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Top 10 Dog and Cat Injuries

How to avoid these common injuries in your dog or cat.
By Pamela Babcock
WebMD Pet Health Feature

Gwyn Donohue of Arlington, Va., was hiking along the Potomac River with her dog, Sundae, in January, when the mixed-breed broke loose and fell through the ice about 25 yards from shore.

Sundae pulled herself out after 10 frantic minutes. Fortunately, Donohue had American Red Cross Pet First Aid training and knew what to do.

To raise Sundae’s core temperature, she wrapped the dog in her down vest and used pet waste bags to fashion a belt to secure it. Back at the car, she continued warming the dog with an emergency blanket from her pet first aid kit.

“I knew lack of responsiveness was a sign of hypothermia, so I kept talking to her to make sure she reacted quickly,” Donohue says. Sundae’s emergency may have been out of the ordinary, but the dog pulled through fine.

But there are plenty of other ways your cat or dog can be injured. According to Petplan pet insurance, the top three for dogs are rupture of the cruciate ligament in the knee, lameness, and foreign body ingestion.

For cats, the list includes abscesses, foreign body ingestion, and bite wounds.

Here’s a closer look at 10 things that can go wrong:

1. Foreign Body Ingestion

Dogs will try to eat anything – rocks, broken glass, corncobs, shoes, underwear – even sand. Cats may like string or yarn.

“You name it – if a dog can fit it in its mouth, it’s been eaten, swallowed, and then removed by a veterinarian,” says Jules Benson, BVSc, MRCVS, vice president of veterinary services for Petplan.

Dog chew toys should be large enough that they can't be swallowed. A cat or dog that’s vomiting repeatedly or doesn’t want to eat for a day should be evaluated.

“Many of these will pass and dogs will poop out some amazing things, but some will not,” says Gregg Griffenhagen, DVM, a visiting clinical instructor in the department of emergency medicine at the Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine.

2. Being Hit by a Car

Trauma can range from minor to fatal, and many injuries can be hidden. To prevent such accidents, your pet should be on a leash or under your control at all times.

If you see or suspect a car has hit an animal, stabilize any obvious injuries by wrapping it with something soft like a towel, and have the animal evaluated by a veterinarian. Many injuries, such as bruising of the lungs, can worsen. Diaphragmatic tears or ruptures can go unnoticed by owners for days to weeks.

“By the time the owner knows something is wrong, it may be too late,” Griffenhagen says.

3. Dog Bites

When larger dogs fight, wounds are usually obvious: skin lacerations, bleeding wounds, and bruising. Cuts and wounds should be covered with something clean. If there’s active bleeding, apply gentle but firm pressure.

When small dogs and cats get bitten, the wounds are often not visible – but there may be crushed ribs, broken bones, and abdominal organ damage. To prevent further damage, transport them “with as little movement as possible,” Griffenhagen says.

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