April is National Pet First Aid Awareness Month! Pets do silly things and being prepared for an emergency is essential to being the best parents we can be. Keeping a first aid kit on hand is an excellent start whether you’re at home, out for a walk or traveling with your dog by your side. But what to keep in your pet’s first aid kit? We’ve got answers!
Items for Basic Restraint
When an animal is panicked, in pain, or frightened, restraint becomes very important to both your safety and theirs. By having practical restraint tools on hand you will be able to respond quickly and safely to the situation at hand.
A simple nylon slip-leash can be used to restrain a pet in a number of ways. It can be placed around their neck or a figure-8 harness. Our team always suggests carrying a good 6 foot leather leash as well. This will give you more control over the effected pet than the nylon slip-leash or a retractable leash could provide.
Even the friendliest pet may bite if they are in pain. Keeping something to make a temporary muzzle in your first aid kit can keep both you and the pet safe during an emergency. This video gives a great demonstration using a plain leash. A strip of fabric can work, too.
A Towel or Blanket
A towel or blanket is a very versatile tool to keep in your pet’s first aid kit. They can be used to cover a pet to maintain body heat, elevate hindquarters to promote circulation or as a sling for an animal that cannot move. They can also be used to apply pressure to wounds. We suggest having a couple of them in your kit of various sizes.
Basic First Aid Supplies
The following products come in handy for different ailments of all kinds. Many of these items can also be found in your own personal first aid kit or medicine cabinet.
Having gloves to protect your hands from blood or other messes can protect you from harmful bacteria as well as make clean up much easier. Having a few pairs of gloves in your size may prove useful in many different situations.
Gauze is a versatile tool to have on hand in the case of a wound. We recommend having squares of gauze as well as a roll. The squares are useful in applying pressure to a cut whereas the rolls can apply pressure and hold the gauze squares in place. Another great option is Vet Wrap. While commonly used in the horse industry it can be used on your dog or cat, too.
Adhesive tape may be useful if you do not have VetWrap and instead use rolled gauze or another type of medical bandaging. Adhesive bandage tape will allow you to tape the bandage to itself to avoid unraveling.
Styptic powder is a must have for your pet’s first aid kit. This powder can stop bleeding of cut quicks or broken nails quickly and safely. Flour, cornstarch or white bread can also be used in a pinch. Similarly, having a spare set of pet nail clippers may also be useful in the case of a broken nail or foot injury.
3% Hydrogen Peroxide
Hydrogen Peroxide has multiple uses in your first aid kit. The most well known use of the solution is that can be administrated to your dog orally in a proper dosage to induce vomiting. You should always discuss whether you should induce vomiting with your vet prior to doing so. It is also important to mention your Hydrogen Peroxide should be fresh for this to work. Expired or opened Hydrogen Peroxide that has been sitting in your cabinet or first aid kit will not be nearly as effective.
Having a pair of blunt-nosed scissors can come in handy when it comes to bandaging. These can be used to trim bandages to size, trim fur or cut off an old bandage. The benefit of having blunt-nosed scissors versus a sharp pair is the added safety when you are working so close to a pet’s skin.
Tweezers are especially helpful when something needs to be removed from a pet’s fur or wound. Ticks can be grasped at the head as well as debris from a wound (such as small rocks). The latter can be quite painful and may be best left for your vet!
A sterile solution can be used for an irritated eye or to flush out a minor wound. In both cases, the solution can help flush away foreign objects without stinging.
Just like it humans, cold packs can be used for a variety of different ailments. The cold compression can help with overheating, swollen joints, burns and bee stings. Of course, a cold pack is not enough for serious problems such as heat stroke, chronic swelling or serious burns. Always consult your veterinarian in a real emergency and provide supportive care on the way.
Antibiotic ointment is typically applied to external cuts, scrapes, scratches or insect bites. The product helps soothe and promote the healing of minor injuries but should not be used on an animal bite or other serious injury. Pet owners should take great care to use the smallest amount possible to avoid ingestion.
A dosing syringe will allow you to administer the appropriate amount of liquid medication or fluid to a pet in need. It can also be used to flush the eye with sterile solution. Having multiple sizes available may be beneficial.
Rectal Thermometer and Water-Based Lubricant
Being able to take your pet’s temperature is useful in determining if they are running a fever or are experiencing a change in body temperature from extreme heat or cold. Having a simple, rectal thermometer and some water-based lubricant will make it easy to tell how your pet is doing. (The normal temperature range for both is between 100 and 102.5C).
Medications can be useful for specific situations including mild allergic reactions and joint pain. It is highly recommended you consult with your veterinarian prior to administer any type of medication to your pet. They can help you decide what is best for your individual circumstance as well as provide proper dosing instructions.
Common over-the-counter antihistamine tablets such as Benadryl may be used for mild allergic reactions under a vet’s guidance. It is essential to be sure the antihistamine being used does not have additional ingredients (such as a nasal decongestant).
Antacids are a useful tool when treating a pet with an upset stomach. Just as the antihistamines discussed above, it’s important the brand or type of antacid you stock your first aid kit with is approved your veterinary team.
Coated aspirin may be used for dogs with back, joint or spinal pain. As always, this should be done only under veterinary supervision to be sure the type of medication is appropriate for your dog and will not interfere with other medications. Aspirin should NEVER be given to cats. It is worth noting here that you should never give your dog ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
Electrolyte solution can be used to help a dehydrated pet. There are pet-specific products but some human products may be used if they do not contain xylitol and are diluted appropriately. Sports drinks contain too much sugar and are not recommended
Information to Keep In Your Pet’s First Aid Kid
Keeping important information on hand will make dealing with an emergency situation a little less stressful.
Your Vet’s Information
Your veterinarian and your local emergency clinic‘s phone numbers are the most important information you can have in your first aid kit. If a problem arises and you do not know exactly what to do or expect you will need to get your pet to the vet ASAP, these numbers will be at your fingertips.
Having the information for ASPCA’s Poison Control hotline in your pet’s first aid kid is also invaluable when time is of the essence. The Poison Control team will ask you questions about what you suspect your pet has ingested and consult with a veterinarian to determine the next steps. If you end up at an emergency clinic, your case number will allow your pet’s team to queue up the information you’ve already provided over the phone!
Local Emergency Services
As you never know what an emergency will bring, it can be useful to have your local emergency’s services information on hand. This can include the police, the fire department, animal control or whoever else you may need in a crisis.
First Aid Book
Having a pet first aid book with your supplies can make you more confident and informed in an emergency. If you can’t remember what to do in a specific situation or need a refresher in making a temporary muzzle, for example, the information is at your finger tips.
“Here’s a rule of life: You don’t get to pick what bad things happen to you.”
While nobody ever wants to need their pet’s first aid kit or be in an emergency, preparation can make a huge difference when a problem arises. The items we’ve discussed above, from leashes and other restraint methods to medications, medical supplies and vital information, will help you be the best, most prepared pet owner you can be!
What else do you keep in your pet’s first aid kit? Let us know in the comments below!
Interested in Learning More?
Is your tail wagging with all of this new information? Want to learn CPR? RCO Pet Care has teamed up with ProPetHero to offer a course to teach you how to help your pet in an emergency from the comfort of your own home! Click here to access the course and use the code CPR-RCOPETS to save 10% – a treat from us!