First Aid Kits for Dogs
A dog first aid kit is an essential piece of safety equipment that every pet owner should own and know how to use. A first aid kit can be used in a variety of emergencies, ranging from small wounds to broken bones to heatstroke. This article is not a substitute for a first aid course but rather a good place to start brainstorming why you need a first aid kit and what to include in it.
Wounds are one of the most common injuries you are likely to encounter. Essential items for immediate wound care include gauze pads, non-stick bandages, adhesive cloth tape, self-adherent wrap and bandage scissors. Never clean wounds with hydrogen peroxide because it can damage delicate wound tissue. Saline eye solutions and diluted chlorhexidine or povidone iodine solutions all can be used to flush dirty wounds before bandaging. The purpose of a bandage is to keep a wound clean and/or stop any bleeding until your dog can be evaluated by your veterinarian. Wounds can be very painful, and any dog in pain may bite. Using a muzzle as a precaution is a good idea to prevent injury to human caretakers.
Stinging insects are another common malady. If an insect has stung your dog, tweezers can be used to remove any residual stingers. Benadryl (or generic 25mg diphenhydramine tablets) can be given at a dose of 1-2mg per pound of body weight every eight to 12 hours to help minimize allergic reactions. An instant cold pack also can be applied to minimize pain and swelling.
A splint is an invaluable part of your first aid kit in the event of a broken leg. Splints are used to temporarily immobilize broken bones, preventing further injury during transportation to a veterinary hospital. Always use caution when handling a dog in pain because even the gentlest dog may bite when in pain. Keeping a soft muzzle in your kit is a good idea, but in a pinch, a roll of gauze can be used as a temporary muzzle. Never give a dog any human pain control medication. Ibuprofen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) are toxic to dogs.
Frostbite, Hypothermia or Heatstroke
Extreme temperatures also mean different items should be added to your kit. In the winter, frostbite or hypothermia are emergencies you may encounter. Instant heating packs and emergency blankets are good items to have. In the summer, heatstroke is a common emergency that many dog owners face, especially here in Texas. If your dog develops heat exhaustion, rubbing alcohol can be applied to paw pads, and a wet towel can be wrapped around your dog to lower body temperature. Extra water bottles and a collapsible bowl also are great items to have on hand.
Other basic items to incorporate in your first aid kit include an extra leash and collar, hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting in case of toxin ingestion (always check with the ASPCA Pet Poison Control or your veterinarian first!) and a flashlight. Copies of vaccine records, any current medications or pertinent medical history as well as emergency phone numbers written in a single place also should be included.
First Aid Kits Come in Handy for Several Scenarios
Try putting together a first aid kit for your dog. Rather than checking items off a list, walk through what items you would need in different scenarios and how you would use them. Take a first aid class. A first aid kit may be all you need for mild bumps and scrapes, or it could be a vital component in stabilizing your pet for transportation to your veterinarian for emergency care. Whether on a cross-country road trip or playing in the backyard, accidents happen, and a first aid kit should be easily accessible to every pet owner.
Jennifer Marshall, DVM, is a graduate of Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine who lives in Dallas, Texas. Dr. Marshall practices at Hillside Veterinary Clinic in Dallas.