I do believe that winter is finally over. For the next several months warmer weather makes it possible to increase our activities and spend more time outdoors.

I do believe that winter is finally over. For the next several months warmer weather makes it possible to increase our activities and spend more time outdoors. Pets enjoy the same opportunities. When they are out and about, especially if running free, it is more likely that they may be harmed in a variety of circumstances such as a dog fight, struck by a car, ingestion of toxic materials or heatstroke. Providing emergency first aid before or while getting them to veterinary care may save their life or markedly improve the prognosis.
If an injured animal shows signs of fear or aggression, restrain them to protect the caregiver from being injured. A makeshift restraint, using a strip of cloth similar to a necktie, can be looped over the muzzle, single knotted, tightened and then tied behind the ears. A folded towel or blanket placed over the head but not obstructing breathing can also create a barrier to protect from being bitten.

Cardiopulmonary arrest is the worst possible outcome from trauma. Detect absence of breathing by watching the chest and abdomen for movement or by placing a moist hand or your face close to the animal’s nose and mouth and feeling for puffs of air. To check for a heartbeat, place your hand over the chest, behind the left elbow.

If the pet is not breathing, immediately take action to seek veterinary care. In the meantime, open the mouth, pull the tongue forward, look for, and remove any foreign objects that might be obstructing the airway. Perform rescue breathing by holding the pet’s mouth closed with one hand and breathing with your mouth directly into both of the nose openings until you see the animal’s chest expand. Once the chest expands, continue the rescue breathing once every 4 or 5 seconds until the animal starts breathing on its own or the veterinarian takes over.

Start CPR if there is no breathing or heartbeat. Lay your pet on its right side on a firm surface. Place one hand underneath the chest and place the other hand over the heart (located in the lower half of the chest on the left side, just behind the elbow of the front leg). For medium size dogs, depress the chest about one inch; press harder for larger animals and with less force for smaller animals. For cats or tiny dogs, cradle your hand around the animal's chest so your thumb is on the left side of the chest and your fingers are on the right side of the chest, and compress by squeezing it between your thumb and fingers. Press down 80-120 times per minute for larger animals and 100-150 times per minute for smaller ones.

Alternate chest compressions with the rescue breaths, or work as a team with another person. Perform chest compressions for 4-5 seconds and stop long enough to allow the other person to give one rescue breath. Continue until a heartbeat is restored and your pet is breathing regularly, or you have arrived at the veterinary clinic. Please know that pet's with cardiac arrest, even with CPR, have a low probability of surviving. However, in an emergency it may give your pet its only chance.

Shock often follows severe injury, blood loss, trauma or anything that results in a lack of adequate oxygen. Symptoms of shock include a weak pulse, rapid heart rate and breathing, disorientation, weakness, and collapse. Shock can lead to cardiac arrest and death and is a medical emergency requiring immediate veterinary care. While transporting, lay the pet down in a position where its head is level with the rest of its body, keep it warm and control blood loss.

An owner who is prepared to administer first aid gives pets the best chance for recovery. Next week’s column will cover first aid specifics for the management of other emergencies. I will provide information about area resources for emergency veterinary care on weekends, evenings and nights when your local clinic may not be open. Meanwhile, keep your pet safe from harm.