A pet’s sudden injury, illness, or dietary indiscretion can be a stressful event for any pet owner. Unfortunately, most pet owners will experience some sort of emergency during their pet’s lifetime. While you can’t predict when an emergency will occur, there are steps you can take to make a future emergency situation go as smoothly as possible:
1. Preparing Ahead of Time
- Build a standing relationship with your family vet. During an exam, a vet who is familiar with your pet will know when “he just isn’t feeling like himself.”
- Save your veterinary clinic’s phone number in your cell phone.
- Save your local 24/7 animal emergency hospital’s phone number in your cell phone. If you haven’t been to the emergency hospital before, we recommend looking up directions and driving there, too. Both of our hospitals are located within two turns of a major freeway, but if you’re not in the Twin Cities, that might not be the case. You don’t want any navigation surprises on top of your emergency situation!
- Have a pet first aid kit in your home and your car. The kit should include a copy of your pet’s medical history (vaccinations, illnesses, and medications), as well as supplies.
2. During a Pet Emergency
- Stay calm. It’s natural to become frazzled or emotional during an emergency. However, remember to take a deep breath and remain calm so you can think clearly and help your pet.
- Call ahead. First, call your family veterinarian to see if they’re available to help. If it’s after-hours or they’re not available, call your local animal emergency hospital. Let them know what’s happening with your pet and that you’re on your way so they can prepare for your pet’s arrival and provide your pet with care quickly. Also, if you know you’ll need help bringing your pet into the hospital, describe your car so they can watch for you to pull into the parking lot.
- Keep yourself safe. Even the friendliest and most tolerant pets can try to bite when distressed or injured. If your pet’s afraid or painful, apply a muzzle or gently wrap your pet in a large blanket before helping them into the carrier or car. For a makeshift muzzle, you can use a strip of nylon, cloth, or gauze.
- Be cautious with home CPR. If your pet is unresponsive and has stopped breathing, it’s best to provide chest compressions only. If you attempt mouth-to-nose resuscitation, you could be inadvertently bitten in the face.
- Control bleeding. Apply pressure to the wound and use bandages and gauze, a towel, or a t-shirt to help control bleeding. If your pet is bleeding severely, you may need someone else to drive so you can tend to your pet.
- Transporting a stable pet. If you’re able, it’s best to transport your pet in a carrier or crate. For large dogs who can walk, a leash is sufficient.
- Transporting a pet with injuries. If you suspect a broken bone or spinal injury, transport your pet on a flat, firm surface such as an ironing board, piece of plywood, sled, or cookie sheet for smaller pets.
- Keep your pet safe in the car. Pets loose in the vehicle can be further injured if you have to brake suddenly or if you’re in an accident. Loose pets can also distract the driver. If your pet is too large for a carrier or crate, use a seatbelt and harness, box carseat, or seat saver to secure your pet.
3. Special Considerations for Small Birds, Reptiles, and Small Mammals
- Some birds become extremely stressed when leaving home. You can reduce this stress by placing the bird in its cage, covering the cage with a towel or blanket, and giving the bird 10-15 minutes to acclimate before moving them to the car.
- On cold days, warm up the car before placing the caged bird in your car.
- Reptiles are ectothermic and rely on heat from the environment to maintain their body temperature. They can go into shock when brought into the cold weather. Therefore, you must warm up the car and provide your pet with a warm cage.
- A cage can be warmed by placing a warm water bottle or rice sock in the bottom of the cage. Place a thick blanket over the heat source so the pet cannot burn itself. Then, wrap the entire cage in a blanket or towel to minimize heat loss and drafts.
- Small Mammals
- Transport small mammals such as rabbits, ferrets, guinea pigs, and chinchillas, in a small cloth carrier.
- Transport smaller mammals such as rats, hamsters, and gerbils in their usual cage or a small plastic carrier.
4. Arriving at the Animal Emergency Hospital
- Immediately check in at the front desk and let them know what is going on with your pet. If you need help bringing your pet inside, let the staff know.
- If you have never been to an animal emergency hospital before, here’s what to expect.
Bringing your pet to the veterinary hospital for an emergency is stressful, scary, and never an experience anyone looks forward to. With these tips, we hope to help minimize some of the stress by arming you with the knowledge you need before an emergency arises. By following the tips above, you should be able to safely transport yourself and your sick or injured pet to the emergency animal hospital.