First-aid

Regular medication
  • Enough prescribed medicines for the weekend or holidays for any ongoing treatments.
  • Consider having extra medicines in case your pet needs to be away from home for longer than expected, for example.
Basic pharmaceuticals
  • Skin : Local disinfectants (Beetadine, Diaseptyl, Chlorexidine aqueuse, Eau de Dakin...)
  • Eyes : Saline solution, antiseptic eye drops
  • Ears : an ear cleaner – Vaseline to put around the outer ear to reduce the risk of grass spikelets getting in
  • • Digestive problems
    • Antacids: eg. Phosphaluvet
    • Anti-diarrhoea medicine: eg. Barexal, Imodium
    • • Laxatives: eg. Duphalac
  • Antiparasites
    • External: flea, mosquito and tick repellents
    • Internal: worm tablets
Basic equipment to have in your first-aid kit
  • a pair of rounded nail scissors
  • a pair of tweezers
  • a nit comb
  • a thermometer
  • sterile gauze dressing pads 30X30
  • a brush and a comb
  • a crêpe bandage, a cohesive bandage and an adhesive bandage
  • non-sterile gloves
  • saline solution
  • a syringe without a needle for potentially administering treatment
  • a tanning product for your dog’s pads
TIP

Any burn, however small, must be taken seriously because proper healing depends on the cause, extent and location of the burn.

In animals, the presence of fur certainly provides some protection, but one must be sure there aren’t any serious lesions concealed by the fur.

What would amount to a small burn for a dog of the size of a LEONBERGER or a GREAT DANE is in effect much bigger for a cat or a miniature dog.

What to do in an emergency

Follow the10/15 rule :

  1. Immediately cool down the burn area by running the cold tap (water at 10°C to 15°C) over the burned skin for at least 15 minutes, with the tap 15 cm from the skin.
  2. Gently dry the skin.
  3. Comfort your pet, offering something to drink and keeping it covered to stop it going into shock.
  4. If you have any at home, apply a generous amount of BIAFINE (and nothing else) to half a centimetre thick. Otherwise, apply a non-adherent paraffin gauze dressing (tulle gras).
  5. While awaiting the vet’s visit, cover the injury with a compresse or a section of a clean sheet dipped in antiseptic (do not use alcohol).
DO NOT
  • Do not put fat, oil or butter on the wound
  • Do not put ice on the wound
  • Do not put vinegar, toothpaste or urine ( !) on the wound...
  • Do not put cotton wool (absorbent cotton) on the wound
  • Do not underestimate the seriousness of the burn because the skin seems intact.
When to consult a vet:
  • The burn is on the head, flexing joints like the elbow, knee or hips, the pads of the paws, or around natural orifices such as the mouth, the anus or the genitals.
  • The skin is covered in blisters or is white or blackened, numb and charred (second and third-degree burn).
  • The burn is bigger than a two-euro coin for a car or a miniature dog, or as large as a man’s wallet for a large dog.

If one of the above applies to your pet, consult a vet in the next hour. In serious cases, your pet will need to go to hospital.

TIP

If you pet is bitten by a cat or a dog, during a fight or when playing a little roughly, the bites should always be shown to a vet because they can heal badly and get badly infected.

There are many germs in animals’ mouths that become pathogens when they get into a wound. Without a rapid and effective treatment against infection, a local infection can degenerate into septicaemia or a large local abscess.

The wound will not necessarily need to be stitched at first by the vet in order for the anti-infection treatment to take full course, but may be stitched later if necessary when the infection at the wound site has healed.

What to do in an emergency
  1. Clean the wound with water and a bar of soap and rinse thoroughly.
  2. Disinfect the wound with an antiseptic product.
  3. Cover the wound with a sterile compress or, if you don’t have one, part of a clean bedsheet.
  4. Bandage the wound.
  5. In the next few hours, consult a vet, even if the bite doesn’t look very serious to you. The bite of a cat doesn’t look like much when it’s just happened and often one only notices pain but the wound can be as small as the head of a pin. All the same, a cat’s teeth can bite deep into the flesh and without immediate treatment can lead to tragic abscesses.
  6. If the animal that did the biting is identified, ask its owner to show you its vaccination card to check the validity of its anti-rabies vaccination. If it is an animal without an owner, tell the police (gendarmerie) or the mayor’s office about where the bite occurred so the animal can be sought. Depending on circumstances, the vet will tell you whether the animal that did the biting has to be placed under health surveillance (quarantined = lu - surveillance sanitaire) to check whether it has rabies. In the event of doubt, and only if your pet has already been vaccinated against rabies, a rabies booster vaccination will be given.
SPECIAL CASE: being bitten by a rat

Treatment of a rat bite is identical to the above and your pet will need to be examined by your vet in the next few hours. Rats can transmit Leptospirosis to you and your pet.

Leptospirosis is particularly severe in dogs, causing fulminent haemorrghic gastroenteritis hepatonephritis. It is very difficult to treat. Hunting dogs and any animal that comes into contact with rodents should be regularly vaccinated against this disease.

TIP

Cats are particularly prone to infections of the urinary tract, essentially the urethra and bladder. Some are caused by infections but are not usually obstructive infections and do not constitute emergencies.

On the other hand, infections relating to the presence of urinary tract stones ( urolithinasis) or blockages in the urethra, can cause obstruction of the urethra (the channel that leads from the bladder to the penis or vagina), preventing expulsion of urine. The urine then accumulates in the bladder, leading it to become distended (full bladder). which stops the kidneys from functioning (acute kidney failure or A.K.F.). Without immediate treatment, A.K.F. can rapidly become fatal in the short-term.

The presence of urinary stones in a cat is usually due to an unbalanced diet or behavioural problems (stress, lack of exercise, boredom, etc).

When to consult a vet
  • Your cat’s urine is red or has blood in it.
  • Frequent desire to urinate (pollakiuria), only a few drops of urine come out (stranguria) when your cat tries to urinate (dysuria), unusual lack of cleanliness. Expressions of pain, unusual meowing accompanied by licking the genitals.
  • Vomiting.
  • Painful, distended belly with a bladder that can be as big as an orange (an over-extended bladder full of urine).

Tip : constipation can be confused with attempts to urinate. Check the presence and consistency of your cat’s faeces.

What to do in an emergency

If you have ruled out the possibility of a urinary infection, you should consult a vet within the hour. Never delay the consultation.

Do not let your at eat or drink at all while awaiting the consultation with the vet.

NB : There is less risk of obstruction with a female cat because the urethra is shorter and wider. This means that female cats suffer from cystitis as often as male cats, but blockages of the urethra requiring immediate intervention are very rare. Cystitis is painful, however, and requires treatment without delay.

And the following hours

If the vet finds a urinary obstruction, he or she will scan the urinary tract under general anaesthetic with special equipment for breaking up any stones present in the urethra.

Removing the blockage from the urethra will be accompanied by the animal’s hospitalisation to correct problems relating to acute kidney failure following the blocking of kidney function.

Further tests (echography, radiography, analysis of the stones, blood tests) will make it possible to reduce the risk of repeat infections. A special diet is part of the treatment for urinary obstructions in cats.

When to consult a vet

Any problems with breathing in an animal are a cause of concern as it is usually a heart or lung problem for which a vet should be consulted within the hour.

Warning signs :

  • Breathing with the mouth open, unrelenting, rapid, noising breathing.
  • Pulling on the ribs with more visible movements of the chest than normal.
  • Cyanotic or blue-ish mucous membranes.
  • Weakness
  • Can’t lie down to get some rest.
TIP

Respiratory problems can have a number of causes :

  • Of pulmonary origin
  • Acute respiratory disease
  • Pneumothorax
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Intra-thoracic tumour etc
  • Of cardiac origin
  • Acute oedema of the lung
  • Other causes
  • Trauma of the chest can lead to a broken rib and/or pneumothorax
  • Angiodema, severe allergic reaction accompanied by a spectacular swelling of the snout (muzzle) and urticaria
  • Laryngitis, collapsed trachea, heat stroke, foreign body.
While waiting for the vet to arrive
  • Even if the breathing problems ease after a few seconds or a few minutes, don’t cancel the consultation with the vet.
  • Put your pet in a cool, airy room away from smoke.
  • Put it in a resting position
  • If you think your pet might have sunstroke, immediately cool it down by constantly spraying it with cold water.
  • If your dog is being treated for cardiac problems, immediately give it a dose of diuretics.
  • Inspect the mouth cavity and remove any foreign objects.

If you have to carry your animal, avoid squashing its chest and neck, leaving plenty of space around the mouth.

Like for human beings, vertigo in an animal is a feeling of being unstable and loss of balance. The animal feels like the objects around it, the walls and ceilings, are turning. Depending on the cause, vertigo is accompanied by other signs, which can reflect its severity.

TIP

The body is constantly kept in balance by two organs – the labyrinth (vestibule) in the inner ear, and the cerebellum, a kind of secondary brain located inside the brain at the back of the skull.

With ‘true vertigo’, all or part of this system is disturbed. the difference between real information communicated by the eyes and false information communicated by the vestibule or the cerebellum disorientates the animal’s brain.

The causes can be difficult to identify :

  • labyrinthitis,
  • méningite,
  • post-traumatic lesions,
  • the effect of some medicines...

With vertigo caused by the vestibule or cerebellum, animals typically have the following behaviour :

  • Head leaning to the side of the vestibular lesion
  • Repetitive and uncontrolled movements of the eyes (nystagmus)
  • Uncoordinated voluntary movements and an unusual way of walking (ataxia)
  • Loss of balance, falling over
  • Nausea, vomiting

For ‘false vertigo’ takes the form of loss of balance, falling over and other signs which are what makes it serious: losing consciousness, palpitations and trembling; we do not see the above-described symptoms typical of vestibular or cerebellum problems.

There are many possible causes: hypoglycaemia, diabetic fit, anaemia, irregular heartbeat, pulmonary embolism, feeling faint together with vomiting, stroke, carbon monoxide poisoning or poisoning from medicines...

When to consult a vet

Whether the vertigo is true or false, you should consult a vet if you notice that your pet loses its balance.

Consult a vet within the hour if the vertigo has the following signs of seriousness :

  • Vomiting,
  • Whining, weakness or agitation,
  • Unable to walk,
  • Respiratory problems.

Otherwise, consult a vet the same day.

While waiting for the vet to arrive
  1. Remove all food and drink (unless you suspect an animal treated with insulin might be suffering from hypoglycaemia/low blood sugar)
  2. Keep the animal calm in the dark.
  3. Remain close to your pet, comforting it.

Food poisoning are not the same as simple indigestion.

In cases of indigestion, animals have eaten too much food, healthy food, whereas for food poisoning, the amount of food eaten is not so important, it is the food itself that is infected.

TIP

The commonest cause is badly-stored food: meat, ham, cream, eggs or cakes.

The germs that cause food poisoning are salmonella, clostridium or staphylococcus. They are not dangerous if only present in food in small quantities, but when food is stored at a temperature of above 20°C, they multiply and become dangerous.

The first signs of food poisoning occur some 8 to 12 hours after a meal. Listeriosis can also affect pets under the same contamination conditions as it affects human beings. The infection is particularly serious in weak pets, causing septicaemia and in gestating females can lead to miscarriage.

Faced with contaminated food, an animal in good health reacts spontaneously by ‘emptying itself from both ends’ to eliminate the undesirable bacteria s efficiently as possible. The symptoms can usually be summarised as a crisis of ‘colic’ with intense diarrhoea, vomiting and fever.

Most food poisoning ends after one or two days of diarrhoea, stomach aches (spasms and complaints) and vomiting. Veterinary care is needed but complications are rare and one can estimate that fewer than 10% of animals suffering from food poisoning need to be hospitalised. Take the same food hygiene precautions you’re your cats and dogs as you do for yourself. They do not have greater resistance to food poisoning than you yourself have.

When to consult a vet
  • Compulsive vomiting
  • Vomiting blood
  • Diarrhoea lasting longer than 24 hours
  • Blood with the faeces
  • Fever (rectal temperature of above 39°C) and lassitude
  • Abdominal complaints and spasms
What to do in an emergency
  1. Remove all food for at least 24 hours,
  2. Get you pet to drink a little and often,
  3. Consult a vet that same day.
To avoid problems

Use the same hygiene rules when preparing food for your pet as you use for yourself: throw away any started tins or those with a damaged lid.

The packaging for dried food should be carefully resealed and stored somewhere dry.

If you cook food for your pet yourself, choose food packaged to ensure lack of contamination, cook it properly and get your pet to eat as soon as you’ve cooked it. Do not store cooked food at room temperature and make sure you heat it to a high enough temperature.

Any electrocution or electric shock, even if it seems at first sight to have done no damage, must be taken seriously.

NB : An electrocuted animal that is still in contact with the electric current can kill anyone trying to help it.

TIP

Some animals are particularly vulnerable to this type of accident (particularly puppies and kittens chewing electrical wires and pet rabbits left out of the cage without surveillance as they will chew everything within reach).

Small animals’ bodies have very little resistance to electricity, so the lesions will be more serious! Their resistance will be all the lower if the part of the body that comes into contact with electricity is delicate and moist. The severity of the lesions will also be proportionate to the electricity tension and strength.

Most cases of electrocution in animals are caused by biting electrical wires.

Consequences:

  • Electrocution can cause very violent and immediate tetanies and convulsions. Loss of consciousness may occur instantaneously.
  • Electricity running through the body can also lead to mediate cardiac arrest or pulmonary oedema with respiratory problems that can manifest up to 12 hours after the accident.
  • Burning of the skin and mucous membranes at the point of contact may immediately be very serious and be classified as third degree burns. Burns of the mucous membranes (the tongue and inside the mouth) must be treated very fast to avoid disabling lesions.
  • Electrocution can cause deep burning of the muscles, leading to lasting problems with movement. There can also be burns along the nerves that can cause paralysis. Local necrosis of the spinal cord and brain are frequent.
What to do in an emergency
  • Switch off the electric current. If this isn’t possible, don’t waste time trying to find the fusebox. Instead, move the electric wires away from your pet using a wooden broom handle or a wooden chair leg.
  • Do not touch your pet while its body is still in contact with electricity. As soon as it is not longer in contact with the electricity, move your pet away from the area where it got electrocuted.
  • Arrange for a vet to visit as soon as possible
As soon as the vet’s been called
  • If your pet is conscious, that means that the immediate danger to its life has been eliminated. Put your pet somewhere quiet and keep it warm.
  • If there is a wound, disinfect is with an alcohol-free disinfectant.
  • If there’s bleeding, tightly bind the wound or firmly apply a compress to it.
  • If there’s a burn, place the burn under cold running water for about ten minutes. Do not put any grease on the burn. After cooling the wound to prevent lesions, disinfect it with an alcohol-free disinfectant.
  • Wait for the emergency vet or take your pet to the closest vet.
In dogs

Average gestation period: 63 to 65 days.
Very clear release of the vulva 48 hrs before labour.

The progesterone level falls in the 48 hrs before delivery, leading to a fall in rectal temperature (known in French as the Lieberger sign) by 1°C compared with the average for the previous days. The temperature will rise again just before delivery. Dilation of the mouth of the uterus 1 to 6 hours after the fall in temperature. Abdominal contractions begin 24 hours after the fall in temperature.

The flow of cervical mucous is often noticed by pet owner and signifies that labour is about to begin. It is followed by the breaking of the foetal waters 30 minutes to 2 hours before the first puppy is delivered. Delivery usually takes 4 to 8 hours, with extremes of up to 24 to 36 hours for the first delivery or for litters of 10 or more puppies. The average time between the delivery of each puppy is 20 to 30 minutes (ranging from a few minutes to and hour and a half)

The Ferguson reflex is the self-sustaining cycle of uterine contractions caused by the pressure of the puppy at the cervix or vaginal walls.

The puppy is born covered with amnion, which breaks spontaneously or after a few minutes of licking by the mother. The placenta follows each puppy in the next fifteen minutes.

When one puppy is delivered soon after the other, the birth of the second puppy can precede the expulsion of the previous puppy’s placenta. The first puppy is often delivered more slowly. Due to fatigue, the time-gap increases again towards the end of the delivery process. We have seen bitches deliver their last puppies 12 to 24 hours after what looked like a period of rest.

Recognising dystocia (birthing difficulties)

Distocia is difficult birthing needing the intervention of a vet.

The typical signs of dystocia are :

  • Absence of signs of labour 24 hours after the fall in temperature
  • More than 12 hours gap between the delivery of two puppies Labour starting more than 12 hours ago (if one knows the number of puppies expected)
  • Weak contractions without delivery, or delivery begins normally and then stops Painful contractions without delivering puppies (risk of twisting or rupture of uterus)
  • Fleeting appearance of a puppy at the vulva that is not delivered in the next half hour
  • Puppy stuck in the birth canal (dystocia by obstruction: large foetus compared with size of mother, anomaly in the birth canal and genital tracts or foetus presents abnormally)
  • Trembling and exhaustion of the bitch
Caring for the newborn
  • Immediately verify the permeability of the respiratory tracts, removing any membrane or mucous with the puppy’s head downwards.
  • Carefully dry and rub the puppies.
  • Check and disinfect the navel. Cut the cord 1 cm from the puppy’s belly if the mother didn’t do it naturally herself (tie the end of the cord with sewing thread).
  • Keep the puppies warm (temperature of above 31/32°C) in a shallow basket covered with clean, insulated material, until the mother is able to take care of them.
In cats

Average gestation period: 59 to 63 days

The progesterone level falls in the 24 hrs before delivery, leading to a fall in rectal temperature (known in French as the Lieberger sign).

The temperature falls by 1°C compared with the average for the previous days. The temperature will rise again just before delivery.

Superficial symptoms last for around 2 hours, but the start of the contractions and release of the uterus can last for 12 hours.

The delivery of each kitten takes from 1 to 30 minutes. The interval between births is from several minutes to 2 hours.

In 86% of cats, delivery lasts for less than 6 hours.

NB :a birthing problem specific to cats is interrupted labour.
In some females, after delivering a few foetuses, the contractions stop and the birth process seems to be complete, but feeling the cat reveals that one or more kittens remain in the uterus. Without any intervention, labour will spontaneously begin again 12 to 48 hours later, with the birth of perfectly viable kittens.

Recognising dystocia
  • Contractions that haven’t led to any births four hours after the start of the birthing process
  • Contractions that haven’t led to any births 2 hours after the birth of the previous kitten
  • Contractions cease, cat is exhausted
  • Foul-smelling, suppurative, bloody tissue expelled by the vulva
In ferrets

Average gestation period: 41 to 43 days
Average number of babies per litter: 6 to 9 (up to 18)
Weaning period: 6 to 8 weeks.

Not much swelling of nipples before delivery, building of a nest, ferret licks her vulva a few minutes before labour begins.

Delivery should take place in 3 hours, no more than an hour between each birth. Baby ferrets can be handled immediately after they are born.

Any repeated vomiting needs to be seen by a vet. Vomiting more than five times in an hour is the sign of a real emergency. Vomiting is a symptom of a number of illnesses.

When to consult a vet
  • Fever in a cat or dog of above 39°C rectal temperature. If the rectal temperature can’t be taken: feverish state characterised by fatigue, sadness, lack of verve, loss of appetite, hot outer ears, shivering, seeking out heat...
  • Constipation for more than 48 hours or diarrhoea for more than 24 hours.
  • Repeating vomiting (more than 5 times an hour).
  • Vomiting blood (haematemesis).
  • Somnolence, asthenia.
  • Stomach ache with stomach complaints and spasms, ‘prayer position’ with back limbs flat on the ground and front limbs raised, anguish and often looking at the stomach...
  • Recent injury to the skull (within up to 24 hours).
  • Having eaten rotten or gone-off food or a toxic or caustic product.
  • In a very young animal of up to 5 months, repeated vomiting can lead to severe dehydration, which requires consultation with a vet.

Does your pet have at least one of the above signs ?

-> YES : consult a vet within the hour
-> NO : you should still make an appointment with a vet without delay. Vomiting is always serious (apart from cats vomiting ‘fur balls’ every now and again).

What to do in an emergency
  • Keep the animal somewhere quiet..
  • Withdraw food and drink (no water for 12 hours, no food for 24 to 48 HOURS). If your pet is very thirsty, give it an ice cube to suck.
  • Get your pet to swallow an antacid.
Special cases

Retching with hypersalivation + swelling of abdomen:

Suspected twisting of the stomach. The dog must be taken to a veterinary clinic as a matter of urgency.

Vomiting fur balls:

Very frequent in cats, especially long-haired cats. They are harmless but over time can cause chronic inflammatory diseases of the digestive tract. Measures need to be taken: daily brushing, monthly treatment to expel fur balls from the digestive system (ask your vet for advice on this).

Travel sickness:

Car sickness (travel sickness) is caused by a temporary problem with the inner ear, whose functioning is disturbed by movements during travel (particularly abrupt in car travel). As a precautionary measure, only let your pet have light meals in the 48 hours before a journey. In stubborn cases, ask your vet for advice. The vet will provide anti-travel sickness medicines, whose tranquilising effects will be much appreciated by your pet.