on January 20th, 2012
Let’s face it, our pets are part of our families. Being prepared can mean saving a life. According to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), 1 out of 4 pets would survive an emergency if just one pet first aid technique was applied before getting emergency veterinary care. That pet could be your furry family member. Being prepared is the best way to ensure your pet’s survival in an emergency situation and a pet first aid kit is one of the first steps you can take.
There are many pre-made kits that you can purchase, but building your own kit allows you to customize for your pet’s lifestyle and needs. Here is a list of some items that are necessities for your pet first aid kit.
- Scissors – for cutting out things matted in fur and freeing your pet from entanglements.
- Bandage Scissors – these scissors have a blunt end on the blades to easily slip between skin and bandage material and not cut the patient’s skin.
- Sterile eye wash - make sure it is eye wash, not contact lens solution.
- Tweezers - to remove splinters, or other foreign materials from wounds.
- Ear wash - speak to your vet about what one would be best for your pet.
- Styptic for torn toenails and to stop bleeding
- Tape - preferably the 1″ white medical tape. Easy to tear off and holds well.
- Roll Gauze - used for bandaging, an aid to stop bleeding, and padding for splints.
- 4×4 gauze pads – to stop bleeding and for wound covering.
- Vet Wrap - this is a conforming bandage wrap used over a telfa pad or roll gauze that comes in many colors and two sizes (2″ and 4″ – pick one that best fits your pet). It clings to itself and is semi-watertight. Caution is advised to not wrap this too tight. It is best to unwrap it from the roll, then use it for the bandage with very light tension. It can be purchased at many feed stores (horse section) and some veterinary clinics.
- Telfa pads - non-stick dressings for bandaging a wound.
- 3% hydrogen peroxide – to induce vomiting. There are situations when you SHOULD and SHOULD NOT induce vomiting. Make sure to familiarize yourself with these protocols and keep the number of a Pet Poison Hotline handy in your kit.
- Syringe, turkey baster or large eye dropper - to flush wounds or administer fluids by mouth.
- Antiseptic wash or wipes - look for non-stinging preparations such betadine. Rubbing alcohol is not good for open sores or wounds.
- 70% Alcohol – for disinfecting implements
- Antibiotic ointment - over-the-counter “general purpose” antibiotic ointment for light use with minor skin wounds. Not for eye use. Caution is advised for animals that may ingest by licking. The antibiotics are absorbed via the skin, remaining ointment may collect debris or actually slow healing in some cases. Use with discretion.
- Some medications, like Tylenol, are poisonous and may be fatal to pets.
- Latex or plastic exam gloves - for your protection and your pet’s protection – use when the situation is messy.
- A muzzle - or materials to make a muzzle. Any animal in pain or frightened, can and will bite…even your own! There is an appropriate time to muzzle and there are situations where you absolutely do NOT want to muzzle. Know the difference!
- Thermometer - know the normal vital signs for dogs, puppies, cats and kittens and how to use the thermometer.
- Water-based lubricating jelly - for use with rectal thermometers.
- Ice and hot packs - cool down skin after a burn or keep an animal warm if hypothermic. Always use a cloth between the pack and skin and check frequently for redness or irritation.
- Extra towels, wash cloths and a blanket - use for washing, keeping warm/cool, and if necessary, a way to transport the injured pet (sling).
- Diphenhydramine (aka Benadryl) (gel cap blister pack) – for stings and allergic reactions - speak with your vet first about proper dosing. Write your pet’s weight and dosage on the blister pack with a permanent marker and tape a safety pin to it. The safety pin is for poking a hole in the gel cap so you can squirt it into your pet’s mouth. Benedryl should NOT be used with the following conditions: heart disease, lung disease, hyperthyroidism, glaucoma, seizure disorders, bladder disorders, kidney disorders. Check with your vet BEFORE an emergency to ensure you can administer Benedryl to your pet. Be sure to rotate to avoid expired medications.
- Tick remover tool - if you are in a tick-infested area, consider one of many tools to easily remove ticks and reduce additional damage or infection during removal. Google the Tick Twister tool…it’s one of the safest and easiest methods for removing a tick.
- A list of phone numbers - your regular vet, the emergency vet, animal control, and animal poison control numbers. Another tip: program these numbers in your cell phone.
- A sturdy box - ideally plastic or metal – to hold all of your supplies and is easy to carry and pack with you will complete your kit.
- And NEVER use medications such as Tylenol (acetaminophen), Advil or Motrin (ibuprofen), Aleve (naproxen), Antidepressants (Effexor, Cymbalta, Prozac, Lexapro), Benzodiazepines or Sleep Aids (Xanax, Klonopin, Ambien, Lunesta) as these can cause serious poisoning and death from seizures, heart failure, kidney failure or liver failure.
Customizing A First Aid Kit for Your Pet
Different species, age groups, and pet lifestyles have different first aid kit needs. For example, a diabetic pet kit should include honey or Karo syrup in the event of a low blood sugar episode. Pets who take medications regularly should have a couple days supply of all current medications (be sure to rotate meds to make sure they don’t expire).
Building a First Aid Kit Isn’t Enough!
Purchasing or building a kit is a great first step, but won’t be a lot of help in the event of an emergency if you are not familiar with how and when to use the items. I would highly recommend my Pet Saver Pet First Aid Course. Our course consists of both lecture and handson skills practice. Our full 8-hour course will prepare you for the following: Primary Pet Assessment, CPR, Rescue Breathing, Muzzling & Restraining, Choking Management, Assessing Vitals, Seizures, Shock, Bleeding Protocols, Poisoning, Fractures, Bites & Stings, Cold and Heat injuries, and Snout to Tail Assessment in injury and in wellness! For more information or to register, click on the link here: Pet Saver Pet First Aid Course
About the Author
Sheila Laing is a certified Pet Tech, Pet First Aid Instructor, a Nationally Certified Massage Therapist, a member of the Board of Directors for H.E.A.R.T. (Helping Eaton Animal Resource Team) and is currently completing her program in canine massage therapy.