How to reduce your veterinary bills.
Not every animal mishap needs veterinary attention. There are many practical first aid measures that can bring recovery so let me go through some of them — from head to tail.
Unless your pet needs to have a dazzling set of dentures mild discolouration is nothing to worry about and certainly does not justify even the small risk of a general anaesthetic. Teeth that are hardly visible past a thick wall of grey concrete tartar do need attention. A small chip off a single tooth which does not prevent the dog from enjoying a hard chew on a hard toy can be simply kept under observation while a tooth broken in half warrants treatment.
Rule One — Use your common sense.
Eyes will also require varying degrees of treatment. If one eye is discharging grey mucus or excessive tears it is unlikely to be serious. The most practical approach would be to make up a small cup of cold, milky tea, dip some cotton wool into a cup and squeeze several drops onto the eye and wipe the surrounding area. This will soothe the eye and dissuade the animal from rubbing it. If the discharge continues for more than three days or gets worse you should get professional help.
Please do not use cotton buds or Q-Tips to clean out the ears of your pets. You may do more harm than good. Discharging ears should be cleaned before trying any treatment. Drip four or five drops of olive oil into the ear canal then massage it gently but firmly for about a couple of minutes. Make a ‘cap’ of cotton wool and place it over your little finger which you can use to wipe out the excess debris. (You will never go near anywhere dangerous with a little finger.) Get veterinary advice if the condition has not improved within three or four days.
Rule Two — always clean an injury before trying to treat it.
Ears bleed! A small cut on an ear flap from barbed wire or a sharp metal edge will pre-occupy the animal and prompt it to shake its head decorating the surrounding walls with a Jackson Pollack masterpiece. Use a clean tissue folded into four to grip the bleeding point then ask a lady for an old pair of tights or stockings. Cut out about a 12 to 15 inches from the middle of one of the legs to form a tube which you can then place over the dog’s head folding it back and forth so that the elasticity holds the tissue against the wound. Leave it on for a day if possible before renewing the tissue for a further day. The best treatment for any kind of bleeding, almost without exception, is direct pressure. The thumb is Nature’s haemostat. Don’t worry about tourniquets, you probably don’t have enough anatomical knowledge to know where to apply it anyway.
Carrying on down the body to the sinuses and lungs, cats used to suffer badly from cat flu for which there is now, thankfully, a vaccine. but in the past their eyes and noses would stream in between infecting sneezes. An old-fashioned treatment of congested airways was to put a teaspoonful of Friar’s Balsam in a metal dish to which a pint of boiling water was added releasing an effective inhalation which loosened up the air passages. The cat would be put in an open wire cat basket and placed on an open-weave bamboo chair. The inhalation vapour dish was placed under the chair and an old towel thrown over the whole contraption. Primitive but it worked.
General injuries can involve any part of the body especially after a road traffic accident.
Rule Three — Frightened and injured animals will act out of character. Take care.
An injured animal’s fear will be exaggerated by the presence of a crowd of well-meaning people pressing in on them. Move unnecessary spectators back, lower your body, talk in a quiet voice and offer the back of a hand. Once a degree of confidence has been established you will need two essential items — a muzzle and a lead — both can be made up from ties, belts, bandages or scarves.
To create an effective muzzle make a loop pf the bandage, belt or tie and place it over the dog’s nose; pass the ends under the chin, behind the ears and tie in a bow on the back of the neck. Use a bow because it is so much easier to release from a struggling dog. Use another long piece of cloth to its collar to act as a lead and prevent escape. I have known one German Shepherd dog hit by a car, running, terrified by the crowd, back into the road where a second car broke the other hind leg. That dog ran just under 3 miles before it was caught.
Cats can be confined safely by passing an arm down the empty leg of a pair of trousers. Once the hand has emerged from the bottom of the leg, grab the cat by the tail and hind legs and pull it into the trouser leg while holding the end of the trouser leg with the other hand. Once the cat is fully enclosed simply hold both ends of the leg and transfer it into a secure box.
Moving down the body we come to the problems of vomiting and diarrhoea. Vomiting can occasionally be beneficial to the animal as in the case of eating rotten food and it can be induced in dogs by pushing a crystal between the size of a hazelnut and small walnut of washing soda (sodium carbonate) down the throat. This may help if the animal has swallowed a small object like a Lego toy, a chocolate cake or a piece of cloth but be careful. If the dog has swallowed a sharp object, a caustic substance or a fish hook do NOT induce vomiting. It will only make things worse.
The home treatment of diarrhoea is much easier. First of all stop all food for 24 hours and offer fluids in small amounts. Electrolyte replacement powders dissolved in its drinking water will help recovery and the administration of Imodium (loperamide) at a dose of half or one tablet twice a day will also help. If the diarrhoea persists for more than two days professional attention will be required. In the absence of such electrolyte preparations you can make an adequate substitute by boiling some cheap white fish in plenty of water. remove the cooked fish to the fridge and once the water has cooled give small amounts of the broth to the patient. Maintain fluids only for a couple of days before gradually re-introducing the boiled white fish, little and often, for the next two days.
The extremities present their own difficulties. Sore pads will benefit from Vaseline and childrens’ socks tied gently but firmly above the joint above the foot, will give soma added protection.
Pet owners can become quite anxious at the idea of clipping their pet’s claws in case they cause bleeding. White claws are simple in that the blood vessel can be seen through the nail so a cut a ¼ inch beyond the vein will be perfectly safe but black claws are more of a problem. You can either make narrow slices with a guillotine nail clipper, which puts less pressure on the nail, or ask an animal groomer to cut them for you. They tend to be more economical than the professional vet appointment.
Finally, the tail. Like ears, they bleed and decorate the household furniture. Most bandages will slip off within an hour or two so, having dressed and bandaged the wound, place the end of the tail halfway down the cardboard core of a toilet roll then, using adhesive bandage, attach this roll and run the adhesive bandage at least way up the tail and back again to hold it in place. This will prevent the inevitable tail-wagging from banging and re-opening the wound.
That’s the “do’s”, now with the “don’t’s”. Don’t give even moderate amounts of grapes, chocolate in any form or avocado to dogs. The rest is largely common sense (Rule One).
Cats are particularly sensitive to many human remedies. Avoid aspirin like the plague and even avoid other pain killers like ibuprofen. The pollen from lilies is also toxic to cats. Lock away the antifreeze. It has a sweet taste which attract family pets but it is potentially lethal.
Rule Four — If in doubt, spend the money and save a life.