Pets are notorious for getting themselves into scuffles, and sustaining injuries that require medical care. Toxin ingestion, broken toenails, insect bites, and bleeding wounds are all-too-common occurrences in curious pets. When a minor emergency strikes, you should administer first aid to your pet before leaving home, or during the trip to our veterinary hospital, to help her recover as quickly as possible. 

Pets and toxin exposure

Since pets explore the world with their nose and mouth, they come into contact with many potential toxins, including foods, medications, and household chemicals. Toxic food ingestion occurs often, with chocolate the most common culprit. Although most pet owners are aware of chocolate toxicity, dogs have a way of finding a candy stash, no matter how well-hidden, and gorging themselves on the sweet treats. If your pet has ingested chocolate or another toxin, call our office immediately. We may advise you to induce vomiting with hydrogen peroxide before bringing your pet to our hospital, but some toxins can cause further problems if vomited, so don’t attempt that unless instructed by our veterinary team. If your pet is known for eating things, keep a fresh bottle of peroxide on hand. When you bring your pet in, bring any packaging or leftover toxic material, so we know exactly what your pet ate.

Broken toenail—a common pet injury

As your dog digs in the yard, or your cat claws at her scratching pole, they may break a toenail. Or, if you bravely trim your dog’s nails at home, you may accidentally cut one too short. Broken toenails are a common pet injury, especially in active pets, and they can expose sensitive nerves in the nail’s center, and drip blood throughout your home. Although your pet may resist when you handle her foot, you’ll have to touch this sensitive area to help stem the bleeding. If the nail tip only has broken off, you can pack baking flour, or styptic powder, if you have some, into the end of the bleeding nail to help clot the blood. To do this, put a small amount of the flour or powder on a tissue, and press it into the exposed nail end. If a large portion of the nail has been traumatically ripped off, you should wrap the affected foot with gauze, and bring her to our hospital for our veterinary team to treat. 

Fire-ant bites that cause anaphylaxis in your pet

Fire ants, also known as red ants, are common in the southeastern U.S., and can be more than a pesky annoyance for your curious pet. Fire ants do not bite, but rather grasp their victim with pincer-like jaws and inject venom with a stinger on the back of their abdomen. A sting typically causes a red, painful or itchy bump that may develop into a fluid-filled pustule. If your dog sticks her nose into an ant hill and is stung by many ants, or if she is particularly sensitive to venom, she may have a severe anaphylactic reaction that causes life-threatening effects, including:

  • Respiratory distress
  • Pale gums
  • Weakness
  • Collapse
  • Vomiting

If your pet shows anaphylaxis signs after any insect bite, rush her to the nearest veterinary hospital immediately. On the way, closely monitor her breathing to ensure her airway is not swelling closed. Anaphylaxis can progress to death if treatment is not administered quickly. 

If only a few ants sting your pet, and she does not seem to be suffering from anaphylaxis, you can apply a cool compress to the sites to reduce inflammation. Since the ants do not lose their stinger, you do not need to find and remove them. If the sting sites become significantly painful or itchy, call our office, and our veterinary team can suggest ways to make your pet comfortable.

Bleeding wound

Pets often have mishaps that result in a ripped dewclaw, laceration, or bite wound. If your furry friend is bleeding, you must minimize her blood loss by applying steady pressure to the wound with a clean towel until you can get her to our hospital, preferably driven by a friend or family member. If you are able to stop the bleeding, you may be tempted to skip the veterinary visit, but infection and other complications can set in quickly. Bite wounds, in particular, tend to develop nasty infections from oral bacteria that contaminate the wound. Seek medical attention as soon as possible after an injury to prevent expensive complications and multiple follow-up visits. 

We hope your pet stays out of trouble, but if a minor emergency does occur, contact us on the way to our hospital so we can be ready to treat your pet when she arrives.