Have you ever experienced a pet emergency? Doesn’t it seem to happen in the middle of the night or on the weekend when your regular vet is closed and you don’t have any idea of what to do. Your dog or cat is in pain, you are a wreck and finally…several hours later and several hundred dollars poorer you are back at home….very familiar at this point with the emergency vet in your area. Thank goodness for those 24 hour veterinarians! They save pets’ lives everyday. But what can you do to be prepared for these stressful moments? To potentially save your pet’s life prior to seeing a doctor? Well, there are a few things you can do to be ready. To begin, speak with your veterinarian about how they handle pet emergencies. Some vets may say go straight to a 24 hour facility if it is after hours and others may encourage you to contact them directly. Whatever the case, always have your veterinarian’s number handy and in a few locations. Next, know the injuries your pet is prone to. Do you have a dog that is at a high risk for bloat (gastric distension)? If so, know the signs…and with this condition, do not pass go, but head straight to your vet or one that is available. Have an indoor/outdoor cat that may have been in a scuffle or two in the past? He will most likely sustain injuries relating to flexing his muscle. If you have a dog that is a mini Hoover and consumes everything in sight, she will be more prone to eating something poisonous. You get the idea. **If your dog has a chronic illness or reoccurring condition discuss with your vet the symptoms of a potential emergency. With this knowledge, you will be better prepared to handle any situation. How do you learn to administer first aid in the midst of a crisis? There are a few ways to do this. First, read a book. A few recommendations are: Dog First Aid and Cat First Aid by the American Red Cross and The Safe Dog Handbook authored by Melanie Monteiro. These three books are complete guides to prevention, protection and will prepare you to apply first aid techniques. Visit www.redcross.org/store to purchase Red Cross material and The Safe Dog Handbook can be found in stores. If you want to take it a step further, take a class. The American Red Cross offers Pet First Aid classes a few times a month. Visit www.redcross.org and find your local office. Here’s an example from the Dog First Aid book by the American Red Cross: Abrasions to the Skin What to do: -Wash your hands and put on disposable, non latex gloves. -Apply a sterile, water soluble lubricant so hair does not contaminate the wound while you trim the area -Clip hair around the wound gently, grooming scissors are recommended -Flush the wound with warm water or saline solution to remove the lubricant -Clean wound with warm water or saline solution to remove remaining debris See the vet if the wound does not begin to heal within 2-3 days, the wound is larger than a quarter, it is oozing yellow or foul smelling discharge, it is red or seems painful or if you simply aren’t sure of it’s depth or severity (Dog First Aid, Be Red Cross Ready, Safety Series Vol. 2) Keep a Pet First Aid Kit well stocked and available at all times. You can purchase kits already made from a pet store or online Prices range from approximately $20-$60. Or, you can make your own. According to peteducation.com, a complete kit should include a variety of items. Some of them are: 1. Phone numbers including: your vet, emergency vets and poison control centers 2. Muzzle 3. Scissors 4. Disposable Non Latex Gloves 5. Tweezers 6. Towel 7. Slip lead 8. Benadryl 9. Hydrogen Peroxide 10. Gauze For a complete list go to www.peteducation.com and type in first aid. Remember, first aid is NOT a substitution for your veterinarian but can see you through a crisis! Be Prepared! © 2010 Jennifer Fadal. Jennifer is a Pet Wellness & Lifestyle Expert. She is a frequent contributor to the South Tampa Community News as well as other Tampa publications. She can also be seen on Daytime’s pet segments, a lifestyle show on NBC. Jennifer owns Wag Natural Pet Boutique on Davis Islands and can be reached at email@example.com or www.jennfadal.com.