Do I Need To Call The Vet?


Do I need to Call A Vet Now, or Can I wait?

What should you keep in stock in case your pet gets ill?  

What is safe to use and when should you call your vet urgently?

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I’ll give some advice for the commonest problems but first a quick checklist, if you’re reading this with a sick pet right now.

Severe injuries, frequent vomiting, whelping/kittening problems,  breathing difficulties, biting/fight injuries  should always be discussed with your vet before you attempt first aid.

Some things that seem trivial will ring alarm bells in most vets’ heads. Equally what may be worrying for an owner can sometimes  be simply dealt with.  A quick call to the surgery should give you an idea, although the vet, if unsure, will err on the side of caution and ask you to take your pet in to the surgery.

If it is a genuine emergency it is also helpful to ring the surgery first. This may seem like a waste of time but it will allow the surgery to get ready for your arrival.

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Suggested first aid kit list

Cotton wool and bandaging material

Aloe vera gel / Manuka honey.

Powdered probiotics.

Old sports socks.

Piriton (Please speak to your vet before you add this to your FA kit)


Buster Collar



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Tummy upset or diarrhoea

This is very common in dog s and cats. The normal recommendation is to withhold food for twenty four hours and then reintroduce a bland diet. This would be rice/ potato or pasta accompanied by plain boiled fish or chicken, or scrambled egg or tinned tuna, preferably in spring water.

Most tummy upsets are caused by the ‘wrong sort of bacteria’ in the gut, either because your pet has eaten something undesirable  - dead mouse or dead pizza, has raided the bin or been given (or stolen)  too many leftovers.  The reason for withholding food is to stop ‘adding fuel to the fire’ – the bad bacteria will thrive on the food you give. Reintroducing a bland diet as suggested above means that there will be little indigestible matter for the bad guys to feed on. I often recommend adding in some probiotics which can be bought powdered from many health food shops. You can give small amounts of bio yogurt as long as you know your pet normally tolerates milk.

People are often alarmed at seeing blood in the stools. If the blood is bright red and your dog is otherwise well this is not usually a serious problem and just means that the bowel lining is sore. In most cases it will clear up as the diarrhoea improves.

When you start reintroducing food do so little and often, a couple of teaspoons/ tablespoons at a time , depending on the size of your pet. With this regime the diarrhoea should clear up gradually over two to three days. Once your pet is passing normal stools gradually reintroduce its usual food.

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It is safe to treat diarrhoea at home as long as:

• Your pet is still well in other respects – still asking for walks, playing with toys etc.

• Vomiting is rare or occasional – once or twice daily at most, and your pet is otherwise well

• Your pet is not young or very old. Puppies and kittens under five months and older animals can get dehydrated very quickly from diarrhoea.


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Grazes, cuts and scrapes, torn claws

What if your pet has a small rash? A tic bite, a sore spot. What can you put on it?

The following are safe, antibacterial, gentle and helpful – salty water ( about two tablespoons to half a pint of lukewarm water),  aloe vera gel or  Manuka honey . (Ordinary honey will work too because of the high sugar content which kills bacteria).

I would wash first in salty water and then apply aloe or honey twice daily.  It is important to try and stop your pet from licking the wound as, contrary to the old wives tales about licking being  healing,  this is often what makes them worse. In this respect a  correctly fitted buster collar is useful ( make sure your pet can still eat and drink with it on and keep cats indoors),  a thick sock – either to prevent licking or to stop the claws scratching the sore area, or a modified t shirt are also helpful. Socks can be held on by pulling the sock up over the wrist or hock joint and winding sticky tape around it where the leg narrows so that it can’t slip back down – not too tight though!

Do not apply tea tree oil or neem oil , both of these are toxic to cats and irritant to dogs. TCP, savlon and other such antiseptics are also inappropriate , damaging to the skin and stingy!

If the wound is not improving over a couple of days, if it smells bad or it is getting worse rather than better then ring your vet.

Torn claws sometimes bleed a lot and are usually very painful. If your pet will let you then bathe the claw- or whole foot in salty water for five minutes, twice daily. This will help stop infection and will ease off the old nail.

If your pet is lame with a torn claw it may need antibiotics to settle it or even the remaining nail removing. This usually has to be done under sedation so see your vet.

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Larger wounds

Any cut/injury  that continues to bleed after a few minutes, is gaping or has  twigs/wire etc in it should be seen by the vet. Use clean bandaging material to cover a wound. It doesn’t matter if you put the bandage on a little too tight if you are going straight to the surgery. Stopping bleeding and keeping infection out are more important in the short term.

Injured animals are often in pain or frightened and this will make them more likely to bite in which case a muzzle may be appropriate. If moving an injured cat grasp it firmly by the scruff and then support its body to transfer it to a pet carrier – an open top one is easier or simply use a large plastic or cardboard box. Alternatively throw a large thick towel over the cat and scoop it up in this.


grey pawWasp and bee stings

These can cause a great deal of swelling, usually on the paw, sometimes in the mouth.  Dogs can be given piriton, usually fast acting and effective. A half to a whole 4mg tablet, depending on the size of your dog.

Ring your surgery if unsure. Be cautious if the sting is in the mouth and your pet is having difficulty breathing or swallowing. This is an emergency for the vet to deal with.

Only use Piriton under veterinary supervision - please speak to your vet before adding Piriton to your First-Aid kit


grey pawBurns and scalds

These are almost always more severe in animals than in people because pets are generally smaller and the area affected by a burn is proportionately larger. Look out for burning from a hot water bottle provided for poorly pets or newborns.

Remember that these animals cannot easily move away from a heat source and can suffer burns in this way.  For these animals it is better to make sure that the room they are kept in is generally snug.   


If you are worried about your pet please give your vet a call

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