When working as an Animal Nursing Assistant within an animal establishment such as a veterinary practice or rescue shelter, it is essential to know the principles of animal first aid and basic nursing. You will be the first port of call in emergency situations, and it would be your duty to carry out basic first aid procedures to preserve the life of the patient.
To administer first aid to your animal is to put into action a number of processes that are needed in a health emergency.
These processes are carried out with the primary aims of:
Maintaining the animal’s life until proper medical care can be given. This means Preserve Life as far as possible.
Attempting to keep the animal as comfortable as possible. This means modifying the environment around your animal so that further stress is kept to a minimum and in so doing, Preventing Suffering as far as you reasonably can.
Prevent further harm to the animal. This means modifying the environment so that your animal is removed from anything that would cause further harm and in so doing, Preventing Suffering as far as you reasonably can. Additional: consider human helpers & avoiding harm to such helpers
Preventing the animal’s condition from worsening. This means taking actions or not taking actions that will harm or distress your animal and so make the condition worse. In other words, Prevent the patient’s condition from Deteriorating.
The focus may be thought of as subjective as each situation will be different from a previous situation. You will need to consider how the current situation can be managed successfully and correctly.
First Aid actions are only the initial responses to an emergency and cannot always be thought of as the only actions to take that will ensure your animal’s welfare. First Aid actions are temporary, preventative methods that attempt to minimise a poor health condition. An animal that is clearly in distress after an injury requires careful, sensitive and intelligent restraint and handling.
Even if the animal appears not to be in distress, the motion of trying to handle them may very well cause distress and at the least, anxiety. Sometimes an animal needs to be left alone for a while so that they can come to terms with the event they have experienced. A simple, effective method for restraining and then handling an animal is to cover the animal with a blanket, towel of an appropriate size for the animal or, if a blanket etc., is not available, an adult-sized jacket or coat.
There are certain vital observations to make if you are to have a chance of assisting the animal according to the Principles of First Aid:
Assess temperature – to compare to normal values of body core temperature for the animal species. Could be too high (hyperthermia) or too low (hypothermia).
Pulse & respiration – to compare heart rate and respiratory rate to normal values for the animal species.
State of consciousness – awake, unconscious, vague, not responsive to the voice or other stimulus.
They could be external (easily seen) or internal (not visible). The injuries could lead to shock and ultimately, death.
Visible injuries – lacerations, fractures, abrasions.
Signs of shock – signs that body processes are shutting down. Irregular heart beat, pale gums, shallow breathing, convulsions; could lead to death.
Weight bearing/movement – difficulty in moving or unwilling to put a limb on the ground.
Inflammation – swellings, reddened areas, soreness on the body’s surface or, internally.
The term shock refers to physiological shock that is, a trauma to the body that results in serious, life-threatening reactions.
There are a number of causes of shock: External/internal haemorrhage (blood loss). Body fluid losses (hyperthermia (heat stroke); loss of body water due to vomiting & diarrhoea). Trauma (accident, gun shot, falls). Anaphylaxis (allergic reaction to a substance). Endotoxic (poisoning).
One of the fundamental and immediate first aid treatments for most instances of shock is to keep the patient warm by wrapping a blanket, towel or other item around them.
This should prevent the body core temperature from falling below the level that causes death.
However, if an animal has become too hot (e.g. being left in a vehicle, not allowed to cool down after exercise), gentle cooling is required rather than keeping body heat within the body. Treating shock is vital to prevent tissue death and ultimately, death of the animal.
completing the Animal Nursing Assistant Award Course, you will look
into the fundamental causes and treatment of shock in different
species, and how the treatment that you are giving, and the timing of
the treatment can have a life or death effect.
diseases transmission is also vital for anyone working with animals.
When considering the direct contact route of transmission, you
need to realise that some physical contact needs to be made. On the
other hand, indirect transmission routes require an inanimate object
or a vector (another organism). Zoonotic diseases are those that can
be transmitted between the human and animal.
Many serious and deadly
diseases to humans are zoonotic although the animal carrier is not
affected by the disease.
Animal health and welfare are the focus points for the animal nursing assistant because if an animal is brought into a
veterinary practice or any animal establishment, there is a duty of
care to that animal and to the people around the animal. When looking
at diseases, infection control is not just about zoonoses; it is
about preventing any form of pathogen from getting a hold in a
veterinary or animal based environment where it will do harm.
The focus of veterinary
care is often thought of as companion animals, although exotic
animals can be a big part of the care animal nursing assistants
The rabbit is an exotic species when it
comes to animal nursing because they require specialist care,
knowledge and understanding. The same can be said for birds and
Each of these exotic species have
unique structures and physiology that separate them from other
For example, Red blood cells
(erythrocytes) carry oxygen and carbon dioxide and in mammals, there
is no cell nucleus. However, both bird and reptile erythrocytes do
have a cell nucleus.
The similarities and differences in the
physiology and anatomy of species is what make them so diverse and
interesting to study.