Due to an increase in veterinary visits, scheduling an appointment with your veterinarian can take a few more days than it used to. Here are some things you can do to relieve your pet while waiting.
Vomiting and Diarrhea
- Monitor how often they are vomiting and/or having diarrhea, the color, and any behavior changes.
- Take away their food bowls, but provide plenty of water.
- Try feeding a bland diet of boiled, boneless, skinless chicken breast in a 50/50 mixture with boiled white rice.
- Small frequent meals over the course of the day (rather than 2 large ones) can help the gut heal faster. The volume you should offer your pet over the course of the day should be approximately twice the usual volume they receive.
- You will likely notice that your pet will drink less on this bland diet. This is to be expected, as the boiled chicken and white rice have a higher moisture content.
- Go to the ER if: your pet’s vomiting or diarrhea is worsening, if it is possible your pet may have ingested foreign material (a piece of a toy, an acorn, etc.), your pet is retching/trying to vomit, and nothing is coming out (this could be a sign of “bloat”), or if you think your pet may have ingested a toxic or poisonous substance.
Eye Issues (i.e. Eye Infections)
- Keep the area dry by gently blotting the discharge away; do not rub, this can be irritative.
- Use a cone to prevent your pet from rubbing or pawing at their eyes.
- DO NOT administer any over-the-counter eye drops without your veterinarian’s permission.
- You can gently rinse the eye with sterile eye wash twice daily. This can be found at the pharmacy. Stop rinsing if the eye worsens or your pet’s discomfort is increasing. DO NOT confuse sterile saline eye wash with contact solution (do NOT use contact solution)!
- Go to the ER if: the eye is bulging/swelling, your pet is squinting/sensitive to light, you see any foreign body in the eye, your pet can’t open their eye, or if your pet is hiding/not eating (which can be a sign of pain).
Itchy Ears: Redness & Head Shaking (i.e. Ear Infections)
- Do not rub the ear canal – napkins, tissues, dry cotton balls, gauze, etc., are all abrasive substances that can cause increased swelling and discomfort.
- If there is excess discharge, gently wipe it away with a cotton ball moistened with an ear-cleaning solution made for dogs (this can be found at the pet store). Do not use water, this can cause or exacerbate existing ear infections.
- DO NOT use Q-tips without your veterinarian’s permission.
- Go to the ER if: your pet is unable to eat/sleep or has any neurologic signs (such as walking in circles, falling over, etc.)
- Take note of any recent social activities: daycare, dog park, boarding, etc.
- Keep your pet away from other pets until your pet has been evaluated by a veterinarian.
- DO NOT give any medications without direction from a veterinarian or veterinary technician.
- Go to the ER if: your pet is experiencing respiratory distress (excessive panting/gasping/choking, etc.).
Minor Scrapes and Wounds
- Keep the area dry by blotting it gently (do not wipe). You can use sterile saline (found in the wound/band-aid aisle at the pharmacy) on a cotton ball and gently dab the area to help draw out the moisture and help with the swelling. The use of hydrogen peroxide is discouraged.
- If your pet can lick the wound, use a cone.
- If your pet has swellings on their feet/toenails, you can dip their foot in Epsom salt (mixed with water) for 5 minutes twice daily. Directions for mixing the Epsom salt with water can be found on the packaging.
- If your pet was bitten by another domesticated animal, ask for the rabies vaccination status of the other pet.
- DO NOT attempt to wrap the wound or use any over-the-counter antiseptics without your veterinarian’s permission.
- For dogs: restrict stairs, jumping on/off furniture, getting in and out of the car, going on car rides, and exercise (short leash walks for bathroom purposes only). Do not let your pet off leash in the yard, as they may run after wildlife such as squirrels, birds, etc.
- For cats: isolate your cat to one area/room that is safe with minimal surfaces to jump on.
- Take a video of your pet limping (especially cats). Many times, patients will have adrenaline masking their discomfort when they are at the veterinary office and the limp may not be appreciated.
- DO NOT give any over-the-counter human medications for inflammation or pain.
- Go to the ER if: your pet is unable to use the limb, there is excessive swelling, or your pet is crying/vocalizing when trying to ambulate around the home.
Increased Urination/Blood in Urine (i.e. UTI)
- For dogs: take your dog out to the bathroom more frequently/when they ask to go out.
- For cats: ensure their litter box is clean by scooping twice daily. You could also consider adding an additional litter box. Do not change litter material/brands.
- Make sure plenty of water is available and encourage them to drink water by offering options (i.e. faucet for cats) or adding chicken broth to their water.
- Note any changes in urine color and make sure they continue to produce urine while you monitor.
- Go to the ER if: you have a male cat that is straining to urinate or vocalizing while urinating.
Hot Spots & Allergies
- Keep their hair away from the infected area and keep the area dry with gentle blotting (not wiping).
- If your pet’s feet have swellings or oozing, consider an Epsom Salt Soak for 5 minutes twice daily to help draw out inflammation/swelling. Gently blot feet dry. The directions/ratio for mixing the Epsom Salt with water can be found on the Epsom salt box.
- If warranted, use a cone to prevent licking.
- DO NOT put socks on your pet’s feet – this can trap moisture and make the irritation on their feet worse.
- DO NOT apply topical ointments or medications on the infected area without your veterinarian’s permission.
- DO NOT try to clip or trim your pet’s fur, you could end up cutting/injuring them.
- DO NOT give your pet Benadryl without your veterinarian’s permission.
- Note any discharge coming from the anus or vocalizing.
- See if your pet needs to go to the bathroom – give your dog extra time outside to defecate (they’re usually able to express their anal glands themselves.)
- Offer more fiber in their diet (such as a tablespoon of canned pumpkin on their food once to twice daily.) Be sure to use plain canned pumpkin and NOT the sugary pumpkin pie filler.
- Go to the ER if: your pet is unable/straining to defecate, if you see a hole or large swelling near the anus, and/or discharge coming from a hole near the anus (and not from it).
This list is not exhaustive, nor can any single pet be definitively diagnosed without first being seen by a veterinarian. Please call your veterinarian for their advice prior to starting any at-home treatment plan.
It is always better to err on the side of caution. If you are concerned that your pet needs to be seen despite the possible minor or benign conditions above, call your local emergency veterinary hospital or veterinary urgent care clinic.
Written by Jesse Fix, DVM