As pet lovers, we don’t like to think about our pets ever becoming ill or injured. But when a health emergency occurs, having a well-stocked pet first-aid kit can literally be a lifesaver.
A pet first-aid kit can prepare you to:
- Treat minor injuries that don’t require a vet visit
- Treat your pet’s injuries until a vet can be reached
- Treat poisoning emergencies until a vet can be reached
- Treat toxic skin exposures in the field or at home
- Provide emergency care for stray or lost animals
What goes into a well-stocked pet first-aid kit? It is recommended that a fully stocked kit include items to treat a range of possible emergencies, such as traumatic injury, cuts and lacerations, bites from other animals, and poison control and toxic exposures. It should have enough supplies to care for all the pets in the household if there were an emergency; active pet parents that hike or jog with their dogs should consider carrying a kit with additional supplies.
If your pet is seriously injured in a fall or motor vehicle accident, veterinary care is imperative. But there are some things you can do to treat your animal in the field until a vet can be reached. A towel or blanket can help keep your pet warm and may prevent shock. A towel can also help you carry your pet more easily. An ice pack can reduce swelling and slow blood flow to the affected area.
Alcohol wipes can be used to clean and disinfect open wounds, while styptic powder can stem bleeding. Gauze pads, cotton balls, adhesive tape, and blunt-ended scissors can help you make a temporary bandage to cover and protect a wound until professional care can be reached. Antibiotic ointment—available over the counter at most drugstores—can reduce the risk for infection from cuts, bites, stings, and puncture wounds.
Poison Control & Toxic Exposures
Dr. Tina Wismer, Medical Director of the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, recommends that each animal first-aid kit contain the tools needed to treat a poisoning or toxic exposure emergency in the field. These include:
- Liquid dishwashing detergent to remove toxins from fur and skin
- Rubber gloves to protect you from toxic exposures while bathing your pet
- Hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting (ask your vet about dosage amounts)
- A bulb syringe to administer the hydrogen peroxide
- A can of cat or dog food to dilute ingested toxins o add bulk to thee vomitus
- Saline eye solution or artificial tear gel to rinse eyes and mucous membranes
- Tweezers to remove ticks, thorns, or burs
Perhaps most importantly, your pet first-aid kit should include the complete contact info for your vet—including phone number, clinic name, and address—as well as a list of local veterinary emergency clinics and their phone numbers.
Note: Your pet first aid kit should be tailored with specific items based on the region of the country in which you live. For example, in Arizona you may need supplies to address a scorpion sting, while in the Northeast you may need a snake bite kit or tick removal supplies.
Pet First-Aid Courses
The American Red Cross offers a 35-minute online course that teaches you the basics of both preventive care and pet first-aid. The course instructs enrollees in skills such as taking your pet’s vital signs, performing basic wound assessment and care, and treating cardiac and breathing emergencies (including choking) until professional help can be reached. Knowing how to stabilize your dog during an emergency can help save its life. Here are some common emergency situations and pet first aid tips. The Red Cross even offers a pet first-aid app for your phone, so you can refresh your knowledge anytime.
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