Happy Tails: Be prepared for pet emergencies

Thank you to Dr. Reed Prince and the staff of Companion Pet Clinic for their excellent, and free, presentation last month on emergency pet care. It was informal, informative and interesting.

Kudos also to the responsible pet owners of McMinnville. We packed the place. Dr. Prince’s gentle old Golden Retriever, Bradley, had barely enough room to stand or lie down when he was helping with the demonstrations.

Happy Tails

Nancy Carlson has an enduring interest in the bond between humans and animals.

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Sure, there are dozens of websites with the kind of information Dr. Prince gave to us, complete with educational videos, and maybe you are the kind of person to actually avail yourself of it. I am the kind of person who keeps putting off gathering this information, maybe trusting luck, which even I know is stupid, or maybe thinking that if and when one of my dogs becomes ill or injured, I will be near enough to a vet during office hours to get the medical care needed.

So, on behalf of my dogs, who deserve an owner who doesn’t trust their health to fate, I am grateful for the recent presentation. And perhaps the fantastic turnout will encourage other local vets to do similar sessions. I would love more opportunities like this one.

I’d like to share with you some of what I learned. I took copious notes at first, before realizing much of the information was also available in a pamphlet, “Pet Emergency Care Handbook,” which we received at the presentation. But there were a few tidbits from Dr. Prince’s many years of experience that the book omitted, so let me start by sharing those.

The first that caught my attention was simple advice: Know your dog. Unlike humans, who will on occasion try to pretend we are fine when we are anything but, if our dogs are sick they are not going to act otherwise. So if you know what’s normal for your dog — and that includes appetite, weight, water intake, energy level, and pee and poop habits — you are more likely to notice if things change, hopefully before the change becomes dramatic.

(By the by, there were more than a few cat lovers present in the audience, too, and most of Dr. Prince’s advice applies to cats as well as dogs.)

The above is an argument against free-feeding your pet — putting down a bowl of food in the morning and letting your dog eat at his leisure. For one thing, this practice often leads to a fat dog. For another, it’s harder to notice subtle changes in your pet’s appetite.

Another tip: If your dogs are like mine, they invariably show signs of illness about 6 p.m. on a Friday evening, just after all the vets in town have closed for the weekend. It is tempting to try to treat a dog’s indigestion or joint pain with human remedies just to get him through the weekend until the vet’s office opens again. Don’t. The chance your dog may have a negative reaction to human medications is probably higher that the possibility he will benefit from them.

Of course, some of the veterinary practices in the county are open on Saturday morning; at least one I know of is open Sunday morning as well. One easy piece of info to acquire regarding pet emergency care is your vet’s office hours.

Dr. Prince went over his list of must-haves in his emergency pet care kit. At that point, I was so interested that I forgot to take notes, but there’s a list in the “Pet Emergency Handbook,” which I will add to with what I remember from the class. So, your basic kit should include:

1. Tweezers and/or a multi-tool with scissors.

2. Muzzle, or some way you can improvise one, plus a leash. Sick or hurt dogs are also scared, and you’re going to have to find a way to protect yourself from being bitten.

3. Rectal thermometer. The ones made for babies will work. A normal temperature for dogs is about 101 to 102.5 F.

4. Sterile saline solution (also known as contact lens solution, if you are buying supplies at a drugstore).

5. A roll of gauze plus gauze sponges.

6. Adhesive tape. Dr. Prince said not to buy the clear tape, as it’s too sticky. And be sure not to wrap it too tightly.

7. Antibiotic ointment.

8. Latex gloves.

9. Large towel or blanket.

10. Flashlight.

11. Baby wipes.

12. Drinking water.

If your dog becomes ill and you call your vet for advice, have this information on hand: your dog’s age and weight, his temperature, and when he had his last vaccination. That is going to help your vet assess the urgency of the problem.

Speaking of urgency, Dr. Prince also addressed the veterinary emergency services, or lack of same, available in the county. I believe Newberg Veterinary Hospital, one of the larger practices, has an on-call vet 24/7 available for its clients.

But smaller practices can’t because, let’s face it, folks, we would have them up at all hours of the night. That could grow old fast, not to mention diminish the quality of medical care they could provide in a sleep-deprived state. So, if you have a pet emergency during off hours, call a vet, but not one in town.

To my knowledge, the closest 24-hour emergency veterinary clinic for the north end of the county is the Emergency Veterinary Clinic of Tualatin. For those of us at the south end, there are two emergency vet hospitals in Salem, the Salem Veterinary Emergency Clinic and the VCA Salem Animal Hospital.

Again, thanks to Dr. Prince for sharing his time and knowledge with us.

Nancy Carlson can be reached at nancy.carlson935@gmail.com.