Few things in life are more stressful than dealing with a family member’s medical emergency. This includes beloved four-legged family members, too, so keep in mind the following seven tips when your pet has an emergency and needs to be seen at our animal emergency hospital. 

#1: Plan ahead

The best way to handle an emergency is to be prepared, and the best time to prepare for an emergency is now. Every household with four-legged family members should have a pet first-aid kit assembled and accessible. The kit should include many items found in human first-aid kits, such as a digital thermometer, non-stick bandages, gauze or clean strips of cloth, and tweezers. 

Your pet first-aid kit should also include two items not found in human first-aid kits—muzzles and leashes. You should have a muzzle that fits each of your pets, including your cats, and slip leashes. If your pet is too painful to approach, you can fashion an inexpensive slip leash into a lasso to “catch” him. 

Also, you should store a copy of your pet’s current medical records with the kit to bring to the clinic. Your pet’s updated medical records will quickly inform us about his current vaccination status, any underlying medical conditions, and his current medications.

#2: Call us

Before you do anything else, you must call us. First, we can give you advice on handling your situation, and second, we can prepare for your arrival. If your pet is gravely ill or injured, we want to be ready to start supportive care as soon as you arrive. 

#3: Stay calm

We know this is easier said than done, but remaining calm is imperative. Your pet likely will pick up on your panic, and an already stressful situation could spiral into chaos. Take a few deep breaths, ground yourself, and focus. You may be scared about the task ahead, but you need to stay calm and in control until you can get your pet to our clinic. 

#4: Approach your pet with caution

Sick and injured pets should be approached with caution—the most docile pet may bite when under duress, such as suffering with an injury. Before you move your pet, muzzle him to protect yourself from an unintended bite. 

If you don’t have a muzzle, you can fashion one out of gauze, ribbon, or a strip of cloth—use anything that will safely and comfortably tie your pet’s mouth closed. You can find instructions for creating a homemade muzzle online. 

If your pet is in respiratory distress, keep the muzzle as loose as safely possible and use it only when engaged with your pet (e.g., transporting him to the car). Some muzzles can impede panting, and if your pet is already struggling to breathe, a muzzle could worsen his condition. 

#5: Handle your pet as little as possible

If you were injured, the last thing you’d want is to be jostled around. When transporting your pet to the Pet Emergency Clinic and Referral Center, handle him as little as possible. Put small and medium-size pets in a carrier, taking the top off of the carrier rather than forcing him through the door, if possible. If you don’t have a carrier, use a cardboard box, because he will be more comfortable being carried in a box than if you handle his painful body. Transport a large dog on anything that resembles a stretcher, such as a flat wooden board, a sled, a cot, or an ironing board.

Once your pet is safely in your car, ensure he is secure, preferably with a seat belt around his carrier. If you can, sit with your pet during the ride and comfort him with words, handling him as little as possible, as it may hurt to be touched. 

#6: Ask other adults to help

If you are alone when your pet has an emergency, ask a neighbor or friend who lives close by for help. You’ll need two people to carry a stretcher with a large dog, and you’ll likely need help maneuvering your pet into your vehicle. 

A friend or neighbor can also help you stay calm. Although they may love your pet, it’s often easier for someone who is not the pet owner to make more logical decisions in an emergency. 

#7: Drive safely

We want to see your pet as quickly as possible, but if you don’t drive safely and you don’t get to our clinic, neither will your pet. Take more deep breaths and focus on the road. What your pet needs now is your safe arrival at the emergency clinic. 

Hopefully, you and your pet never experience the stress of a medical emergency, but if you do, we want you to arrive at our clinic safely, so that we can take over and give your pet the best treatment possible.