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First Aid Helps Injured Animals
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- A lot of emergency first aid that works for injured humans also helps hurt animals.
Dr. Roger Wilbur, community practice veterinarian at Mississippi State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, said people can do a lot to help injured animals. The goal is to quickly and safely get the animal to a veterinarian.
Common injuries requiring first aid for animals are bite wounds, gunshot wounds or injuries from being hit by a car.
The first thing to do, whether helping a pet or a wild animal, is to make sure the animal cannot hurt the person.
"Any time an animal is injured, they may be in pain and fearful, so they may try to bite you, especially if you try to touch the part that is hurt," Wilbur said.
With dogs, a soft cord or long strips of gauze wrapped around the muzzle and tied behind the head prevents them from snapping. The animal then can be wrapped in a large blanket and taken to the veterinarian.
Cats can simply be wrapped in a blanket and carried to the veterinarian. A good way to transport injured animals is wrapped in a blanket and placed in an airline carrier.
Wilbur said being quiet and covering the animal's eyes calms the animal and make it easier to handle.
"If the animal is unconscious, treat it as you would a possible spinal injury for a person," Wilbur said. "Wrap the animal on a board so its legs, spine and neck are stiff and take it to the veterinarian."
Especially with unconscious animals, make sure the airways are clear and breathing is not blocked. Use a cloth to clear the mouth and protect the hand from possible bites.
If an animal is bleeding, the first aid treatment is the same for animals and humans. Apply steady pressure with gauze or a clean towel to limit the blood flow.
Dangling, broken legs can be temporarily immobilized with splints made of newspaper, cardboard or towels. Run cold water over minor burns to temporarily ease some of the pain.
Wilbur warned against giving animals pain medication.
"Aspirin can be used in some cases, but only under the direction of a veterinarian," he said.
For most injured wild animals or in any situation where the person is in danger of being hurt, a conservation officer or animal control officer should be called to help. Once the animal has been confined, it should be taken to the veterinarian.
Wilbur said everyone should have a list of veterinarians to call for help before being faced with an injured animal. Not all veterinarians work with wild animals, and not all offices handle after-hours emergencies.
"When you have an injured animal, don't immediately take it to the nearest veterinarian," Wilbur said. "Call first to make sure there is somebody there who can treat the animal."