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FIRST AID FOR ANIMALS


By Makeli Phiri
IN human beings we do carry out some interventions when a person is injured. This is to avoid loss of life.
In farm livestock this kind of intervention can also be done to save an animal especially what may be termed as valuable animals. So today we shall look at the various interventions that can be used to save an animal and to be specific cattle.
Firstly, we shall look at wounds. Wounds can be classified in two or three categories

  1. Ultra-fresh wound – this is when the wound is made or still dripping blood and is less than half hour old. Assuming the wound is uncontaminated, this is what has to be done. Do not wash the wound, this to avoid introducing dirt and washing can restart bleeding and therefore delay healing of the wound.
    Medicine can be applied such as wound powder, healing oil if it is in need of stitching inframammary antibiotics can be put into use.
    In humans we do not use cotton directly on the wound (fibre stick onto the wound). In animals covering is not often practical.
  2. Fresh and clean – that is if the wound is less than twenty-four hours old. Hair around the wound can be clipped only if it is actually going in the wound.
    Such wounds can be irrigated and cleaned with salt solution (two cups of water to one teaspoon of salt). Suturing that is stitching if it is to do with muscle use cat gut which is made from the gut of the sheep.
    But if it is the skin use mono filament nylon fishing line. After suturing give an animal an injection of antibiotics.
  3. Septic wound – these are common in cattle, wounds that are over twenty-four hours should not be sutured. Open wounds that have been made for a few days or more may be Purulent (meaning discharging a lot of pus) or Dry.
    In both cases they are infected with some kind of bacteria and must never be sutured. For such rub and clean using cotton wool wrapped in gauze or bandage and salt solution.
    On cleaning, squeeze out pus to expose reddish tissue, slight surface oozing of blood. Treatment healing oil can be used and an injection of antibiotics.
  4. Fly blown wounds – these are wounds infested by maggots. In cases of this nature apply screw-worm remedy. Do not scrap, if using maggot oil or tick grease use fingers or a small paint brush.
    After three days remove dead maggots and may need a second lot of screw worm remedy. And treatment, same as for septic wounds.
    Burns is another area where first aid has to be applied to cushion the affected area of the animal’s body. Branding is a controlled form of burning, here a hot iron is applied on to the skin of an animal to give it an identity in the form of a number or letters.
    If this is to be applied the best time to brand is during the cool season when flies are fewest and there is no rain to spoil the brands
    Under branding the following should be carried out as a precaution against injuring the animal.
    • Restrain the animal 100 percent
    • Remove dust and other impurities from the site where the burning would take place
    • Avoid the good parts of the hide (just above the stifle is best)
    • Branding iron should be red colour before applying it onto the animal (knock off ash, cinders etc.)
    • Apply firmly and decisively to the area of the animal (no second chance)
    • Burn to half the skins thickness
    • Apply healing oil to keep away maggots.
    • If you have a list to refer to cross out the number to avoid making mistakes.
    In animal burns never use solutions, healing oil is okay. Eye powder if available is the best, always watch for fly strike
    When it comes to fractures, they can be divided into three divisions and these are Greenstick fractures, Simple fractures and Compound fractures.
    The treatment of fractures in farm animals is not very often successful. Cats and dogs can be treated fairly easily but adult horses, pigs and cattle cannot. As soon as a break is found say in a cow, an emergency slaughter permit should be obtained from the Vet. Department and meat saved.
    Sheep and goats being smaller offer a better chance but it is often not worth it economically. In any old animal (or person) bones heal badly and slowly.
  5. Greenstick fracture – fractures of young animals broken bone is not separated. In this case pull the limb and straighten the bone, support with thin splints (padded with cotton wool) and bound crepe bandage, 2 or 3 needed, pad the ends, wrap in cotton wool for 10 to 14 days.
  6. Simple fractures – fracture with broken end of bone, does not stick out through the skin i.e. no wound in the skin which leads down to the broken bone. The procedure should be as follows:
    • General anaesthetic (if possible) reference can be veterinary department.
    • Traction, pull before putting straight
    • Align, to put in position
    • Fix a plaster, splints strong and thick (join above and below)
    • Keep on for 3 to 6 weeks during this period watch daily, smell – if bad cut off plaster. Look out for swelling e.g. the foot, heat. Splints rubbing to make sore. Coming loose – bandage the foot.
  7. Compound fractures – with this kind of fractures they are not worth treating as infected bone is very hard to cure. In farm animals a compound fracture will be hard to cure and the best one can do is eliminate them – shot.
    But if an attempt is made to dress wound and inject antibiotic for three days. Then follow procedure as for a simple fracture.
    Other form of first aid would need the services of a veterinarian. For example, bloat treatment, what a cattle or dairy man can do is move the animals from the source e.g. young maize plants and lucern these can make an animal get bloated when they eat or graze on such lush vegetation.
    If the situation is severe an animal would just be lying on the ground unable to rise, the rumen greatly distended.
    Treatment for this would need veterinary instruments such as the stomach tube, trochar or knife. The vet man would know how to prepare and finally use these to save the animal. This is the job of the vet doctor or the vet technician experienced to handle such issues.
    As a reminder to whoever would carry out this operation the gas that will come out is methane therefore no smoking.
    Ends.

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