Laurie Anne Walden, DVM
Warm weather brings some extra risks for pets. Some animals need protection from sunlight, and all animals need protection from hot temperatures.
Sun-Related Skin Conditions
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation in sunlight causes skin damage in animals just like it does in humans. Fur and melanin (dark pigment) protect the skin from UV rays, so animals with short white hair or no hair are at higher risk than those with thick dark fur. Most animals with sun-related skin disease spend a lot of time outdoors, but even indoor cats can develop skin disease caused by UV rays coming through windows.
Sun-related skin damage typically affects areas of the body that don’t have thick fur and are exposed to the sun. Any part of the body with thin or light-colored hair can be involved, but these are the most common areas:
Solar dermatitis, also called actinic dermatitis, is skin disease caused by exposure to UV radiation. It can be mistaken for allergic skin disease because the lesions are similar and it is often seasonal. Affected skin is red, painful to the touch, and scaly or flaky. Bumps and oozy lesions might develop. Over time, the skin becomes thickened and scarred. Because solar dermatitis usually causes a secondary skin infection, the lesions might improve with antibiotics, at least at first.
UV radiation causes mutations within skin cells, so solar dermatitis can transform into skin cancer (squamous cell carcinoma or hemangiosarcoma, for example). These cancers are malignant: they can spread throughout the body. Solar dermatitis and skin cancer are diagnosed with skin biopsy.
Heat stroke is a life-threatening risk to animals during warm weather. Unlike solar dermatitis and skin cancer, it doesn’t require direct exposure to UV rays. The outdoor temperature doesn’t even have to be very hot for an animal to develop heat stroke. The temperature inside a parked car quickly rises higher than the outside temperature, so animals inside parked cars are at risk even in moderately warm weather. Brachycephalic (short-nosed) animals like pugs and bulldogs are at especially high risk.
Signs of heat stroke include panting, dark red or purple gums, vomiting, collapse, and seizures. Heat stroke requires immediate first aid (cooling with water, not ice) and emergency veterinary care. For more information, see the blog post on heat stroke.
How to Protect Your Pet
The best way to protect animals is to minimize their exposure to UV rays and heat:
Image source: Elisa Kennemer on Unsplash
Laurie Anne Walden, DVM
Animal exposures to marijuana have increased dramatically in recent years. As more states legalize medical or recreational marijuana for human use, more pets are likely to have access to cannabis products.
To keep things clear, here are a few terms used to describe cannabis products:
Sources of Exposure
Edible products account for most THC exposures in pets. Edible products made with butter or oil infused with medical-grade marijuana have a high concentration of THC. Edible products can also contain other ingredients, like chocolate and xylitol, that are dangerous for animals.
Cannabis plants are also a risk for animals. The THC content of cultivated C sativa has increased over time and varies among plants, so it’s hard to know just how much THC an animal that eats part of a cannabis plant or inhales the smoke has received.
Vaping devices containing CBD, THC, or synthetic cannabinoids have caused toxicosis in animals. Animals have also been poisoned by eating marijuana in discarded cannabis products and—this one is gross—human feces.
CBD products have been reported to cause poisoning in animals. It’s possible that the toxic effects were caused by contamination with THC or another substance, not the CBD itself, but the effects of CBD on animals are still being investigated. Another concern with CBD is that it might interact with prescribed medications, possibly affecting liver function.
Marijuana toxicosis makes animals sick but is rarely fatal. However, 2 dogs have died after eating baked goods containing medical-grade marijuana butter.
Signs of poisoning start within a few minutes to several hours after exposure, depending on the type of exposure. These are some of the signs of marijuana toxicosis in animals:
Exposure to THC or synthetic cannabinoids can also cause changes in heart rate, inability to regulate body temperature, aggression, seizures, and coma.
Over-the-counter human urine tests for marijuana don’t work well in dogs and tend to return either false-positive or false-negative results. The diagnosis of marijuana toxicosis is usually based on clinical signs, although many diseases and other toxins can cause the same signs. Knowing that an animal could have been exposed to marijuana certainly makes the diagnosis easier, but owners aren’t always willing to tell a veterinarian that their pet had access to a cannabis product.
Whether an animal with marijuana poisoning needs to be hospitalized depends on the severity of the signs. Treatment is mostly supportive care, with medication used as needed to treat specific problems (like heart rate abnormalities). Inducing vomiting can be unsafe, so an animal that has eaten a cannabis product might need to be sedated so the stomach can be emptied through a tube.
The prognosis is usually good for animals with marijuana poisoning. The risk is higher for animals exposed to medical-grade marijuana products or synthetic cannabinoids.
Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/nida-nih/28147221034/in/photostream/
Laurie Anne Walden, DVM
Spring is the start of snake season in North Carolina. The vast majority of snakes in our state are harmless. Only a few venomous snake species (copperheads, cottonmouths, rattlesnakes, and coral snakes) live in North Carolina. In the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area, the copperhead is by far the most common venomous snake.
Learn to recognize copperheads.
Copperheads have a distinctive hourglass pattern that from the side looks like a row of Hershey’s kisses. It’s easier to identify a copperhead by its markings than by the shape of its head or pupils. Head shape isn’t a reliable way to tell if a snake is venomous; some nonvenomous snakes can flatten their heads to mimic a pit viper’s triangular head. As for pupil shape (round vs vertical slits)—seriously, just don’t get close enough to a wild snake to check.
You can see photos of North Carolina snakes on the Herps of NC website: https://herpsofnc.org/snakes/. You’ll notice that copperheads and also a lot of nonvenomous snakes are brown with splotches. This color combination is common because it’s great camouflage, but unfortunately it means that nonvenomous snakes are often mistaken for copperheads.
Don’t worry too much about identifying a snake that’s bitten your dog. Treatment is based more on symptoms than on snake species, and it’s more important to get your dog to an emergency clinic without delay. If you want to identify a snake you’ve seen outdoors, take a photo so you can look it up online, but don’t approach or disturb the snake.
Dogs get bitten because they’re curious, not because snakes are aggressive attack animals.
Snakes hide in small spaces where they’re relatively safe from predators and can find food (mostly small rodents like mice). Woodpiles, tarps, underbrush, tall grass, leaf litter, rock crevices, and yard debris are all possible snake habitats.
Snakes bite for defense. A dog that steps on a snake or sticks its nose into a snake’s hiding place can be bitten. Because of their color camouflage, copperheads are hard to spot. You and your dog might not even know a copperhead is there unless it bites one of you.
Avoid snake areas. If you see a snake, leave it alone and walk away.
Here are some ways to reduce your dog’s chance of a snake encounter:
If your dog is bitten, seek emergency veterinary care right away.
Copperhead venom isn’t as toxic as cottonmouth or rattlesnake venom, but a copperhead bite can still be quite serious for a dog. Copperhead bites are very painful and cause swelling and tissue damage. The venom can also interfere with blood clotting.
Dogs with snakebite are usually hospitalized for pain management, intravenous fluids, wound care, supportive care, and observation. Copperhead bites aren’t often treated with antivenin, but dogs with severe symptoms might need it.
If your dog is bitten, stay calm and take your dog to an emergency clinic. Don’t use ice, a tourniquet, or anything to remove venom from the wound; all of these can make the tissue damage worse. Leave the snake alone. If you try to catch or kill it, you could be bitten too.
CDC image source: https://phil.cdc.gov/Details.aspx?pid=10841
Laurie Anne Walden, DVM
Laundry and dish detergents contain chemicals that are unsafe for animals. Detergent pods pose a bigger risk than bottled liquid detergents or detergent powders.
Detergents contain anionic and nonionic surfactants, which lift dirt and oil off of surfaces and fabrics. These types of surfactants cause mild irritation to the skin and eyes. If swallowed, they can cause vomiting.
Fabric softeners, disinfectants, and sanitizing solutions sometimes contain cationic surfactants, which are more corrosive than anionic and nonionic surfactants. Cats are especially sensitive to cationic surfactants. Direct contact can injure the skin, and cats that lick these products from their paws or fur can also have damage to the mouth and digestive tract.
Some detergents are alkaline (they have a high pH, the opposite of acids). Concentrated alkaline products damage the stomach if swallowed. Detergents might also contain ethanol and other potentially toxic ingredients.
Animals (mainly dogs) that bite detergent pods are at higher risk than animals that lick liquid detergents or detergent powders. Even when the ingredients are similar, the consequences of exposure are more serious with detergent packaged in pods.
Detergent in pods is concentrated and under pressure. When a tooth punctures a pod, the detergent sprays the inside of the mouth, from where it is swallowed, inhaled into the lungs, or both. Animals that lick spilled liquid detergent aren’t likely to consume very much of it because it doesn’t taste good. In comparison, dogs that bite detergent pods get a larger dose of product at a higher concentration.
The most severe effects of detergent exposure are lung inflammation and pneumonia, which happen when detergent—or vomit that contains detergent—is inhaled into the lungs. Pneumonia can be fatal, so it’s possible for dogs that chew detergent pods to die.
Signs of Detergent Toxicosis
If Your Pet Is Exposed
Image source: Antonio Jose Cespedes on Pixabay
Laurie Anne Walden, DVM
Polyurethane glues that expand when they’re exposed to moisture pose a serious risk to dogs that chew the container and swallow even a little bit of the product. Some (not all) Gorilla Glue products are expanding adhesives. Some wood glues, craft glues, general household glues, and construction adhesives also expand when wet.
Dogs rarely swallow expanding adhesives, but the potential consequences can be severe. Anything that swells up when it’s wet is hazardous if swallowed. With expanding adhesives, the risk is even greater: these products expand to a size much larger than the amount swallowed and then harden to form a solid mass that can block material from entering or leaving the stomach.
Expanding adhesives contain diisocyanates, which are chemicals used to make polyurethane products. Diisocyanates are hygroscopic, meaning they absorb moisture from the air. Glues that contain diisocyanates are used to seal cracks and fill gaps.
In the moist, acidic environment of the stomach, products containing diisocyanates expand up to 8 times their original volume. Expansion starts within minutes after the product is swallowed. The hardened mass of glue becomes a foreign object in the stomach. A volume of glue as small as half an ounce can form a mass large enough to cause a blockage.
Glue that has cured before being swallowed—has already finished expanding and has formed a solid mass—is much less of a chemical risk, although of course it could still cause an obstruction if a dog managed to swallow a big enough chunk. Diisocyanates also irritate the skin and respiratory system, but these problems are much less common in animals than in people who are exposed to high levels at work.
Signs and Diagnosis
A mass of glue in the stomach causes the same signs as any other foreign object: vomiting, loss of appetite, painful abdomen, and loss of energy. Glue ingestion is diagnosed, or at least strongly suspected, when a dog is seen swallowing glue, the dog’s owner finds a chewed glue container, or the dog has glue residue on the fur.
The mass formed by a diisocyanate glue is visible on radiographs (x-ray images) but can look very similar to food in the stomach. Other imaging tests or a series of radiographs taken over time might be needed to definitely diagnose a foreign object in the stomach.
Expanding adhesives don’t stick to the inside of the stomach, luckily. In a study of dogs treated for Gorilla Glue ingestion, the glue irritated the stomach lining and caused ulcers in some dogs but didn’t cause serious damage to the stomach in any dog. The dogs had bloodwork abnormalities similar to those caused by vomiting in general or any type of stomach obstruction. Whether the presence of diisocyanates in the stomach caused any other problems wasn’t clear.
A foreign object that’s causing a stomach obstruction needs to be surgically removed. If a mass of glue seems small enough to pass on its own and the dog doesn’t have any worrisome signs like belly pain, the veterinarian and dog’s owner might decide to watch and wait.
What to Do if Your Pet Is Exposed
1. Friday S, Murphy C, Lopez D, Mayhew P, Holt D. Gorilla Glue ingestion in dogs: 22 cases (2005-2019). J Am Anim Hosp Assoc. 2021;57(3):121-127. doi:10.5326/JAAHA-MS-7126
Laurie Anne Walden, DVM
Some decorative winter holiday plants pose risks to pets. Other plants that aren’t actually toxic can still cause upset stomach if an animal swallows them.
If you think your pet might have swallowed or been exposed to a toxic plant, contact your veterinarian, an animal emergency clinic, or a 24-hour animal poison control hotline (a fee may apply):
Amaryllis (Amaryllis species)
Ingestion of amaryllis leaves, stems, or bulbs can cause drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, belly pain, lethargy, and a drop in blood pressure.
Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera species)
Christmas cactus isn’t toxic. However, an animal that swallows part of one might vomit or have diarrhea.
Christmas rose, hellebore (Helleborus niger)
Hellebores contain cardiac glycosides, compounds that affect heart function. Ingestion of any part of the plant can cause drooling, belly pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy.
The Christmas trees most commonly grown in North Carolina (firs, pines, cedars, and cypress) aren’t toxic, although like other non-food plants they could cause vomiting or intestinal blockage if an animal swallowed enough of one. The risks to pets are from trees falling, ornaments breaking, exposure to electrical cords, and possibly exposure to preservatives (which are not very toxic but can cause mild vomiting, according to ASPCA Animal Poison Control).
Norfolk Island pines and rosemary plants are often sold as potted miniature holiday trees. These two plants aren’t toxic to cats and dogs. However, a miniature tree made of mixed greenery would be a serious danger if it contained yew.
Cyclamen (Cyclamen species)
Ingestion of cyclamen, a flowering houseplant, can cause drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea. Swallowing a large amount of cyclamen tubers can lead to heart rhythm abnormalities, seizures, and death.
Delphinium, larkspur (Delphinium species)
Blue delphinium flowers are included in some Hanukkah floral arrangements. Toxic compounds in delphinium block a neurotransmitter that’s required for muscle function. Ingestion can cause digestive system problems (vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation), belly pain, drooling, weakness, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures, and paralysis. The most severe effects—heart or lung failure and death—are most likely to happen in grazing animals that ingest large amounts of the plant.
Holly, winterberry, Christmas holly, English holly (Ilex aquifolium)
Ingestion of English holly and similar plants in the genus Ilex can cause vomiting and diarrhea. The pointed leaves can injure the inside of the mouth, leading to drooling and other signs of mouth discomfort.
Lily (Lilium species, Hemerocallis species)
Lilies of various types are common in floral arrangements, including arrangements for winter holidays. Some lilies are so toxic to cats that they shouldn’t be brought at all into a house with cats. The most dangerous lilies are Lilium species (Easter lily, Japanese lily, Asiatic hybrid lilies, stargazer lily, Casablanca lily, and tiger lily) and Hemerocallis species (daylily). Ingestion of a tiny amount of plant material—even licking pollen from a paw—can cause kidney injury in cats. Calla lilies, peace lilies, lily of the valley, and Peruvian lilies are not Lilium and Hemerocallis species; these plants don’t damage the kidneys but can cause stomach upset and other problems.
Mistletoe (Phoradendron species, Viscum album)
Mistletoe ingestion can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain in animals. Swallowing large amounts can cause low heart rate, a drop in blood pressure, uncoordinated gait, and seizures. American mistletoe (Phoradendron species) is less toxic than European mistletoe (Viscum album).
Paperwhite (Narcissus papyraceus)
Paperwhites and other Narcissus species (like jonquils and daffodils) cause severe vomiting and diarrhea if ingested. Swallowing a large amount can lead to breathing and heart rhythm abnormalities. The most toxic part of the plant is the bulb.
Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima)
Poinsettias are not as toxic as some have been led to believe, according to ASPCA Animal Poison Control. The thick, milky sap is an irritant that can cause drooling and vomiting if ingested. The sap can also irritate the skin and eyes on contact.
Yew (Taxus species)
Plants in the genus Taxus are highly toxic to all animals, including dogs, cats, horses, and people. Yew branches and berries are sometimes used to make holiday wreaths and other decorations. Be very careful displaying and disposing of items that might contain yew; be sure pets and wildlife can’t access them. Yew ingestion causes vomiting, muscle tremors, difficulty breathing, heart failure, seizures, and death.
Public domain photo of yew (Taxus baccata) by MM on Wikimedia Commons
Laurie Anne Walden, DVM
Dogs and cats can’t have pumpkin spice lattes or Halloween candy, but not all foods that we associate with fall are off the menu for our pets.
If you’d like to give treats to your pets, keep these precautions in mind:
Homemade and store-bought pet treats
Many recipes for homemade dog and cat treats are available. Making your own pet treats can be a fun family project and a great outlet for creativity. Kids might be surprised that their dog is so enthusiastic about a baked dog biscuit that tastes like cardboard to them. It’s a good reminder that pets don’t need the sugar, salt, and flavorings that humans prefer.
Pet food manufacturers know a marketing opportunity when they see one, so you can also find themed seasonal treats for sale. Store-bought pet treats are fine as long as they don’t contain a problem ingredient (always check labels).
Plain cooked or canned pumpkin is safe, and dogs and cats tend to like it. If you use canned pumpkin, be sure to get plain pumpkin and not pumpkin pie filling. The sugar and spices in pie filling can cause problems. Likewise, don’t give a pet a piece of pumpkin pie—and especially not sugar-free pie, which might contain xylitol.
White potatoes and sweet potatoes
Most dogs love potatoes of any type. Skip the butter, salt, and toppings, though: no loaded baked potatoes or sweet potato casserole for pets.
Other vegetables and fruits
Many vegetables and fruits (not grapes!) are safe, tasty, low-calorie treats for pets. As always, stick with plain, unseasoned items for animals. Avoid casseroles, which might contain problem ingredients like onion and fat. To avoid a choking risk, cut raw vegetables and fruits into small pieces and remove seeds, cores, and thick peels. These are some good options:
A bite of cooked lean poultry meat is safe for dogs and cats. Avoid giving pets skin, fat, bones, pan drippings, raw meat, or meat seasoned with onion.
Is popcorn a fall food? I think it depends on which Thanksgiving cartoons you watch. As with other foods, don’t add butter, salt, or seasonings to popcorn pieces you toss to your pets. Air-popped popcorn doesn’t have added fat, so it’s safer than oil-popped or microwaved popcorn for animals like schnauzers that have an increased risk for pancreatitis.
Photo by Amy Starr on Unsplash
Laurie Anne Walden, DVM
Monkeypox is a zoonotic disease; it spreads between animals and humans. In the United States, the chance that a person will catch monkeypox from a pet or give monkeypox to a pet is very low. Transmission between people and pets is possible, though, so the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has developed monkeypox guidance for pet owners.
This article summarizes information from the CDC and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and is current as of August 24, 2022. See these links for updates:
How Monkeypox Spreads
Monkeypox was first discovered in 1958 in monkeys and since then has been found in many animal species. Rodents and other small mammals (not monkeys) are thought to be the reservoir species that maintain the virus.
Human infection was first reported in 1970 in Africa, and monkeypox has occasionally appeared in other parts of the world. The United States had an outbreak in 2003 after pet prairie dogs were housed with infected animals from Ghana. The 2022 global monkeypox outbreak has involved at least 75 countries.
The monkeypox virus is related to the virus that causes smallpox. The virus infects the host through the respiratory tract, mouth, eyes, or broken skin. These are some of the ways people and animals are infected:
Most transmission during the 2022 outbreak has been through close, direct contact with an infected person.
Animals at Risk
One pet dog has contracted monkeypox, most likely from direct contact with its owners (this was the first reported case of human-to-animal transmission). Chinchillas, prairie dogs, and some types of rabbits, mice, and rats can be infected with the monkeypox virus. Many wild mammals are also susceptible to infection. Cats, guinea pigs, hamsters, and cows can be infected with other viruses in the same genus as monkeypox, but whether they can also be infected with the monkeypox virus is not yet known. The CDC says that it’s best to assume that any mammal can be infected. There have been no reports of infection in animals that are not mammals.
Signs of Monkeypox in Animals
These are some of the signs that infected animals have developed:
These symptoms are nonspecific. Many conditions that are much more common than monkeypox cause the same symptoms in animals. Diagnosing monkeypox requires laboratory tests.
Precautions for Pet Owners: CDC Guidance
If You Think Your Pet Has Monkeypox: CDC Guidance
Monkeypox. American Veterinary Medical Association. Accessed August 24, 2022. https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/one-health/veterinarians-and-public-health/monkeypox
Monkeypox in animals. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated August 17, 2022. Accessed August 24, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/veterinarian/monkeypox-in-animals.html
Monkeypox: pets in the home. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated August 17, 2022. Accessed August 24, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/specific-settings/pets-in-homes.html
Seang S, Burrel S, Todesco E, et al. Evidence of human-to-dog transmission of monkeypox virus. Lancet. 2022:S0140-6736(22)01487-8. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(22)01487-8
Image source: CDC
Laurie Anne Walden, DVM
Essential oils are compounds that give plants their scent and taste. They are volatile compounds, meaning that they evaporate quickly and release chemicals into the air. Essential oils are in many products: aromatherapy products, home fragrances, flavorings, personal care items (like shampoo), “natural” remedies, insect repellents, and so forth.
Essential oils can sometimes be dangerous for pets, so be aware of the possible risks if you use these products. Whether an essential oil will cause a problem for an animal depends on the type of exposure, the concentration of oil, the animal’s individual risk factors, and the type of oil.
The following essential oils are known to be toxic to cats and dogs, according to the Pet Poison Helpline.[1,2]
How Animals Are Exposed
Essential oils enter the body through the skin, by swallowing, or by inhalation. Pets are most often exposed to toxic levels when owners apply an essential oil directly to the skin or fur in an attempt to treat a skin condition or repel fleas. The oil is absorbed into the body through the skin, and the animal is further exposed by licking oil from the fur. The risk increases with higher concentrations of essential oils. Products containing a high percentage of essential oil (approaching 100%) should never be applied directly to an animal’s skin or hair.
Diffusers spread the fragrance of essential oils into a space. Passive diffusers work through evaporation: they send the scent of the oil, but not the oil itself, into the air. Passive diffusers are mainly a risk if a pet knocks one over and licks the oil or gets oil on the fur. Active diffusers (like nebulizers and ultrasonic diffusers) send actual particles of oil into the air. Oil from active diffusers can get onto an animal’s skin or be inhaled into the lungs, so the animal can have direct exposure to the oil without touching the diffuser. Strong odors from either type of diffuser can cause respiratory tract irritation.
Animals at Risk
Cats are at higher risk from essential oils than dogs are. Cats lack a liver enzyme that helps eliminate essential oils from the body. Cats and other animals that groom themselves are also more likely to swallow oil that’s collected on the fur.
Animals with asthma or other respiratory problems are at higher risk than others from inhalation exposure from diffusers. Birds are very sensitive to respiratory irritants, so diffusers can also cause problems for them.
Depending on the type of oil and the amount of exposure, essential oil toxicity can cause vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, tremors, loss of balance, skin irritation, coughing, difficulty breathing, low heart rate, low body temperature, rear leg paralysis, and liver failure.
Animals with symptoms of essential oil poisoning need veterinary care and might need to be hospitalized for intensive care.
Using Essential Oils Safely
Use essential oils with caution if you have pets. These tips can help keep your pets safe:
1. Benson K. Essential oils and cats. Pet Poison Helpline. Accessed June 4, 2022. https://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/blog/essential-oils-cats/
2. Marshall J. Essential oils and dogs. Pet Poison Helpline. Accessed June 4, 2022. https://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/pet-safety-tips/essential-oils-dogs/
Photo by Kadarius Seegars on Unsplash
Laurie Anne Walden, DVM
The goals of first aid are to stabilize the animal for transport to a veterinary clinic, keep the animal’s injury from getting worse, and avoid harm to people handling the animal. First aid can save an animal’s life, but it does not replace care at a veterinary hospital.
Keep a first aid kit for your pets. Have contact information for animal poison control and nearby veterinary emergency clinics on hand. If possible, call the emergency clinic before you arrive with your pet.
Handling an injured animal
Bee stings/insect bites
If you can see the stinger in the animal’s skin, carefully remove it. Swelling of the face or throat that causes difficulty breathing is a medical emergency. Contact a veterinarian before giving any medication.
For external bleeding from a skin wound, apply gentle pressure with a gauze pad or clean cloth for at least a couple of minutes, until the blood clots. Do not use a tourniquet unless blood is spurting from a wound and the animal’s life is in danger (tourniquets can cause serious damage).
For thermal or electrical burns, remove the source of heat or electricity and apply cool compresses with a wet cloth. For chemical burns, flush the area with a large volume of water. Do not apply butter, ointment, or ice to the burn; seek veterinary care instead.
Coughing and reverse sneezing can be mistaken for choking. If the animal is truly choking on something in the throat, do a finger sweep of the mouth (only if you can do so without being bitten) and remove the object if possible. Be careful not to push the object farther down. If the animal collapses because of choking, try the Heimlich maneuver: lay the animal on its side and strike the rib cage a few times with the flat of your hand.
In most cases you won’t know if your pet really has a fracture until a veterinarian has taken radiographs. Minimize your pet’s movement as much as possible during transport. Don’t give pain medication unless a veterinarian has specifically recommended it. Don’t try to splint the limb; the splint might make things worse and you could be bitten in the attempt.
Heat stroke can happen quickly, especially if an animal is left in a car in warm weather. First aid should not delay immediate transport to a veterinary clinic. If you can’t transport the pet right away, move the pet into a cooler, shaded area. Apply towels soaked in cool water or pour cool water over the animal’s body, especially the neck, armpits, belly, and groin (between the back legs). Don’t use ice.
Not breathing, no heartbeat
Unfortunately, most animals with cardiac arrest die, even if they receive cardiopulmonary resuscitation. If you try resuscitation, it’s best to do it on the way to the veterinary clinic while someone else drives (no delay in transport). The first step is to check inside the mouth for an object blocking the airway. Then hold the mouth closed and breathe into the animal’s nose until the chest expands. Breathe every 4 to 6 seconds, checking after every few breaths to see if the animal can breathe on its own. After you have begun rescue breaths and if the animal still has no heartbeat, begin chest compressions. Lay the animal on its right side, place one hand under the ribs, and place the other hand on top of the ribs at the widest part of the rib cage (just behind the elbow). Push down on the ribs at least 1 inch, more for large dogs. For cats and other very small animals, cup the chest in one hand and squeeze the ribs between the thumb and fingers. Apply 80 to 120 compressions per minute for large dogs and 100 to 150 compressions per minute for cats and small dogs. Every 4 to 6 seconds, stop the chest compressions and give a breath. Continue until you have arrived at the clinic or the animal’s heart is beating and the animal is breathing.
If you think your pet has eaten or been exposed to a dangerous substance, call a veterinary clinic or an animal poison control hotline. Note the time of exposure, the amount you think your pet swallowed or was exposed to, and the symptoms. Keep the packaging material, if available, so the ingredients can be identified. If your pet vomits, take a sample of the vomit to the veterinary facility in case it’s needed for analysis. Don’t give anything to induce vomiting unless a veterinarian or animal poison control specialist has specifically recommended it.
If possible, time the seizure and note what the animal did before, during, and after the convulsions (for example, acting “spaced out,” paddling the legs, or urinating). Keep your hands away from the animal’s face and don’t try to hold the animal. Move objects that could hurt the animal out of the way. If the animal is having a seizure near stairs, the edge of a deck, or another drop, use a physical barrier to keep the animal from falling.
Snakebites can be very painful, so use a muzzle to protect yourself from being bitten by your pet. Take a photo of the snake if possible, but stay away from it! Don’t try to catch or kill the snake. Keep your pet as calm as you can while you travel to the veterinary clinic. Don’t apply a tourniquet or ice, and don’t try to draw venom out of the wound.
For more information
Photo by Oscar Sutton on Unsplash
Laurie Anne Walden, DVM
The contents of this blog are for information only and should not substitute for advice from a veterinarian who has examined the animal. All blog content is copyrighted by Mallard Creek Animal Hospital and may not be copied, reproduced, transmitted, or distributed without permission.