Most of us have some sort of First Aid kit at home. Or at least a spot where our bandages, ointment and such are kept. Some of us even have one in our vehicles, especially if we like to partake in a lot of outdoor activities.
But have you considered that our dogs should also have a First Aid kit? Do you know what essentials should be included?
First, I recommend you make one or two extra copies of your dog’s veterinary records. One can be kept in your home First Aid Kit, and the other can be kept in your car, so you’re never without it. I strongly suggest you put together two full kits — one for your home, one for your car, and just keep records in both.
But after that, what are the minimum items that should be included?
Phone Numbers – After your dog’s vet records, make sure to have a list of other emergency numbers. If your vet isn’t also a 24-hour animal hospital, know one or two that are closest to you, and include that address and phone number. It’s a good idea anytime you travel with your dog to be aware of the emergency vets in the area you’ll be staying as well. Always be sure to have the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center Phone Number: (888) 426-4435.
A photo of your dog – If your dog gets loose, having a current photo on hand will save precious time so you can post pictures and flyers in the area, give some to the local pound and vets, as well as post to social media.
Dog First Aid Handbook – Among many others, The American Red Cross is one publisher for these types of handbooks. A quick reference guide would also be useful. And there are apps you can download to your phone as well. Again, The American Red Cross has a Pet First Aid app.
An Extra Leash – I recommend a slip lead leash, so if your dog gets loose and out of her collar, you still have the ability to leash her. A slip lead doesn’t require a clip. If you don’t have this style of leash, but need a way to tether your dog without a collar, simply slip the end of her leash through the handle, and slip the loop over her head.
Self Cling Bandages – These are stretchy and don’t require the use of adhesives or pins to keep them in place.
Muzzle – You may want to have a soft muzzle or strips of cloth in your First Aid kit. Even the calmest dog can bite when hurt or scared. This keeps both of you safe as you tend to any wounds. NEVER muzzle a dog who is having difficulty breathing for any reason, including vomiting.
Sterile Saline – This is to flush the wound. Avoid using hydrogen peroxide, particularly on large or open wounds. While a small, diluted amount for small cuts and scrapes is generally not harmful, even then saline or even mild soap and water is preferable. Plus peroxide can burn a little. (We will want hydrogen peroxide in our kit for a different use.)
Antibiotic Spray or Ointment – For minor cuts and scrapes. It helps the wound heal quicker, but also aids in soothing it. Vetericyn brand is what many fellow pet sitters recommend and have on hand. I also like Sulfodene’s 3-Way Ointment, but as with any type of medication, contact your vet to ask what is best for you and your dog. An antimicrobial spray can also be useful.
Dressing and Tools – Gauze rolls, non-stick, absorbent gauze pads (or gauze sponges), cotton balls, cotton swabs, adhesive tape, tweezers, and blunt tip scissors — I recommend trauma shears. They are more heavy duty, and can be used if you need to put together a splint for your dog.
Disposable gloves – Latex free is preferable.
Hydrogen Peroxide – Not for wound care, but to induce vomiting ONLY when instructed by your veterinarian or poison control center. Inducing vomiting can cause more harm in some situations, so ALWAYS check before using peroxide or anything intended to induce vomiting.
Styptic Powder – This stops bleeding fairly quickly. I find it especially useful if your dog rips a toenail while out hiking, or if you accidentally cut the quick when trimming her nails.
Moldable Splint Rolls – In case you need to immobilize an injured leg. This is where trauma shears are more helpful than less sturdy ones. If you are not familiar with these types of splints, here are several examples on Amazon.
Extras You Might Want to Include
Digital Thermometer – While this fluctuates from dog to dog, a dog’s temperature is considered to be in normal range if between 100ºF and 102.5ºF. If your dog’s temperature falls below 99ºF or rises above 104ºF, it’s definitely time to call the vet.
Isopropyl (Rubbing) Alcohol and Petroleum Jelly – To prevent injury, you need to lubricate the thermometer before inserting it. You will also need rubbing alcohol to clean it after use.
Foil Emergency Blankets – Something like this found on Amazon.
Syringes – These can help flush wounds or to administer oral medication.
Activated Charcoal – To counteract or absorb certain toxins. As with hydrogen peroxide only use when directed by your veterinarian or poison control center!
Flashlight – And extra batteries. Or a solar flashlight, but be sure to keep it charged!
Portable Dog Dish – Either the collapsable kind made of food grade silicone, or the kind made with leakproof fabric. Both can be collapsed or folded to fit into small spaces.
Tick Remover Tool
Benadryl (generic – Diphenhydramine) – If your dog is allergic to bee stings this is an essential, especially if you are outdoors a lot with her. While you always want to check with your vet, the generally recommended dosage for dogs is very easy to remember – 1 mg/pound. So a 20 pound dog would generally take a dose of 20mg. This helpful article discusses what Benadryl is commonly used for and it has a handy dosage chart.
Baby Wipes – There are some marketed specifically for dogs, but sensitive skin baby wipes are fine to use. This is more just to help clean your dog up if there is a situation like she has diarrhea or is vomiting and it gets in her fur (or all over your car).
Finally, you might want to keep an extra toy, shirt, or dog blanket in the car that smells like home to help comfort your dog during a stressful situation.
There are many online courses you can take to learn the basics of pet first aid as well. Pet Pro Hero is one. Udemy is another. And of course the American Red Cross has a course. To find in-person training, I recommend contacting your local vet for suggestions, as well as community colleges and Town and City Recreation departments that offer Adult Education courses.