Pet Connections

The best way to manage an emergency is never to have an emergency.

As pet owners we all hope and wish that our pet will never have an emergency medical problem.  Pet emergencies are stressful for pets and owners alike.  Although there is no way to prevent all emergency situations, it is really good practice to control the things that are controllable and prevent the things that are preventable.  

Trauma

Many of the trauma cases that present to our emergency service are pets that were outside unsupervised.  Pet owners, myself included, enjoy allowing their cats to explore outside or their dogs to go for a walk in the woods.  That being said, pets who are outside and unsupervised are at risk for vehicular trauma, lacerations, bites from other animals, and many other sources of trauma.  So, my recommendations for preventing trauma are:

  1. Keep dogs in a fenced yard
  2. Keep dogs leashed while walking
  3. Keep cats inside your house

As a potentially unpopular addendum – also be leery of dog parks.  Multiple dogs off leash is a recipe for fights.  Dog parks are a great concept and I love them and use them myself.  Nonetheless, just to be safe, my dogs will not be in the park at high volume times and my dogs will probably leave with me when a “new kid” shows up for the first time.

Preventing Poisonings

Most poisonings occur because a pet has access to something to which they should not have access.  The most common substances that lead to pet poisonings are as follows: human medications, chocolate, grapes and raisins, pet medications, poisonous plants, illicit drugs, xylitol (an artificial sweetener), alcohol, antifreeze, and rodenticides.  When any of these substances are ingested by a pet, this occurs because a human has allowed the pet to have access.  It is our responsibility as pet owners to prevent access.

  1. Keep all medications secure.  Medications should be kept in a wall cabinet.
  2. Take medications behind a closed door, then if you spill the medication your pet cannot access the pills that are on the floor.
  3. Keep all sugarfree gum and candy out of reach.  Sugarfree gum and candy should be in a wall cabinet.  Purses, backpacks, etc… containing candy or gum must be placed in a secure location.
  4. Keep all human food, alcohol and illicit drugs out of reach.  And be sure to tell your friend, you know the one I mean, that it is not “funny” to see how the dog responds to alcohol or drugs.

Preventing Gastrointestinal (GI) problems

Not all GI problems are preventable, but certainly GI problems arising from ingesting things not meant to be ingested, are preventable.  

  1. Maintain a regular feeding schedule
  2. Always allow free access to water
  3. Be boring – feed the same, or similar, food all the time
  4. Secure the garbage
  5. Don’t feed human food
  6. OK, you’re going to feed human food – so be smart about it:
    1. They love anything you give them.
    2. Avoid spicy or fatty food.
    3. Chicken meat (not skin) is tolerated by most pets.
    4. Mild cheeses are tolerated by most pets.
    5. Rice is well tolerated.
    6. Raw vegetables or fruit are often a good choice (except for grapes).

Preventing environmental stress

Heat, humidity and extreme cold can all cause medical problems for animals.  If it is hot and humid enough that you are uncomfortable with strenuous exercise, then it will also be uncomfortable and potentially dangerous for your pet.  Similarly, if you have to wear winter boots and multiple layers due to cold, your pet will be uncomfortable as well.

  1. During the summer always provide water and shade for your pet.
  2. During the summer exercise your pet in the morning or evening because temperatures are usually milder at these times.
  3. During the summer you may need to limit your pet’s exercise outside.
  4. During the winter do not allow your pet to be outside for long periods of time.*
  5. During the winter always provide insulated shelter.
  6. During the winter be sure that water is changed frequently so it is not frozen.
  7. Never leave your pet in a car.

*some breeds, like Siberian Huskies, Bernese Mountain Dogs, and others are more tolerant of cold of course.  They should still have shelter or be encouraged to come inside periodically.

It is not possible to prevent all emergencies, but hopefully we can prevent many of them by being mindful.

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