By Deb Michalik
Thinking of first aid for a pet increases the stress level in many pet parents. You never want to have to administer first aid to your furry friend, but it’s better to be aware and prepared before something happens that requires quick thinking until you can get to a vet or hospital.
When I saw that April is Pet First Aid Awareness Month, I started to think if I was prepared to administer first aid to my fur kids if and when they need it. I knew I had the typical first aid essentials for humans and while everything was easily accessible it was not in one place.
Researching for this article, I realized that there are certain things that should always be up to date and readily available. Taking the time to gather this information did not take much time at all.
- Info on your pet(s) with birth date, weight, drug allergies, temperament, vaccination status, medical history, current illnesses, photo ID of your pet, id #s for pet’s microchip and rabies tag. along with your name, address & phone number.
- Updated documentation for shots, license, etc.
- Emergency phone numbers for your vet, Animal Poison Control & 24-hour ER with driving directions, an emergency contact of either a loved one or friend who may be able to help you during an emergency.
In fact, I created a simple document to fill out for each of our fur kids to keep with the appropriate documentation and pictures. Feel free to download the Pet Info sheet. https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/2376/2087/files/Pet_Info.pdf?2
Having been in a few serious situations that happen out of the blue, the first and foremost thing to do is to stay calm…for your sake as well as for your pet. Being prepared with the basics will give you peace of mind and hopefully help to keep you calm.
There are lots of websites that share how to treat various ailments, wounds, and situations with your pet and to do that you need the right tools. Hopefully you never have to use a first aid kit but it sure is better to be prepared than to be searching in the midst of a mishap.
Here are a few of the basics that we have in our first aid kit that have helped us in the past.
- Muzzle or materials to make a muzzle: scary situations can take the calmest, well-behaved animal into a biting machine. A roll of gauze can also be used as a muzzle in an emergency, however, DO NOT use a muzzle if your pet is vomiting, choking or in respiratory distress.
- Treats: small vacuum sealed pack of treats is a great way to calm and distract an injured pet, lure them away from danger and is especially helpful while bandaging an injury. If they are vacuum sealed, they will smell really good and get your pet’s attention quickly.
- Latex or exam gloves: for your and your pet’s protection especially in messy situations.
- Antiseptic wash or wipes: look for non-stinging preparations such as chlorhexidine or betadine. Rubbing alcohol is NOT good for open sores or wounds.
- Sterile Saline Eye Wash (NOT lens contact solution): to flush out debris, smoke or liquids that may have sprayed into your pet’s eyes. Apply liberally and flush the eyes until all debris is removed. You may also want to keep some sterile eye lubrication to sooth your pet’s eyes after using the sterile flush.
- Styptic powder (flour or corn starch are acceptable alternatives): stops bleeding in cases of minor cuts or damaged/torn nails. A small bag is sufficient.
- Benadryl: antihistamine for insect bites and allergic reactions. Check with your vet so you are aware ahead of time of how much is sufficient for your pet and that it does not have any adverse affects.
- Ice & hot packs: sprains & muscle pain, cool down skin after a burn, keep an animal warm if hypothermic. Always use a cloth between the pack and the skin and check frequently for redness or irritation.
- Topical Antibiotic Ointment: for light use on minor skin wounds, helps prevents infection. Neosporin or Triple Antibiotic Ointment are typically safe for pets. Use with discretion. Check with your vet as ointment may collect debris or actually slow the healing process. Be cautious with animals that my ingest by licking.
- Vet prescribed pain relief (NSAID): talk to your vet. Do NOT use human prescriptions or over the counter pain meds for pets. Some medications, like Tylenol, are poisonous and may be fatal to pets.
- QuikClot or similar: to stop a wound that is bleeding.
- Tweezers: for removing splinters, thorns, etc. from your pet’s pads, removing debris from a wound, removing ticks.
- Non-Adhesive sterile pads: non-stick pad for covering and keeping wounds clean
- Roll of Gauze: to help stop bleeding, bandaging a wound, padding for splints or to use as muzzle in an emergency situation.
- Bandage or Vet Wrap: to be used over a non-stick bandage or gauze to keep in place so wound stays clean. Be careful not to wrap too tight. (Duct tape could also be helpful for holding temporary bandages or splints.)
- Tape: 1” medical tape
- Small scissors: for cutting bandages, tape, gauze, cutting out matted fur or to free your pet from being entangled
- Saran Wrap: to seal wounds
- Bubble Wrap: to use as a splint
- Syringe or large eyedropper: to flush out wounds or administer fluids by mouth.
- Baby rectal thermometer: to check for fever (Dogs normal body temp is 101.5F; Cats when taken rectally is between 100.4 – 102.5F)
- Water based lubricating jelly for use with rectal thermometer
- Pet Carrier or harness and leash: to transport your pet safely. Keep a spare leash in case a leash breaks in an emergency situation.
- Towel/Blanket: A large towel or blanket can be used to move an injured animal. A small one can be used for cleaning wounds.
- List of phone numbers: regular vet, emergency vet, animal control, animal poison control. Keep in your cell phone.
- A sturdy box to hold all your supplies that is easy to carry and pack.
Once your kit is all assembled, consider taking a pet first aid class. Check with your veterinarian, local community college or the Red Cross. Also, familiarize yourself with pet emergency clinics in your area and when you travel. The Pet First Aid Book
The Pet First Aid Book (or one similar) published by American Red Cross is a good thing to include in your kit. The American Red Cross also has a Pet First Aid app that can be downloaded for any situation.
IMPORTANT: Please remember that first aid is not a substitute for veterinary care, but it may save your pet’s life until you can get to a vet.