Pet Emergency #1: How to Stop Your Pet From Bleeding

Knowing what to do in an emergency could mean life or death for your pet

Having had so many pets over the years I’ve come to realize that no matter how much preparation I do for emergencies, it would never be enough to prepare me for all the various things that can go wrong. The vast majority of emergencies that have occurred came unexpectedly without warning. Does this mean not to worry about knowing what to do? I wouldn’t say that. How a situation is handled when one has experience and knowledge is vastly different than when one doesn’t. That difference in many cases could mean life or death for your pet.

Recently for example, my dog Daisy got her paw stuck in one of the broken links of the neighbor’s fence. I was at work at the time but from what I heard later, there was a lot of yanking, there was a lot of blood, there was panicking, there was yelping, and there was screaming and none of those things provided the solution to the problem. Daisy was there for about 15 minutes with several people around her panicking; one person was actually pulling on her and was causing more bleeding and pain. Not until one of the neighbors came over who worked in the emergency room of a local hospital did anyone do anything useful to free Daisy.  Laura who is an ER nurse quickly evaluated the situation and was able to seperate the links at the proper location leaving  just enough room for Daisy to move her leg out.

Did Laura know how to fix fences or know the anatomy of the paw of a dog? No, but she knew through experience not to panic and to methodically work through these situations with a clear head in order to find a solution. This difference prevented additional damage to Daisy’s paw, more pain, and who knows what else or how long she would have been there.

Knowing what to do in an emergency in many situations can make all the difference in the outcome for your pet. It is extremely important to know how to prevent emergencies, how to handle these situations calmly, and know when to seek veterinary assistance. Pet owners are with their pets most of the time, and when something happens that’s who is probably going to be around. A pet owner also knows their pet better than anyone else so can usually tell if something is really wrong or whether it’s most likely a false alarm. Some pets, like some people, are extremely good at exaggerating and magnifying the smallest thing to make it appear much more serious. Knowing your pet’s tendencies could make a big difference in how a certain situation is handled.

Over the next few weeks I will go over the various life-threatening emergencies that can happen and ways how to deal with them. From administering CPR to treating severe hypothermia, I will attempt to explain what may be the best approach to avoid further harm. Today I will go over what to do if your pet is bleeding externally. Bleeding sometimes looks much more serious than it is, and it is easy for panic to set in making the situation much worse.

How to Stop Bleeding:

  • Pressure: The first thing is to apply direct pressure. Press on a clean cloth over the area that is bleeding to allow the clotting process to begin. If you don’t have a clean cloth, use whatever is available: gauze, socks, your hand, anything can be used. Direct pressure is the best way to stop the bleeding.
  • Elevation: If the injury is on the foot or leg or a place that can be elevated, raise the area so it is above the heart. Gravity can help reduce the pressure and, combined with direct pressure, will in most cases do the trick.

Applying pressure on the supplying artery on the brachial artery on the inside upper front leg, the femoral artery in the groin, or the caudal artery in the tail may help also in certain cases. If you don’t know where these areas are, next time you are at the veterinarian for an exam you can ask to be shown. Most veterinarians will be more than happy to see that you are taking an active interest in caring for your pet’s needs.

We have heard and seen tourniquets being used on television shows, in the movies, and described in books. A tourniquet is simply a piece of cloth wrapped around the limb and tied tightly to prevent further blood loss from the limb. The problem with tourniquets is that you are also stopping oxygen from supplying the limb which, within a short period of time, could die. Using a tourniquet is extremely dangerous and should be avoided unless you are absolutely sure there is no other way to stop life threatening bleeding and you are expecting the limb to be amputated. It is always better before you do something like that to have someone helping you call an emergency veterinarian and explain what is going on, what you are planning to do, and get advice.

Pets at one point in their lives may require first aid. The advice that will be given over the next few weeks is not a replacement for immediate veterinary care nor does it cover all aspects of first aid. The recommendations and techniques I will discuss are compiled from several sources. Please take the time to educate yourself further; there are plenty of books and information out there that are extremely well written. The time to learn is now, not during an emergency. Additionally, one of the most important things you can do to help your pet stay healthy is to develop a relationship with a veterinarian and get regular checkups for your pet.

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  1. Staying calm is extremely difficult to do when the emergency involves our beloved pets. Thanks for the reminder that it will do our pet more good to be calm about a situation. I am looking forward to your future posts discussing what to do in various life-threatening emergencies so I may become better educated.

  2. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianNovember 28, 2012 at 9:43 am

    Staying calm in any medical emergency situation is always the best advice.

  3. You can practice staying calm by practicing deep breathing and seeing the end result as a positive one (i.e. seeing your pet better or coming out of the ordeal in good shape). It is a difficult process, but hope these tips help.

    (BTW: I’m a Psychotherapist).

  4. I also agree and hear you when you say to stay calm. As of yet, it’s been very hard to do. Any tricks? Like counting…or anything a person can do to make themselves settle? Look forward to reading more. Saw a place for questions the other day and was unable to get in and ask it. Do you have a Q n A and do you limit questions? Is that why I was unable to ask one?

  5. Abby, PetMeds ProApril 12, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    Hi Kim. We usually have a live Q&A session with holistic veterinarian Dr. Dym once per month on our Facebook page. We don’t limit the questions, you can submit any question relating to pet health during the time frame of the forum.

    In the interim, you can ask questions via our “Ask the Vet” feature, here:
    ~ Abby, PetMeds Pro

  6. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianApril 12, 2013 at 10:50 pm

    HI Kim. I would be happy to answer any of your questions. Just ask and let me know.

  7. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianApril 12, 2013 at 10:50 pm

    Hi Kasandra. Thanks for these suggestions. You sound like a very special psychotherapist.

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