April is National Pet First Aid Month, and what better way to raise awareness about this topic than discussing Wilderness First Aid for pets? After all, Spring is here, and it’s time to get outside to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air with your four-legged friend. Before you hit the great outdoors, we will provide insight into common injuries and tips on how to best be prepared when taking your pet outdoors.

To begin, it’s essential you have a Pet First Aid Kit on hand, always! This kit can be purchased at your local pet store or if you want to create your own, Dr. Mila Golovko of the SAGE Campbell emergency team recommends these items:

  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Tweezers
  • Safety pins
  • Slip Leash
  • Bandage materials
  • Eyewash
  • Benadryl
  • Thermometer
  • Lube/Vaseline
  • Styptic powder
  • E-Collar to prevent further self-trauma
  • Consider asking your vet for: antibiotic eye ointment, NSAID Pain Reliever

Secondly, understanding what normal vital signs for dogs are will help when assessing your dog in case a situation occurs. This gives you a benchmark and provides you with an indication that your pet may need immediate medical attention.

Normal vital signs for dogs should be:

Temperature (rectal): 100°F-102°F

Heart rate: 60-120 beats per minute.  To measure, feel for the heartbeat just below the elbow or feel for a femoral pulse on the inside of the back leg where it meets the body.

Respiratory rate: 12-30 breaths per minute by counting the number of breaths in 30 seconds and then multiplying by 2. It’s important to note, the respiratory rate should be taken when the dog is at rest and not panting.

Gums and tongue: Pink

By having your pet first aid kit, knowing your dog’s vitals, and knowing exactly where you will take your pet in case of an emergency, you will be well-equipped to handle the following most common injuries:

Foxtails are most prevalent on the west coast. These grass-like weeds have small prongs that cause the grass seeds to attach to hair/skin and become embedded. Once embedded, it can migrate just about anywhere causing severe infections if left untreated.  The most common cases of Foxtails are found in an animal’s nose, ears, and feet. After you’ve been outside, give your pet a quick once-over to spot any foxtails that might be stuck. For more information on Foxtails, please visit: https://www.sagecenters.com/how-to-keep-your-pets-safe-during-foxtail-season/

Lameness can be painful for your animal. Mild lameness can occur if your dog is still using the leg and bearing some weight on it. If moderate to severe lameness happens, the dog will be toe touching or non-weight bearing on the limb. If your dog is experiencing moderate to severe lameness, you should abort the hike and have your dog evaluated by a veterinarian.

Pads and feet are affected by the terrain you’re walking on. Pad lacerations require veterinary care because stitches are usually needed and often require a bandage and splint to protect further. When pad lacerations occur, rinse with water, apply non-stick gauze and padded bandage. Pad abrasions can be treated with rest, booties, cold water, and topical cream.

Signs of eye problems are squinting, excessive tearing, green/yellow discharge, cloudiness, rubbing or pawing at the eye, and redness or swelling around the eye. Eyes can be treated while out on the trail.. Simply rinse/flush the eye with eye wash solution, apply a vet-approved antibiotic ointment, and keep your dog from rubbing the eye.

When you’re outdoors, your dog is susceptible to all different types of wildlife injuries and it’s important to be aware of possible snake bites, spider bites, porcupine quills, and for small dogs, birds of prey that may snatch them up..

When an emergency arises, Dr. Mila Golovko recommends these following tips:

  • Stay calm
  • Secure the scene by removing any physical threats
  • Muzzle if necessary; injured pets can become stressed and bite
  • Check airways, breathing, and circulation
  • If necessary, start CPR
  • Call your Veterinarian or emergency veterinarian
  • Splint any broken bones before moving the pet
  • Get your pet to an emergency clinic ASAP!

It’s important to remember that when an injury occurs or when in doubt, always seek out your veterinarian for further medical attention and know where to take your animal in case of an emergency.

For more information on Wilderness First Aid for Pets that includes in-depth information on bandaging, trauma, environmental injuries, and how to assess your dog adequately, please register for one of the REI lectures presented by our SAGE doctors. Please visit: https://www.sagecenters.com/events-page/.

SAGE Veterinary Centers is here for you 24/7, 365 Days a year, including holidays. Our experienced emergency and critical care departments are available and ready to assist.