Unfortunately, dogs and cats are admitted to veterinary hospitals almost daily for treatment of serious injuries or painful conditions from being hit by a car, injuries from a dog fight at the dog park, a torn claw on the foot, or even a ruptured ligament from playing ball in the back yard.
When an animal sustains a painful injury, it is important to not only get them quickly transported to a veterinary hospital for care, but to do in a manner that is safe for you and the animal.
1. The very first step before attempting to touch the pet is to secure a muzzle to prevent bites. When injured or in pain, even the most docile dog or cat can react instinctively and bite when you’re trying to help. Bite wounds are not only painful, but the bacteria in an animal’s mouth can lead to infected wounds and sepsis. When a pet bites a person during transport, human blood can get mixed with animal blood on the animal’s coat and complicate care once you arrive at the veterinarian.
Using a muzzle – For all pet owners, an essential part of the family First Aid kit should be a muzzle for your pet or materials to make a muzzle. For dogs, basket muzzles fit loosely over the mouth and nose and are secured with straps behind the head. These muzzles are nice because they take the teeth out of the action and don’t restrict breathing. Soft nylon muzzles that fit snuggly can also work, just be sure they fit properly in advance. You don’t want to wait until an emergency to find that the muzzle is too small or large.
Making a muzzle – If you don’t have a muzzle available, you can make one using gauze, soft nylon rope or even panty hose. Just take a three-foot length of material, make a loop as if you were tying a square knot and loop this over the dog’s mouth and nose. Gently pull the loop tight and pass the free ends under the dog’s mouth and extend them behind the head and tie a bow that can be quickly released.
2. The next step is to get the pet to a vehicle for transport.
A gentle transition from the ground to the vehicle is essential to avoid additional injuries to the back and airway. To accomplish this, use a sheet of plywood if available or a blanket. Try to slide these items as gently as possible under the pet without causing undue movement. Pets may not be comfortable with this process, so enlist a person to control the animal while two other people attend to the end of the makeshift stretcher.
3. Call ahead to the animal hospital
Once in the car, phone ahead and let the hospital know you are in transit with a wounded animal and your expected time of arrival. It would be good to have your vet’s phone number in your contact list as well as the number of the after-hour emergency hospital. Give them as much information as possible regarding the cause of the injury and the condition of your pet. This information is valuable for the doctors and veterinary nurses so they can give the most expedient care for your pet during such a difficult time. Most importantly, stay calm and drive safely.
Originally published March 2016 in the Lake Norman Citizen.