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Much like their human counterparts, pets are susceptible to viruses, disease, illness and medical emergency. Knowing what to do in a crisis situation will leave you better able to handle the situation and could very well save your animal's life.

BE PREPARED In the case of a true medical emergency, things are likely to go much smoother if you're prepared. Veterinarians recommend having a pet first aid kit on hand. Your kit should include:

1. Blanket- suitable for carrying your pet or using as a stretcher (with large breed dogs).

2. Antibiotic ointment for wounds and irritation. (The human variety is just fine.)

3. Gauze sponges or compresses for stopping bleeding.

4. Your veterinarian's address and emergency phone number.

5. Flashlight for viewing injuries up close or rescuing your pet in the dark.

6. Iodine or Betadine solution for cleansing wounds.

7. Antihistamine (such as Benadryl) for allergic reactions, including bee and instinct stings.

8. A muzzle (especially for dogs). Most dogs lash out when injured out of fear. Even though your animal may be your best friend, it's important to muzzle him or her for their own safety, and yours. Most veterinarians agree that using a muzzle also helps to relax your animal.

9. Any medication your pet may be taking.

PROTECTING YOUR PET There are other preventative measures you can take to help ensure your pet's safety. Following these common sense guidelines can help:

1. Provide an ample supply of fresh water and food for your pet each day.

2. Never leave pets in a warm or cold car. Hypothermia and heat stroke can set in within minutes; the results of which are usually fatal.

3. Don't leave medications and cleaning supplies in areas where your pet can reach them. Use child safety locks on ground level cupboards to discourage curious pets.

4. Use reflective pet collars and leashes when walking or confining your pet at night.

WHAT TO DO IN AN EMERGENCY Time is a factor, as with any emergency. While these steps will help to treat your pet in a moment of crisis, it is always advised to seek the advice and further treatment of your regular veterinarian or animal hospital specialist.

BITE WOUNDS Muzzle your animal. Clean the wound as best you can with either antibacterial soapy water or an Iodine solution. Wrap large open wounds to keep them clean and apply pressure to help stop the bleeding. Do not use a tourniquet. Bite wounds in dogs usually become infected. Seek your veterinarian's help for further treatment.

CHOKING Check your pet's mouth for any foreign object that might be visible. Remove the object to open breathing passages. If there is nothing visible, place your hands on both sides of the animal's rib cage area, and push (with quick pressure) to expel the object. For larger animals, you may find it easier to roll the animal on its side and strike the side of their rib cage with an open palm three to four times. Repeat each procedure until dislodged.

POISONING Household chemical cleaners, antifreeze, medications even chocolate can cause serious life threatening injury in dogs and cats. Contact your veterinarian immediately. Do not induce vomiting. In the event of skin irritation from poisoning, wash your pet with mild soapy water and rinse well.

BLEEDING Apply firm pressure to your animal with a large (sterile) gauze bad until bleeding stops. Bandage wound.

HEAT STROKE Place your pet immediately into a tub of luke warm water or rinse with garden hose. Never use cold water. Contact your veterinarian immediately.

VOMITING Do not feed the animal for twenty-four hours. After vomiting has ceased, give ice cubes to prevent dehydration. If the animal retains the liquid, begin slowly resuming their normal diet. Vomiting that lasts longer than two days or is accompanied by a temperature, should be investigated by a trained professional.

DIARRHEA Don't feed the animal for twenty-four hours. Use ice cubes to prevent dehydration.

NOT BREATHING For an animal that suffers from an injury, sudden illness or shock and stops breathing, you can perform mouth-to-mouth, CPR, or both. Place the animal on a firm surface, with it's left side facing up. Check for a pulse. (Behind your pet's elbow.) If you find there is a pulse, but no breathing, close your pet's mouth and breathe into it's nose (not mouth) until you see their chest expand. Repeat twelve to fifteen times per minute. If there is also no pulse, heart massage will also be necessary. Your animal's heart is just under the lower half of the chest, behind his/her elbow of the front left leg. Put one hand under the animal to support him, and place your other hand over the heart area. Compress the chest gently. Heart massage should be performed in intervals of sixty times per minute (One each second.) and should be alternated with breathing, if necessary.

BLOAT Bloat is a common blockage of the stomach found mostly in large breed dogs. Signs and symptoms include a distended abdomen, dry heaves and abnormal behavior. Your dog may get up and lay down repeatedly or whine in pain. Bloat is a surgical emergency. Call your veterinarian immediately.

URINARY OBSTRUCTION Urinary obstruction is a common ailment of cats. Straining to urinate, whining inside the litter box or urinating in uncommon places are all signs of a possible obstruction. A cat with this condition will rapidly deteriorate, so it's important to make contact with your veterinarian as soon as possible.

SEIZURES Dogs and cats that have been injured will sometimes go into shock and suffer seizures. Your first step should be to protect your pet from injury, by removing all furniture and anything else in its surroundings that could be harmful. Seizures are a medical emergency that cannot be treated at home. Contact your veterinarian.

VET IN A FLASH If you find yourself away from home during a medical emergency, you may contact the Animal Hospital Association for assistance and direction to the nearest veterinarian.