In an emergency, you don’t want to be scrambling around the house gathering supplies and making do with what you can find. A little preparation, in the form of a first aid kit, can make a significant difference in the outcome of a medical crisis.
While most households have a first aid kit for the human occupants, many forget the need for another separate kit for their four-legged family members. Whether you choose to purchase an already assembled kit, or build your own, having a first aid kit specifically for your pet is a necessity. You can’t plan for everything, but there are some essential items that you should ensure are included in your kit (see our full First Aid Kit checklist here).
Paperwork & Phone Numbers
Paperwork with information on your dog can be extremely important. Vaccination status, medical history of past illnesses, and information on current illnesses should all be included. If your pet is on any sort of medication, this should be written down along with a list of side effects and drugs that should not be mixed.
Phone numbers and directions to your veterinary clinic, as well as the nearest emergency clinic, can also be useful in a crisis. The pet poison hotline is a 24-hour animal poison control call center for pet owners dealing with a poisoned pet. In some cases, you may not be around at the time of crisis. Leave important emergency contact information in the kit with backup numbers that can be used.
While you don’t need to have every medical supply found in a vet clinic, you should have some key tools that can help in a variety of situations.
Here's a list of essentials:
- Leash to transport your pet (if your pet is capable of walking)
- Towels and/or blankets to keep warm, comfortable, or to clean up
- Non-latex disposable gloves to maintain cleanliness for you and your pet
- Bandage scissors to cut away potential hazards (collar, leash, fabric)
- Tweezers to remove foreign objects, like splinters, from skin
- Sterile saline for cleaning wounds
- Eye wash to flush foreign material out of eyes
- Povidone iodine solution for cleaning wounds
- Eye dropper or large syringe without needle to give oral treatments or flush wounds
- Absorbent gauze pads to control bleeding, wound cleaning or applying topical medication
- Cotton balls and swabs for cleaning wounds, or applying topical medications
- Bandage tape for securing gauze wrap or bandage (ie. cloth tape, bandage tape). NOTE: Do not use human bandages (Band-Aids®) on pets.
- Self-cling bandage wrap to secure bandage (VetWrap or Coflex)
If you love the great outdoors, chances are you go on plenty of adventures outside of the house with your dog. It can be tricky to remember the essentials to take on a hiking trip! A smaller first aid kit can be kept inside your car for situations that may arise away from the home. In addition, owners of dogs who go hunting, hiking, or camping should have first aid supplies packed in their backpacks in case of an emergency when they're far from veterinary care.
There are many companies that specialize in the creation of first aid kits for pets. If you aren’t interested in building your own kit, you can find already assembled kits at many pet stores or online. REI makes some great dog trail kits for trips outside of the house and Amazon has many options for home kits.
The Next Steps
Having a stocked first aid kit is only the first step to prepare for emergencies that may arise with your pet. Read books on animal first aid so you can use the items in your kit effectively. Sign up for an animal first aid class at a local community college or veterinary clinic so you can develop hands-on skills. There are also some incredibly useful phone apps, such as the Pet First Aid App by the American Red Cross, which can be downloaded on your phone.
Remember that your pets rely on you to keep them safe and healthy, so guarantee that you are prepared for disaster and keep your kit updated.
And don't forget to print our first aid checklist!