A stomachache from a large box of Valentine’s Day dark chocolates. Bleeding bite wounds from a tussle with another dog over a rawhide. Swollen red eyes from an unfortunate skunk encounter. A swollen muzzle from a bee sting outside. Sometimes it may seem like your mischievous Labrador Retriever has a never-ending penchant for finding misfortune. Putting together a first aid kit ahead of time can help you prepare for these emergencies and aid in your pet’s recovery from his misadventures. You can buy a premade kit from various retailers, or you can assemble one yourself with the following items:
Medical records and phone numbers: Many emergencies will require the attention of a professional, so make sure you always keep your veterinarian’s number and address handy. Additionally, many emergencies seem to take place at night or on the weekends when your veterinarian’s office is closed, so be sure to familiarize yourself with your local emergency hospital’s phone number and address. Keep a copy of your pet’s rabies certificate and pertinent medical records, especially if her medical history is complex and she is on multiple medications. It is also useful to keep a pet poison control number on hand in case of toxicities. Two such services are the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435), and the Pet Poison Helpline (855-764-7661). Both have fees associated with consultations, but are invaluable in their offerings of vast databases of toxins and knowledgeable experts.
Bandaging materials: A romp through the woods can quickly result in a bleeding paw. Bandaging materials such as self-adherent material (“Vetwrap”), nonstick sterile pads, adhesive tape, and cast padding can help keep a wound clean until you reach your veterinarian’s office.
Towels/ Blankets: These are useful to include in your first aid kit for a variety of reasons. They may be used to apply pressure on wounds, used as a sling to support your pet if he is having trouble walking, or used as a stretcher to move a non-ambulatory patient.
Medications: 3% hydrogen peroxide is always useful to keep on hand in case your pet ingests a toxin or foreign material and you need to induce vomiting. Always consult a veterinarian before making your pet vomit. Some things are harmful if vomited up, and too much hydrogen peroxide can cause serious esophageal and stomach injury.
Benadryl (diphenhydramine) is another medication that can be very useful. It can be used in case of allergic reactions. Always make sure you obtain the correct dose from your veterinarian before administering. If your pet has a history of life-threatening allergic reactions, you may wish to have an EpiPen on hand.
Karo syrup is a high-sugar product that is valuable for pets experiencing life-threatening drops in blood sugar (hypoglycemia). It is especially important to have available if your pet has a condition in which low blood sugar may be a problem (such as diabetes).
Oral syringe or turkey baster: Useful for administering oral medications and flushing wounds.
Thermometer: Used to check rectal temperature (lubricated with petroleum jelly). Normal is generally between 100- 102.5 F.
Muzzle or cloth strips to act as a muzzle: These are useful for very painful, panicked dogs (such as those that have been struck by a vehicle) that you may need to handle for transportation for treatment.
Kwikstop or corn starch: for nail bleeds.
Dish detergent: to clean off chemicals from the coat and skin.
E-collar: to prevent pets from licking wounds or pawing at injured eyes.
Gauze squares, cotton balls
Leash/ cat carrier
Saline for flushing wounds, ophthalmic solution for flushing eyes
Needlenose pliers or hemostats
Tweezers or other apparatus to remove ticks
Antibiotic ointment, antiseptic wipes
Veterinary first aid book
There are several items you should not include in your pet’s first aid kit. Refrain from administering any over-the-counter pain relievers, such as aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen. Dogs, and especially cats, are very sensitive to the harmful side effects of these medications, and in addition, they may interfere with pain medications your veterinarian wishes to prescribe. Use of these drugs can cause ulceration or even perforation of the gastrointestinal tract, and liver or kidney failure.
Remember, a good first aid kit is a very useful start to addressing your pet’s mishaps, but does not necessarily act as a substitute for professional care. Be sure to contact your veterinarian’s office in the event of an emergency so that the staff can advise you appropriately.