A Well-Stocked Canine First Aid Kit

Tracy Libby

Pet First Aid KitAs a dog owner, a priority on your must-have list should include a well-stocked first aid kit. Because dogs have the uncanny ability to get into anything and everything at the most inopportune and unexpected times, you might consider one for your home as well as your vehicle—especially if your dog frequently travels with you. While many of the supplies in a human first-aid kit can be used for pets too, you may prefer a separate one for each. Either way, appropriate first aid supplies will allow you to more readily deal with a canine medical emergency.

First aid kits vary in their content. Some contain enough medical paraphernalia to perform minor surgeries. Others are mini first aid kits that clip on your belt for walks in the park, hiking, and so forth. Home kits contain basic first aid equipment. Whether you choose to purchase a colossal pre-assembled kit, a basic home kit, or customize your own, it should contain basic necessities such as:

  • Activated charcoal, available from pharmacists, or milk of magnesia (they bind or neutralize certain poisons)
  • Alcohol or alcohol prep pads for sterilizing scissors, tweezers; not for use on wounds
  • Eye wash for flushing out eye contaminants
  • Gauze rolls and gauze pads for wrapping wounds or muzzling an injured dog
  • Gloves (disposable latex) for protecting hands and prevent contamination of wounds
  • Hydrogen peroxide 3% USP or Ipecac, to induce vomiting, if necessary.
  • Instant cold pack / Instant heat wrap
  • Medications: Your pets prescriptions along with anti-diarrheal medicine (such as Imodium or FortiFlora) and aspirin (Do not use non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen)
  • Muzzle (A dog may try to bite if he is injured or scared. Never muzzle a dog that is vomiting.)
  • Non-stick bandages, towels or strips of clean cloth to control bleeding or protect wounds
  • Ointments (triple antibiotic ointment/spray inhibits bacterial growth in cuts, abrasions)
  • Scissors & tweezers
  • Styptic pencil or corn starch (an anti-coagulant) to stop bleeding if a nail is broken, torn, or clipped too short.
  • Thermometer designed specifically for dog (or fevers), as the temperature of regular thermometers do not always go high enough for pets.
  • Large eye dropper, bulb syringe, or large medical syringe without the needle for flushing wounds

These are the basics of most canine first aid kids. Again, the contents will vary but can be customized for your particular needs. For example, I stock my kits with a few extras including:

  • Antiseptic towelettes
  • Benadryl 25 mg or Aller-tec (cetirizine hydrochloride tablets 10 mg) for temporary relief of itching, scratching due to allergies
  • Canned or dehydrated pumpkin (works as both an anti-diarrhea agent and natural laxative) Many breeds including Australian Shepherds, German Shepherd Dogs, and Shetland Sheepdogs carry the MDR-1 gene that can cause adverse reactions to certain drugs including anti-diarrheal medications, such as Imodium.
  • EMT Gel (Applied to a wound it reduces bleeding, seals off nerve ending to reduce pain and itching, and forms a protective barrier over wound to reduce infection.)
  • Famotidine (available from a veterinarian or over-the-counter as Pepcid AC 10 mg) helps to reduce stomach upset/vomiting by reducing the amount of stomach acid being produced.
  • Flexible cohesive wrap for securing wound wraps
  • Hydrocortisone cream
  • Rehydrating solution, such as Pedialyte, to replace lost electrolytes
  • Rescue Remedy (Bach Original Flower Essences). A natural stress relief for calming dogs.
  • Sterile saline wound flush
  • Sticker with emergency numbers including: poison control center, regular veterinarian, and 24-hour emergency clinic (accidents almost always happen after hours—it's Murphy's Law!)
  • Tea-Tree Equine Wound Spray by Healing Tree. A veterinarian formulated first aid wound spray for cuts, scrapes, abrasions, hot spots, etc. Rapid acting. Non-greasy. Non-stinging. Formulated for horses, it works great on dogs, too.

"An ounce of prevention....." goes the saying. While minor wounds can be treated at home, a canine first aid class will go a long way in helping you be prepared in the event of a minor or life-threatening emergency. While first aid is not a substitute for veterinary care, a little advance preparation may be just enough to relieve your pet's suffering and possibly save his life. When in doubt, always seek veterinary care immediately. For more information about first aid kits or classes, contact your local veterinarian or the American Red Cross.

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