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Find information on animal health topics, written for the veterinary professional.

Minor Injuries and Accidents

By Rebecca Kirby, DVM, DACVIM, DACVECC, Executive Director, Animal Emergency Center ; Kirk N. Gelatt, VMD, DACVO, Emeritus Distinguished Professor, Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida ; Pamela Anne Wilkins, DVM, MS, PhD, DACVIM-LA, DACVECC, Professor of Equine Internal Medicine and Emergency/Critical Care, Section Head, Chief of Service Equine Medicine and Surgery, Department of Veterinary Clinical Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Illinois

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A number of minor injuries are generally not life-threatening but also demand immediate attention.

Broken Nails

Control any bleeding by applying pressure or using styptic power, cornstarch, or even white flour. Because broken nails can be very painful, you may need to place a muzzle on your dog (see Figure: Emergency Care for Dogs and Cats : What to Do at the Scene and Transport). Gently attempt to remove the broken piece. Seek veterinary care if the broken nail cannot be removed easily.

Bumps, Bruises, Twists, and Sprains

Mild to moderate pain, tenderness, swelling, and limping can indicate a bruise, strain, or sprain. Keep your pet quiet and restrict exercise. Contact your veterinarian if signs continue for more than a few days.

Fish Hooks

Fish hooks often become lodged in the mouth, lips, nose, or paws. Do not try to remove a fish hook that is embedded in the eyes, mouth, or ears—this must be done under anesthesia by your veterinarian. If a hook embedded in the mouth is attached to a line, prevent your pet from swallowing the hook by tying the line to the animal’s collar. Otherwise, cut the hook free from the line, but leave several inches of line attached so that the hook is easier to find (especially in thick fur). If the barb has entered the skin, push it through in the same direction so that you can snip off the barb with wire cutters or pliers. Then remove the hook by pulling it back out in the direction it entered the skin. Clean and cover the wound, and take your pet to the veterinarian immediately.

Insect Bites and Stings

Bites and stings often occur on the face or elsewhere on the head. They are often so small that they cannot be seen through the fur. Apply a cold pack to the affected area to reduce swelling and itching. Look for a stinger. If you find one in the skin, you can use a credit card or other flat, rigid object to scrape it out. Do not squeeze a stinger with tweezers or other tool because this can release more venom into the wound. If your pet has an allergic reaction with a great deal of swelling in the head or neck area that may affect breathing, or if you find a stinger in the tongue or the roof of the mouth, take your pet to your veterinarian immediately.

Porcupine Quills

Porcupine quills have small barbs on their ends, which makes them very painful to remove. You should not attempt to remove them yourself. They should be removed by your veterinarian because of the need for anesthesia and the risk of more bleeding and tissue damage.

Skunking

Skunk spray is an oil that is best removed while still wet. If you can identify the specific area that was sprayed, clean it first before wetting the entire dog to avoid spreading the oil to other areas. There are numerous commercial products and recipes for homemade deskunking rinses. Be aware that many homemade concoctions are too harsh to use in the face and eye area, and many will bleach the hair coat. In addition to the objectionable odor, skunk spray can cause eye irritation and temporary blindness. Skunk bites can transmit rabies, but skunk spray has not been shown to transmit the virus.

Swallowed Objects

Dogs tend to swallow numerous inappropriate objects including toys, trash, or chicken bones. In many cases, swallowed objects can be treated with a wait-and-see approach; most of the time, the object will pass through without any trouble. However, swallowing sharp objects, such as needles or pieces of glass, or any type of long item, such as string, pantyhose, or fishing line, is very dangerous because a serious bowel condition can result. Although cats are more selective than dogs, they often swallow string, fishing line, or tinsel, or get the material wrapped and knotted around their tongue. In these situations, or if your pet has persistent vomiting, a tender abdomen, or is not having bowel movements, you should contact your veterinarian immediately.