I spend a great deal of my days and nights attending to the health concerns of my aging 4-legged family. I administer medications and subcutaneous fluids to multiple cats daily, prepare and serve individual meals (by oral syringe, if necessary) multiple times a day, check litter boxes for signs of illness, weigh each of the cats every two weeks, and maintain medical spreadsheets on my computer for each cat with health issues. In addition to those routine activities, I attend to any extra veterinary issues that arise (like Tommy’s currently broken and healing leg).
OK, I can already hear you thinking (or perhaps even yelling at the screen), “THIS LADY’S CRAZY! This is what I pay a veterinarian big bucks to do!” That may be true, but unless a veterinarian lives in your home, your ability to do these things may mean the difference between life and death for your 4-legged companions.
I live 35 minutes from any veterinarian and 40 minutes from my preferred vet … and that’s during regular business hours when my vet’s not in surgery or working on another emergency case. If one of my companion animals becomes seriously ill or injured after clinic hours or on a weekend (which seems always to be the case), I may not be able to get in touch with a vet for countless life-ebbing ticks of the clock. That, of course, is assuming that my regular vet isn’t out of town altogether, in which case I’m left scrambling to find an alternate veterinarian willing to see my now quickly failing beloved. If I have a pet who is life-threateningly injured or ill, I have to know how to keep that little soul alive until I can get to the vet clinic. So for those of us who don’t live within five minutes of a 24-hour veterinarian, I strongly recommend learning the following potentially lifesaving procedures. This list is in no way intended to substitute for necessary veterinary care. If there is the slightest doubt about a pet’s condition being serious enough to warrant veterinary attention, get to the vet ASAP! Most of the procedures I am listing here are stop-gap measures to stabilize the pet’s condition until you can get to the vet, though some are just handy things to know. These procedures are equally important for cats and dogs, and some apply to other pets, as well.
- Observe and recognize symptoms of illness
- Check vital signs: temperature, pulse, and respiration.
- Check for dehydration
- Check the airway and know how to properly and safely dislodge objects causing choking
- Administer injections
- Administer subQ fluids
- Administer oral and topical medications
- Administer CPR
- Clean and dress wounds, and treat minor wounds
- Stop bleeding
- Reduce fever
- Ease congestion
- Treat minor burns
- Splint a bone break
- Induce vomiting (and know when and when not to do it)
- Check blood glucose (if your pet is diabetic)
- Remove sutures and staples
- Assist feed
A number of these skills and procedures can be learned online or in books, while you can ask your veterinarian to instruct you in others. I will also be writing more on each of these procedures in future blog entries (and perhaps adding more recommended skills to the list in the process).
I am particularly glad to have written the above list. In so doing, I realize that I am lacking in knowledge of some of these procedures myself. I will be doing more research and self-education to round out my own skill set. Google, here I come …