By Dr. Fernando Cardenas
When the word “emergency” comes up it immediately inspires a call to action. The first thing to remember is we’re here for you 24/7, don’t panic. A cool head is your most valuable asset. Take a moment to step back and assess the situation; is everyone safe? Can you implement basic first aid? (Calm yourself and the animal, apply pressure to bleeding wounds, move to a safe location.) Before calling 3HVet emergency services (919) 363-1686, take a breath so you can speak slowly and clearly. Tell us your name, a telephone number where you can be reached, where your animal is located and the nature of the emergency. The better you can explain the problem the easier it will be for the on-call doctor to advise you what to do until he or she arrives. If you reach voicemail, be sure to leave one or more contact numbers (don’t rely on caller ID). Then stay off your phone so the doctor can contact you.
Here is a brief list of conditions that may be considered emergencies or may require urgent care:
- significant bleeding
- wounds including vital structures like joints, tendons, or penetrating wounds to the foot
- wounds that require suturing
- eye injuries or eye pain; squinting, cloudiness, excess tearing, light sensitivity
- colic (do not medicate before consulting with your veterinarian)
- severe, sudden lameness
- tying up
- allergic reactions
- difficulty breathing
- sudden lack of coordination
- high fever
What if you’re not sure if your predicament is a real emergency? Maybe your scenario is not on the bullet list and doesn’t obviously meet the dictionary definition of “catastrophe requiring immediate action” but it does seem to be a serious problem? A rule of thumb is, if the situation feels like an emergency to you, it’s always worth a call to your vet. As soon as you are calm and able to relate the nature of the problem, give us a call. Consultation with your 3H doctor will confirm or modify your fears and appropriate action can proceed.
You don’t need to be entirely at the whim of fate when it comes to emergencies. Preparing for the unexpected can put you ahead of the game when inevitable problems arise. A simple beginning to emergency preparedness is to make sure that a well-stocked medical kit is available wherever your animals are stabled. A med kit should also go with them whenever they are traveling. If your horse is taking regular medications, have an extra supply at hand for emergency use only. (Don’t forget to rotate the back-up meds so they don’t go out of date.) It’s not enough just to have the kit, you’ll also need a working knowledge of how to use basic medical supplies. In order to recognize signs that your animal’s vital functions are abnormal you should know normal equine health parameters, like temperature, heart and respiratory rates, etc. It behooves you to learn how to perform a basic physical evaluation to assess your horse’s vital functions.
We would be happy to schedule a learning session at your barn to explain how to perform a basic physical examination and show you how to obtain a rectal temperature, how to take heart and respiratory rates, check gum color and hydration status, how and where to listen for gastrointestinal motility and how to apply bandages to the extremities. If you are interested, please give us a call at (919) 363-1686