As a responsible pet owner, one of the best things you can do is to prepare for medical emergencies. Just like practicing fire drills at work or school, planning ahead can help save time and save lives – including those of your canine and feline friends.
A pet medical emergency includes, but is not limited to, poisoning, seizures, heatstroke/frostbite, excessive bleeding, snake bite, not breathing, broken limb, paralysis, ongoing vomiting/diarrhea, among others.
There are several simple steps you can take to make sure you’re not caught off-guard by pet health emergencies. First, build a pet first-aid kit and store it in an easily accessible place. (Hint: The back of your linen closet isn’t the best spot.) Store key phone numbers in your mobile phone and write the numbers down for any caregivers who look after your pets. We’d recommend including the phone numbers of your primary veterinarian, the Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435), and a nearby 24-hour emergency veterinary hospital, like The COVE (757-935-9111). You may also consider having a second kit readily available in your car, so you have one with you when you are out and about with your pet.
CPR for Pets
Another critical element of pet emergency preparedness is CPR training. You probably know that cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is used to help keep oxygenated blood flowing when the heart or lungs have stopped functioning. This can happen due to illness, choking, or a traumatic accident. The process for pets and people is very similar, consisting of chest compressions and rescue breaths. If your pet has stopped breathing or cannot feel a heartbeat, it can buy precious time until you can get professional medical care.
CPR Training for Pets
CPR must be done correctly to be effective, and it takes practice to learn the proper method. Thankfully, resources and training are available. This PetMD article has detailed instructions for CPR on dogs and puppies. The American Red Cross also offers a comprehensive online course in cat and dog first aid that includes handling breathing and cardiac emergencies. The 35-minute class costs $25 and is desktop and tablet compatible.
The Red Cross also has a free app, Pet First Aid, that can be added to any mobile device and includes videos on how to perform CPR on small and large dogs.
You can also ask your primary veterinarian for additional resources on CPR and emergency planning for your specific pet. They may have suggestions to help you create a preparedness plan that works for your family.
Invest in Pet Insurance
When your pet has an emergency, financial worries can compound an already stressful situation. Pet insurance can ease some of the financial pressure. Most insurance plans pay up to 80–90% after deductible, significantly reducing the cost to your family and the strain on your wallet. We recommend adding pet insurance to your emergency preparedness to-do list. Learn more about the benefits of pet medical insurance.
24/7 Emergency Care at The COVE
After any first aid is administered, it’s essential to get your pet to a veterinarian as soon as possible for further care and follow-up. The COVE’s emergency department is open 24/7 and led by Jacqueline Nobles, DVM, DACVECC, board-certified veterinary specialist in emergency and critical care. If your pet is experiencing an emergency, our team can provide assistance over the phone until you can safely transport your pet for treatment.
Medical emergencies can be stressful and scary, but preparing for them, including learning basic CPR, can help you stay calm. Most of all, practice and planning will help you feel confident that if a crisis occurs, you can care for your pet until you can get them professional medical care.