Healthy pets have…

  • Pink gums, pink inside of lips, pink tongue, pink insides of eyelids and rapid capillary refill action in these areas.

  • Clean-smelling ears and skin and a full hair coat.

  • Pliant skin—an indication of proper hydration—and their eyes are clear and bright.

Checking these areas first in addition to observing behaviour will give you clues as to what is happening with your animal.

Outright collapse is an obvious sign your pet is suffering some type of ailment. Weakness, disorientation or confusion are further signs. Take the following steps:

  • Check pulse, pupils, breathing and temperature.

  • Apply artificial respiration and/or CPR as needed.

  • Always handle your pet as if he may have a broken bone or have some other serious internal injury.

  • Treat for shock.

Convulsions and Fits
There are basically two kinds of convulsions: the single brief convulsion which lasts for a minute or so and doesn't recur for at least 24 hours, or repeated, continuous convulsions that are serious emergencies and need veterinary attention immediately.

When a pet is having convulsions, you should gently restrain him so that he doesn't injure himself. Don't put your hand(s) on or near a dog's or cat's mouth. The objective is to prevent the animal from further injury while avoiding injury yourself. Once you've restrained your pet, get him to the veterinarian's as soon as possible.

Heatstroke (Heat Exhaustion)
This often occurs if a pet is kept shut up in a house or car without shade, ventilation or water. It can also happen as a result of over excitement or stress.

Signs of a heatstroke include:

  • severe panting

  • severe salivation

  • vomiting

  • diarrhoea

  • raised temperature

  • ultimately, collapse and coma.

In order to treat heatstroke:

  • Remove the animal from the hot spot and into a cool or shady area.

  • Soak the animal with cool water or immerse in a bath, gently massaging legs and body until you reach the vet or the animal's temperature returns to normal. Be sure not to chill the animal.

  • Give artificial respiration if necessary.

  • Gently dry the animal with a towel. If he's conscious, give him small amounts of water.

Shock is a term used loosely and often incorrectly. On both human and animal terms, it is much more serious than the slight feeling of malaise that occurs after a minor accident or fright which is often called "shock." Signs of shock include:

  • weakness

  • collapse

  • unconsciousness

  • pale mouth, lips and eyelid colour

  • cool skin and legs

  • rapid, but weak pulse (may be over 140 beats per minute)

  • rapid respiration (over 40 breaths per minute)

  • fixated stare

  • dilated pupils

  • coma.

If any or all of the signs for shock occur after an accident or prolonged illness, treat for shock as shown below and call the vet immediately.

  • Keep airways open, giving artificial respiration or CPR as necessary. Bandage or splint any fracture or extensive wound.

  • Wrap the animal in a thick cloth or towel to conserve body heat. If the animal is unconscious, keep her head as low as, or lower than, the rest of her body.

  • Gently massage legs and muscles to maintain circulation unless you suspect that bones may be fractured or broken. Keep the animal calm and warm.

  • Get to the veterinary clinic promptly. Time is vital, especially for the intravenous introduction of fluid in severe cases.

When Immediate Help is Not Available
Here are some steps to take if you're a long way from a veterinary hospital or clinic:

  • If the animal is conscious, give fluids orally. Administer a small amount (this will depend on his size) of tepid water mixed with sugar every 30 minutes for two to three hours.

  • Never administer anything by mouth if the animal is unconscious, convulsing or vomiting.

  • Take his pulse and breathing rate every thirty minutes and record them.

  • Note any blood in the urine or elsewhere and report these details to the vet.

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