Pet Emergencies 101

“There is a common thought (or maybe hope!) amongst many of us that pets (and kids) will only get sick during weekends, after hours and holidays. But as we know, this does not always bode true, as emergencies happen when you least expect it, says Dr Omar Mehtar of TAH Somerset West.

“When you have an emergency with your pet, like sickness, our first piece of advice is of course to take it to a vet. But a vet might not always be readily available, and you have to manage the situation, either until help arrives or when you can get to a vet. Some scenarios can be treated or at least managed until a vet is available,” he adds.

Make sure you are prepared for most medical situations that your pet might experience. Ensure your pet do not run out of his or her chronic medication during the holidays. Consider keeping pain medication and, in some cases, calming medication, at hand in case your pet might need it.

Dr Mehtar advises the following on some common issues a pet might experience:

Bee stings: A dog is usually inquisitive and normally gets stung on the nose or lip. It is usually a little painful, then itchy and then the dog’s face starts to swell up (in a lot of cases it can be rather comical). Some dogs can also break out into hives (small bumps all over the body). Most dogs can be treated with a conservative approach if it is just 1 sting (versus a swarm) and the pet does not have an allergic reaction to bee stings. Check the manner and behaviour of your pet: Are they breathing normally and are they still bright and alert?

You can give pets human Allergex as an antihistamine, but always phone the nearest 24-hour clinic (like TAH Bellville or CAMC) to get the correct dosage for your dog. Antihistamine will reduce the swelling and it should normally subside in about 4 hours from taking the medication, resulting in your dog appearing less depressed and lethargic and breathing easier.

Small cuts and nicks: If there are a small nick or cut and you cannot get to a vet immediately, the main issue would be keeping the wounds clean. Use warm water, with a teaspoon of salt and copious amounts of gentle cleaning. If the wounds are bleeding a bit, you can apply pressure with some cotton wool and hold the pressure for 2 minutes (time it). This should stop all minor bleeding. Tail, foot and ear wounds tend to look very dramatic when they bleed.

Vomiting and diarrhoea: A full-grown, normal adult dog can get diarrhoea or vomit from a change in their diet, eating all sorts of new garbage, trash or even poop they find in the new holiday home. Keep a close eye on your pet: Are they otherwise normal and are they still running around like a ‘loon’? Are they still eating and drinking? Buy some Diomec paste to have ready if your pet shows early signs of a tummy bug (this prebiotic can help the tummy cope). Always try and make sure that your pet stays hydrated, as pets can easily dehydrate

Cats wandering off: Cats can be difficult. Leave the cat’s food and water out as well as a nice bed with some shelter nearby. If they get stuck in a tree, climb up and try to coax the cat down (careful as they will claw you to ‘grip’ unto you). Make sure you have helpers at the bottom of the tree with a big blanket to catch the cat should they fall.

Dog stepping into a bluebottle: Rinse the tentacles with copious amounts of sea water. If your pet allows, you can also ice the area to numb the pain.

It is always a good idea to get a proper vet check for your pets and discuss what can be given to your pet during emergency situations, as your vet will know the medical history of your pet. It might a good idea to discuss getting an emergency stash – 3 days of pain medication, some probiotic, some natural calming medication, and maybe some activated charcoal tablets – from your vet.

If you take your pets with you on holiday, it is always a good idea to find out beforehand where the local clinics and vets are situated, in case you might need them. When in doubt about any medical issues, you can always phone a vet or 24-hour clinic (like TAH Bellville and CAMC) for information about what you can do.

“If your pet exhibits excessive bleeding, breathing problems, seizures, snake bites, scorpion stings you should get your pet to an appropriate 24-hour clinic immediately and without delay as time is of an essence to save your pet,” stresses Dr Mehtar.


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