with this first.  If the wound is on the trunk you can use an old sweater or shirt to cover it. Duct tape over the cloth to apply pressure can also help.  Once you get it bandaged, keep your pet very confined, place them in a crate so they cannot move around very much.

If your pet breaks a leg or is limping, always try to immobilize your pet in a carrier or something small. If that is impossible you can try splinting the leg to stabilize the fracture.  You can use a magazine or newspaper to encircle the area of the fracture to make it stiff and unmovable. Once again you can use duct tape to keep it from coming off. Make it snug but not too tight. Always leave the toes uncovered because if they swell, your bandage is definitely too tight. For pain control, aspirin is safe if only given for a day or two. If given any longer aspirin can cause stomach or intestinal ulcers and liver problems. NEVER use aspirin if your pet has any bleeding because it will make it worse. Ask your veterinarian about what dose to give based on your pets weight.  They can also explain the long term dangers of using aspirin for any length of time.

Each emergency is unique but I hope the above topics help you manage your pet’s emergencies until you can seek professional veterinary help. It is always a good idea to talk to your local veterinarian about getting together a veterinary first aid pack so you have everything you need if a problem arises. Also, there is now a new after-hours emergency hospital in North Georgia called the North Georgia Animal Emergency Hospital. It is open 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. Monday through Friday and open 24 hours on Saturday and Sunday if you need assistance or after hour advice.  Their number is 706-632-7879.  If you are further south there is also the Cherokee Emergency Hospital in Woodstock and their number is 770-924-3720.


P Day
0 #1 P Day 2011-01-31 18:11
This article should have said that aspirin should NEVER given to a cat !!! When given to a dog "buffered" aspirin is best.

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