Exotis ISSN 2398-2985

Reptiles

First aid overview

Contributor(s): Donna Brown

Introduction

  • The aim of first aid is to provide effective stabilization and management, to ensure the best outcome for the welfare and wellbeing of your patients.
  • First aid can cover a wide range of clinical conditions from a minor problem to the more critical emergency patients.
  • All staff should be trained to recognize what is a first aid emergency from the initial phone call to the unexpected arrival of a patient when the owner just turns up at reception.
  • Understandably owners can be very distressed and upset on the initial contact but what we as veterinary professionals need to do is have the ability to gain as much information as we can, rapidly assess it and formulate a plan that is beneficial to both the patient and owner. It is important to remember that not all owners will be able to recognize what is or isn’t a true emergency or first aid situation which is why it is so important to ask the right questions to ascertain the severity of the problem.
  • Questions to the owner should be specific and concise to gain maximum information, avoid frustration and misinformation. Examples of questions we should be asking include:
    • What is the problem with your pet?
    • How long ago did it happen?
    • Is there active bleeding, respiratory issues, consciousness, visible injury?
    • Is the patient on any treatment for the condition reported?
    • Has this happened before?
    • How long has the patient been ill for?
    • Is it getting worse?
    • Is the owner able to transport the patient to the practice?
  • The outcome will be more successful if we are able to:
    • Have good communication skills with the owner as well as your team.
    • Recognize the severity and nature of the problem.
    • Correctly implement the appropriate treatment.
    • Ensure the correct care and monitoring for that species/problem.
  • Once it has been established from the initial contact as to the nature of the first aid, ie emergency or not, then a plan can be formulated as to how to best deal with the situation when the patient comes in.
  • Ask the owner to bring in a sample of feces and photos of the pet’s enclosure.
  • Always remain calm and be prepared, if you have a good idea from the initial communication then an area can be prepared with all the necessary equipment and consumables that may be needed before the patient arrives, also the staff available to deal with the case.
  • The RCVS requires that all veterinary surgeons in practice should take steps to provide 24 h emergency first aid and pain relief to animals according to their skills and the specific situation.

Assessment and preparation for treatment

  • Before the patient arrives prepare a suitable cage/vivarium/tank for the species.
  • Extra heat sources may be needed to increase the ambient temperature (species dependent).
Care on choosing the source to ensure the patient cannot access them and potential burn themselves, also the fact they may not be able to move away from the heat source due to a debilitated state.
  • On arrival at the practice prompt and professional opinion should be sort, this can be from either the Veterinary Surgeon or Veterinary Nurse, if the Vet is unavailable. They should be able to recognize and assess the severity of the presenting problem.
  • A quick and concise assessment should be made of the patient, whilst also confirming all the information from the owner and anything else they may have forgotten to say in the initial contact.
  • On assessment, they should be looking for any obvious injury, source of bleeding, general wellbeing of the patient. Also remember that what the owner is reporting may not be the only clinical condition that the patient may be suffering from.
  • The patient, if needed, should be admitted to the practice for the appropriate treatment.
  • The owner’s permission should be sought for any clinical procedures.
  • Depending on the severity of the presenting case and if it is in the best interests of the patient, consent for euthanasia should be obtained. At this point it is important to inform the owner of potential costs, especially if there are financial constraints.

Requirements

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Preparation

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Procedure

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Dehydration and fluid therapy

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Conditions requiring emergency first aid

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Aftercare

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Further Reading

Publications

Refereed Papers

Other sources of information

  • BSAVA (2020) BSAVA Small Animal Formulary: Part B Exotic Pets. 10th edn. BSAVA, UK.
  • BSAVA (2019) BSAVA Manual of Reptiles. 3rd edn. BSAVA, UK.
  • Girling S J (2013) Veterinary Nursing of Exotic Pets. 2nd edn. Wiley-Blackwell, UK.
  • BSAVA (2012) BSAVA Manual of Exotic Pet and Wildlife Nursing. BSAVA, UK.
  • Longley L A (2008) Anaesthesia of Exotic Pets. Saunders Elsevier, UK. pp 85-95.


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