Trauma and Emergency Preparedness
By: Amanda Landis-Hanna, DVM
One of our office dogs, Roux, recently suffered a traumatic accident. A car hit her, resulting in a significant amount of physical trauma. Fortunately, the people who were with her took all the correct steps, which resulted in a favorable outcome.
The time to prepare for an emergency is BEFORE the emergency. Knowing what to do can make a massive difference. Here is a list of the steps to take in case of such an emergency.
- Protect everyone involved. Remove everyone from the source of danger, whether it is a road, the dog park, or another animal. Dogs can be very reactive, especially when painful, so avoid putting your hand near a dog’s mouth if possible, as she may accidentally bite. Applying a muzzle is often needed to allow the dog to be handled safely; it does not mean you have a bad dog, and muzzles are not overtly bad.
- Prevent additional trauma: Use caution moving a dog that is ‘down’; if you can, use a blanket or a towel to help move her. Try to avoid shifting her neck or spine in case of spinal injuries. If she is flailing, laying a blanket on top of her may provide comfort and help secure her as well.
- Know where your emergency help is, and use it: Always keep your veterinarian’s phone number handy. If you are traveling, it is always helpful to identify local emergency facilities in case of a problem. If you are a significant distance from your regular vet or an emergency vet, it may be useful to quickly search for your closest veterinarian. All veterinary hospitals should have emergency equipment on hand, such as oxygen, intravenous catheters, fluids, pain relief, and heat support. In some cases, it is best to get her stabilizing veterinary care until she is stable enough to transport for more extensive care. I am very grateful to all the veterinary teams who helped Roux, stabilized her and then helped get her transferred for extensive care.
- Know your dog: Some dogs are very vocal and reactive, any sort of pain or trauma will cause an obvious display. Other dogs are more subdued, or even stoic. These dogs may have severe injuries or trauma, and yet not cry or vocalize. It is important to realize that all dogs should have a veterinary examination after a trauma, regardless of how reactive the dog is. Roux is a great example. When she was initially seen, she was VERY vocal (part hound), and pain medicine made her a bit dysporic (drunk) so she enjoyed a bit of human company.
- Take a deep breath: In 90% of the emergencies I treat, I find myself calming the human as well as treating the patient. Dogs are acutely aware of human emotions, and a panicked human can make an emergency situation worse. It is important to realize that veterinary care is becoming more advanced every day, and what you see in the immediacy of the trauma may be less severe than what you predict. In many cases, even the veterinarian needs to observe the patient for several days to truly predict the outcome and prognosis. Roux initially had many open wounds, and the veterinary team discussed skin grafts to help close the wounds. Less than 2 weeks later she is recovering beautifully (without skin graft), and is even out of her sling (seen in photos).
No one wants an emergency to occur. But emergencies happen. The more prepared you are, the better the outcome for everyone involved. Because Roux was handled and supported so well after her trauma, she has nearly made a full recovery 2 weeks after a life threatening injury. I am appreciative to everyone who was with her that day, and all of those who have loved and cared for her ever since! Stay tuned for more updates on Roux!