When you come upon a pet that is injured, it is natural to panic and want to rush your pet to the veterinarian. However, it is vital to know how to transport your injured pet safely, to prevent further injury and improve its chances of survival and recovery.
Firstly, always check the scenario and make sure you avoid injury to yourself, such as from falling overhead objects, electric sources or oncoming traffic. Before moving any animals, check the state of their injuries: Is the animal conscious? Is it breathing? Is it bleeding heavily? If your pet has stopped breathing and is unconscious, try nose-to-mouth resuscitation by pinching the lips to seal them shut and then blowing into the nose to ventilate the lungs. If your pet is bleeding, apply direct pressure to the wound, using either a clean towel or convenient item of clothing.
Note, however, that it may be dangerous to attempt first-aid with a conscious animal in severe pain – even the most friendly and gentle-natured pet will behave differently when in pain and suffering from shock and panic. Covering the animal’s head and eyes with a towel or blanket can help to calm it.
- To pick up a cat, grasp it firmly by the nape of the neck (the loose skin, at the back of the neck, between the shoulder blades). Many cats will automatically relax when held this way as this was the way they were carried by their mothers as kittens.
- Place the cat in a cat carrier or a well-ventilated box. If no such carrier is available, use a blanket, towel or piece of clothing and wrap the cat firmly, leaving the head and neck exposed.
- Keep the cat warm and its body as still as possible during transportation.
Birds and Small Animals
- Smaller animals and birds suffer easily from shock, so it is important to keep them calm, warm and quiet – and as still as possible during transportation.
- Always transport them in a secure, well-ventilated container – never try to just restrain them by carrying them in your arms. Rabbits, for example, even when seriously injured, can kick frantically and this can break their backs. If a container is not available, wrap the animal up securely in a blanket, towel or sheet.
- Birds – especially small species – have to be handled extremely carefully. If possible, leave them in their cage and transport the entire cage to the vet. If they are loose, use a sheet to capture them gently, being especially careful not to damage the feathers, then transfer them to a cardboard box. Unwrap them from the sheet as soon as they are in the box as birds can overheat and die very easily, especially in warm weather.
- Similarly, transport small mammals in their cage or enclosure whenever possible. If you need to capture them, carefully place a box over them, then slide a piece of cardboard underneath the box to contain them.
In all instances, talking to an animal softly in a soothing tone of voice can help to calm and reassure it on its way to the veterinary surgery. For the smaller animals, covering their cage with a sheet or towel and keeping them in the dark can also help to calm them, thus preventing them from struggling or trying to escape which may cause further injury to themselves.