I have many clients ask about first aid kits for pets, and if they should buy one. Honestly, you can easily gather these items yourself! Whether you actually put it together and call it a kit, or just make sure you have these items in your house, it’s always good to be prepared! In many emergencies, response time can make the difference between life and death. Some actions you take at home, even as you load your pet into the car to go to the veterinarian, can help keep your dog or cat more comfortable. There are some things you can do that may even avoid a trip to the vet!
I made a list of items every pet owner should have in their house, and also things that might be in your house, but should not be used on your pet. Here’s my suggestions for a DIY pet first aid kit – and no you don’t need to buy one!
Hydrogen peroxide and a syringe to give it – If your dog has a tendency to eat things he shouldn’t, having hydrogen peroxide on hand to induce vomiting can literally be a life-saver! That said, some things can do more harm if they are vomited as opposed to if they pass the traditional way. Inducing vomiting is nothing to be taken lightly, and has its own risks, so check with a veterinarian before giving. For my article on inducing vomiting, and a chart on how much peroxide to give your dog, click here. NEVER give peroxide to make a cat vomit. They will not vomit, just get sicker. Go figure, cats vomit all the time, yet getting them to barf when we actually want them to is kind of a big deal.
Tweezers – If you live in an area with ticks, you’ll want a good pair of tweezers. Before you go yanking on your dog, please ensure it actually IS a tick, and not a nipple, skin tag, or other lump. Seriously. Here’s my article on how to tell if it’s a tick or not. To remove a tick, no matches or alcohol needed. Just part the fur, pinch as close to the skin, and pull confidently. Tweezers may also be good from removing splinters, stingers, you name it!
Benadryl – Bee stings or other insects can cause allergic reactions, the most common being hives or a swollen face. Having some benadryl (generic name is diphenhydramine) on hand is good for the whole family! Of course, talk to your vet if there’s any reason your particular pet should not take benadryl, but most can. The dose is easy – 1 mg of benadryl per pound of pet. So a 25 lb dog gets one 25 mg benadryl. a 75 lb dog gets 75 mg benadryl, or three adult 25mg capsules. Round to the closest capsule interval. And of course, call your vet to follow up.
Saline solution/eye wash – With pets loving to stick their faces into things, it’s not surprising they can get crap in their eyes. If your dog (I recommend this less so for cats, here’s why) goes outside and comes in squinting, or has something visible in the eye, gently flushing the eye with saline can help. Or if, heaven forbid, your pet gets sprayed with pepper spray, or by a skunk, flushing the eyes promptly can help. Here’s my rule: Flush the eye ONE TIME. If it’s not better soon, then there’s probably more going on, like a scratch on the cornea, or an infection, and you need to see your vet. These can get serious very quickly.
Thermometer and some lube- Yes, the lube is important… just to be nice. Vaseline, or even spit will work in a pinch. If your pet is out on a hot day and acts drunk, weak, or even collapses, these are all signs of heat stroke. Being able to take a temperature quickly can tell you how severe this is. Additionally, if your pet just isn’t feeling well, or feels warm to the touch, knowing if they have a fever can tell you if you’re making stuff up, or if they are for real sick.
Large quilt or blanket – If your pet experiences any kind of trauma, like hit by a car, falling down stairs, attacked by another animal, you don’t want to just go pick them up. They are painful, scared, and don’t know what they are doing. Even the sweetest pet in the world is likely to bite under these conditions. Having a large, soft blanket or quilt to wrap them in both supports them, as well as prevents you from being inadvertently bitten as you try to help and get them to a veterinarian. Alternatively, if you have a large dog who suddenly cannot use his back end, the blanket can be rolled up and used as a sling under the belly to help in locomotion.
Gauze – For cuts and scrapes, this can help stop the bleeding in the interim until you get to the veterinarian. Or just grab a paper towel or a T-shirt.
Phone number for pet poison control/ local emergency clinic – Have it handy so you aren’t trying to look it up as you’re freaking out because your yorkie just ate some raisins. I give away fridge magnets for just this purpose!
Just as important as what you should have in your house is what you should NOT use on your pet:
Bandages and wraps – The vast majority of home-made bandage jobs I see are not only ineffective, but actually making the problem worse. Leave this to the experts. Also, many wounds need to NOT be wrapped up, but stay open for air! If you think something needs to be bandaged, run it by your veterinarian.
Aspirin/Tylenol/ other human pain relievers – Yes, I know it’s tempting. And I know plenty of websites tell you to use them. Just don’t. Aspirin and tylenol will kill your cat dead. They technically can be given to dogs on occasion, but it’s not ideal and it messes up what actual, real pain meds the veterinarian can prescribe. So just don’t do it.
Q-tips – if your pet has a lot of junk in her ears, it’s likely an ear infection. Swabbing repeatedly with Q-tips can actually pack the junk down deeper, and does nothing to resolve the infection, so just have your pet seen by your veterinarian.
So those were good first aid item do’s and don’ts. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention disaster preparedness as well. Do you have enough pet carriers for each of your pets? If you have to evacuate, or a tornado removes your roof, you need a way to safely and quickly confine everyone.
Fortunately, many of the necessary items you probably have in your house already! Having them, knowing where they are, and knowing how to use them may come in handy one day!