The first key in an animal emergency is: breathe. Stressed animals need calm caregivers. It isn't easy to find our hard working and dearly loved critter down and in distress, but stopping to take a breath will help prepare my mind for the next step.
After a deep breath, it's time to assess the mess. Do you see breathing? Heart beating? Alert? These three things are vital in determining the course of action. Example, my doe was breathing rapidly, had a heart beat and was able to look at me and respond even though she was on her side in the pasture. These were good signs so it was time to move on to the next assessment.
Bleed, break, bulge. If the animal is bleeding, how bad is it? Minor cuts and scrapes can wait while we complete the assessment, while a heavy bleed is a priority. Get it stopped and stitch if need be. Breaks often require vet assistance. If this is a large animal we need help and shouldn't move them, but a smaller one might be transported fairly well. Bulging wounds are seriously scary because we can't see what the cause is. There may only be swelling, but there could be a serious internal issue. The animal's actions will help determine the severity.
Get to the gate or wait. If severe bleeding, a break or a nasty bulge are present it's time to call for help. Either getting a vet on the property or transporting to a vet office needs to happen quickly. Get to the gate..if I have help, then someone keeps the animal calm and assisted while we make the drive. As in the case of our doe, there was no bleeding, nor break, and no bulge.. some patches of hair were missing and there were signs she may have been bitten without a skin break. We decided since she was breathing and alert, we would wait.
Questions asked often. One I get frequently: how to I move them? First, if the injury is bad..don't. Work right where you are, but be sure to move the rest of the herd/flock before you start. Otherwise, I either carry them gently or make a 'hammock' from a towel, tarp or sheet. A hammock/sling works really well for a goat..and I have used one to load a donkey onto a trailer when they were down.
Another question. How do I know how far to go? Basically, the call to treat an injury or not treat is a personal decision that has to be made with the financial needs of the family and the productive value/recovery value of the animal. If my doe is seriously wounded..can I afford the care needed? Will she be productive again? How severe will the pain/suffering be for her? Only you as the owner can make such a call.
Finally, bear in mind that in farm living these things will happen and being prepared for it is essential. We took vet science classes and are well acquainted with some wonderful vets that are more than happy to help over the phone while we determine the need. By the way, our doe in the example is recovering nicely and was not seriously injured. The other action to take after an animal emergency is figuring out how/if the situation can be prevented next time.
Share your experiences with emergency care..let's learn together.