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Ask a Vet: Follow the ABCs in pet emergencies
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You’ve frequently read my recommendations on keeping your pet healthy and saving yourself a ton of hassle. Most of these are applicable to the majority of pets and owners.

For example, get your pet vaccinated. Keep him in good shape to avoid his becoming overweight. Use safe medications to prevent parasite problems.

All those things are crucial to having a pet in the long term. But when it comes to the short term, knowing the basics for emergency care is essential.

If you haven’t spent years putting IV catheters into tiny legs while they’re having a seizure, emergencies can overwhelm your power for rational thought. So for a brief summary of immediate emergency care, remember your ABCs.

A is for airway.

The first thing to check is to make sure nothing is blocking the airway. This is difficult if the animal is in pain or it might bite you. So take care of yourself first.

If the airway is free of a blockage, move on down the alphabet.

B is for breathing.

This may sound similar to ensuring the airway is clear, but a clear road does not ensure traffic flow.

If the airway is clear and no respirations are occurring, artificial respiration is warranted. This is similar to resuscitating a human. The only difference is the anatomy.

Ask your veterinarian about finding a class to learn the technique.

C is for circulation.

Blood carries many essential chemicals to cells. Without it moving around, the cells cannot take in new fuel and rid themselves of waste. Without blood, cells die.

If the airway is clear and breathing is working, hopefully the heart is pumping as well. If not, chest compressions may help. You need training to do it effectively. Check with your veterinarian.

Even for trained professionals, these may fail. If you have an emergency, get your pet to the veterinarian as soon as possible.

Matthew Sisk is a practicing veterinarian from Habersham County. Have questions about your pet? He can be reached at

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