April is Pet First Aid Awareness Month. If you don’t have a first-aid kit for your dog at home, now is the perfect time to put one together.
You can either buy a first-aid kit for dogs or put one together yourself. I reached out to a couple of professionals for advice on the best items to include in a first-aid kit specifically for dogs. Here’s what they had to say.
Items to include in your dog’s first-aid kit
For the most part, you can just use a first-aid kit designed for people and then add a few extra items, according to Dr. Jerry Shank, a veterinarian with Shank Animal Hospital in Florida.
Some of the basic items for pets or people would include:
- Gauze wrap
- Sterile bandages
- Medical tape
- Antibiotic cream
- Hydrogen peroxide for wound cleaning
- Cotton balls or swabs
Items unique to dogs
Obviously, there are some first-aid items that should be added to your dog’s kit that you wouldn’t find in your own first-aid kit.
For example, I suggest keeping a notecard in the kit with phone numbers to your dog’s regular veterinarian as well as the phone number and address and maybe even directions to the nearest emergency clinic. (Who knows if your phone and gps will be working in an emergency situation.)
Abby Harrison is a dog trainer with Sit Dog Stay in Houston, and she said she teaches her students about disaster planning. She also includes a first-aid component to her classes.
Some extra items she recommends you include in your dog’s kit are:
- a muzzle to prevent your dog from biting, especially if your dog is in pain
- a thermometer specifically for pets (she said the average body temperature is around 101 for dogs)
- nylon slip leash (works even if you don’t have a collar)
She recommends keeping an extra slip leash on hand because they can work well for tying and wrapping and can even be used as a temporary muzzle in a pinch.
“This would be good to protect yourself if the dog was hit by a car and was in pain.”
Extra things to consider if you take your dog camping or hiking
If you go hiking or camping with your dog, it’s a good idea to add a couple extra items to your dog’s first-aid kit.
Shank recommends an antihistamine if you’ll be in woody environments.
Benadryl is a common over-the-counter medication often recommended by vets to give dogs for minor allergy symptoms. Check with your dog’s vet for the proper dose, because dogs process the medication differently than we do.
Another item to include in your dog’s kit is a tweezers in case you need to pull a thorn out of your dog’s paw, Shank said.
Also, Harrison said to consider whether or not you would be able to carry or transport your dog back to your car due to an injury and what you might need to make that easier.
Just being prepared puts you ahead of most
Harrison recommends taking an animal first-aid class, however, she said just having a first-aid kit on hand means you’re more prepared than most.
“Your chances of needing it are, we hope, always slim but it would be there if you ever needed to use it.”
She does say it’s a good idea to keep a kit in each of your family’s vehicles and another in the house so you’re not running out to the car to get it in an emergency.
Beyond that, another tip she recommends is to buy a home vet book for dogs and cats to keep on your shelf.
“I tell my students to think of it as a basic reference text if Dr. Google is down,” she said. “When one of my dogs had kennel cough, it suggested asking the vet for a cough suppressant. Good idea because it meant we all got sleep that night.”
Do you have a first-aid kit ready for your dog? How about for yourself?