Dr Cynthia Maro
Several years ago, a client brought a pet into the office in horrible condition. Their long-haired dachshund had itched horribly. They found fleas on the pet, and when bathing with flea shampoo only made the itching worse, they turned to a friend who suggested a remedy for the itch.
The suggestion was to dilute Clorox in water and immerse the dog in the solution.
Not only did the animal stop itching almost immediately, but the remedy caused the dog to shed a lot of skin over the next five days from chemical burns. It took three weeks of treatments for the animal to recover, but the poor dog had a lot of scarring from the Clorox burns.
The idea was bad, but I understand that when a pet owner is sleep deprived and their pet is miserable, they will often try anything to make them feel comfortable.
If you own a pet, it’s important to be prepared for times when your pet may need home care, until you can get to the veterinary clinic. If there is no serious emergency, but they are in pain or discomfort, you may be able to care for them at home until the next business day.
First a few words on what not to do:
- Do not give your own painkillers to your pets. Many human painkillers will be fatal to cats and will cause liver or kidney damage in dogs and cats.
- Do not give flea and tick medication to cats. Many dog formulations can be lethal to cats, including over-the-counter remedies. Read and follow labels. If indicated for use in dogs, don’t make the mistake of “just using a lower dose” to give your cat. I have treated many cats with seizures that have been given a small dose of flea medicine from the dog.
- If your pet’s ears are itchy, don’t assume “it must be ear mites.” My associates and I have treated many pets whose owners assumed that itchy ears meant they had mites. The owners went to the pet store and applied an OTC (over the counter) dust mite remover and ended up at the vet in the ER to treat allergic ears that got worse with the application of dust mite medication.
- Do not use rubbing alcohol in your pet’s ears or on their irritated skin.
- If an animal has a head tilt, don’t put anything in its ears, NOT EVEN WATER!
- If an animal has irritated eyes with redness and squinting, this constitutes a same-day emergency. Do NOT apply Visine or any other eye medication containing steroids, dexamethasone or prednisone without consulting a veterinarian first.
- For dogs and cats with a cough, do not give a cough suppressant instead consult a veterinarian. This can mask symptoms of pneumonia or congestive heart failure.
Types of conditions that can be treated safely at home include mild skin irritation, occasional head shaking, mild ear inflammation or discharge, non-anaphylactic allergic reactions, mild lameness, loose stools and other symptoms of discomfort.
I am always happy to advise pet owners on a list of first aid supplies and remedies that can relieve pain and treat minor illnesses and injuries. Preparing a list of supplies and asking your local veterinary office for guidance on stocking your home kit are good ways to prepare. You can do this at your pet’s usual meeting time.
Supplies I recommend keeping on hand:
- Bandage materials including 4×4 gauze, self-adhesive Vet Wrap, porous tape, adhesive gauze, and roll cotton. This is for pressure and support wraps until you get to the vet’s office.
- Clotting powder, cinnamon, flour, or cornstarch for bleeding nails.
- Saline eyewash and medicated eye ointment
- Wound flush, saline-based foam or Vetericyn
- Ozonated antiseptic for wounds
- Remedies to help with blood clotting (I use Chinese herbal remedies for this purpose)
- Medicines for the treatment of diarrhea
- Activated charcoal and/or universal antidote (toxin scavengers for oral use)
- Your veterinarian’s recommendation for pain medications specific to your pet
- Hydrogen peroxide (to induce vomiting when needed for ingestion of toxins)
- Nausea medications, such as Cerenia
If your pet has severe allergies, ask your veterinarian for medications, including injections, to treat anaphylaxis at home.
I also recommend owners keep a kit of homeopathic remedies on hand to treat nausea and diarrhea as first choices for mild cases. Nux Vomica and Arsenicum remedies are both very effective treatments for gastrointestinal symptoms and can be obtained from a holistic veterinarian or health food store.
Your pet’s veterinarian is a great resource to prepare for and prevent trips to the emergency room. Take advantage of their expertise by scheduling regular preventive care and wellness visits.
Dr. Cynthia Maro is a veterinarian at Ellwood Veterinary Hospital in Ellwood City and Chippewa Veterinary Hospital in Chippewa Township. She writes a bi-weekly column on pet care and health issues. If you have a topic you would like to discuss, email [email protected]