The 3 Aims of First Aid in Animals and The Law
Pet first aid can be carried out by anyone when there is an emergency. If you are a pet owner and your pet is in a critical condition you might be able to keep things under control until you can get the animal to a vet, significantly increasing the animal’s chances of recovery and survival.
But there are some things that only a vet is qualified to do, and some things that are against the law unless you are a licensed vet. In this article, we’ll go through the three aims and four rules of animal first aid, and what can and cannot be done to help an animal if you are untrained or unlicensed.
The 3 Aims of Animal First Aid
The three aims of animal first aid are designed to attend to the animal’s critical condition and aim to stabilise it as much as possible, they are:
1. Preserve life
2. Prevent suffering
3. Prevent the situation from deteriorating
The 4 Rules of Animal First Aid
The four rules of animal first aid are in place to direct the first aider to provide the best level of care possible in the situation, they are:
1. Keep calm
2. Maintain the airway
3. Control any haemorrhage
4. Seek assistance if required
Main Principles of Animal First Aid: What can Pet Owners Do?
The principles of animal first aid are in place to help vets, vet nurses, vet students, and pet first aiders to direct their actions in a way that gives an animal the most comfort and the best chance of survival. The principles of first aid in animals are also the same for humans.
Unless you are a trained, licensed vet, you cannot give certain types of medical attention to animals. Under the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966, only licensed vets who are registered on the veterinary surgeon's register can carry out the following procedures, for example:
- Surgical operations
- Perform diagnostic tests
- Give advice on diagnoses
- Prescribe medication
- Administer medication
This is to protect people as well as animals. People who are not trained to handle injured or sick animals that are scared or aggressive could easily be bitten or scratched. This is especially dangerous when considering the transmission of zoonotic infection. It is important to assess a situation before attending to an animal that needs medical attention for any dangers that you put at risk. For example, an animal that has been electrocuted could still be in a high-risk area that shouldn’t be entered.
Another reason for this law is to prevent unnecessary harm to animals by untrained people who could be making a situation worse by giving improper treatment. The Code of Professional Conduct for Veterinary Nurses is in place to ensure that no animal undergoes unnecessary suffering.
Veterinary nurses and students are allowed, under section 3 of the Veterinary Surgeons Act to assist in minor treatments under the direction of a registered veterinarian. Pet first aiders, like pet owners who are not medically trained, are protected under section 3 of the Act in order to administer first aid when there is an emergency and no vet is present.
What constitutes an animal first aid emergency?
Given the variables of what can happen to an animal to cause an emergency, it’s difficult to define exactly what constitutes first aid. The RCVS states:
“Provided what is done, is done in order to save an animals life or to stop its pain or suffering and is done as an interim measure until a veterinary surgeon's services can be obtained, it is unlikely that, in most cases, there will be a subsequent argument that what has been done has gone beyond first aid.”
The 3 Aims of First Aid in Animals and the Law
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