Just like children, cats and dogs love exploring but can sometimes get into trouble with mischievous play. These antics can be frustrating in the moment and once enough time has passed, can become a funny story to tell friends and family. However, some adventures can be the cause of serious injury for your pet and in the worst of cases, may even be fatal. Knowing what to do when your cat or dog is injured and having the right tools on hand to triage the injury could save your pets life. In case of emergencies, a first-aid kit should be placed in an easily accessible area of your home and car. Here, we’ve provided you with a list of 20 items to pack in your pet first aid kit.
Tool/Tackle Box or Small Carry Bag – Use a tool/tackle box to store your pet's first-aid supplies at home. For first aid on the go, store a smaller backpack or carry bag in your car with a pared-down, travel first-aid kit.
Blood Clotting Powder – Use to stop bleeding from gashes, bits and “quicked,” or torn toenails, the powder will help to avoid messes and can help prevent serious blood loss in the event of major blood vessel damage. Ensure you purchase the right powder for your pet as there are specific kinds for cats and dogs. If the cut is serious or the bleeding doesn’t stop within 10-15 minutes, take your pet to the emergency vet clinic.
Bottle of Saline Wound Flush – Use for cleaning (irrigating) wounds. Flushing a wound with saline will help to clean the area and prevent infection. A bottle of saline eye/contact lens flush or saline nasal spray can also be used for flushing a wound and can be used for flushing your pet’s eye as well.
Wound Disinfectant – Use as an antiseptic to care for your pet’s wound. Ask your vet for a bottle of Chlorhexidine diacetate solution and be sure to dilute to no more than a 0.05% solution as concentrated Chlorhexidine diacetate over 0.05% will damage skin cells.
Cotton Balls or Swabs – Use for gentle cleaning of wounds or sensitive areas. As an alternative, you can use Q-tips for cleaning difficult areas such as around your dog’s eyes and ears but be extra careful not to put too much pressure and never push Q-tips into your pet’s ear canal as they can become stuck or cause more injury.
Gauze Pads – Use for cleaning wounds and as the primary layer in bandaging to absorb blood and inflammatory fluid. Be mindful that standard gauze bandages will stick to the skin and wound below. There are also non-stick bandage options which are best for sensitive wounds such as burns, cuts and others, where you do not want the pad to stick, but rather, want blood to clot more naturally or form a scab.
Gauze Roll – Use as a stand-alone dressing, to cover and secure a primary or bulking layer (where gauze pads are put in place first) or to hold a splint in place.
Bandage Tape – Helps to secure layers of bandaging in place or used for “stirrups,” in case of applying bandages to paws, tails, or other challenging areas.
Blunt-Tip Bandage Scissors – Used to cut and remove bandages safely as they are dull enough to avoid additional cuts or injury.
Splints – Used to immobilize an injured area such as a broken bone or torn ligament, to allow for transport to safety. You can purchase foam-covered, mold-able, aluminum splint rolls, or improvise using a pool noodle, a sturdy stick or wooden dowel in a pinch.
Self-Adhesive Bandage Cover – Provides an outer layer which keeps the bandage in place without the need for tape. Be careful not to wrap self-adhesives too tight as this may prevent blood flow to the area. Some alternative options include Saran Wrap (Seal N’ Press or standard Saran), Duct tape or electrical tape.
Antibiotic Ointment – Use on minor cuts to protect against bacterial infections. Apply ointment directly to wound before bandaging.
Benadryl/Generic Diphenhydramine – Use if your pet has a sudden allergic reaction, or for bee and wasp stings. *Caution: Check the ingredients to ensure the medication only has diphenhydramine as the active ingredient. Do not use cold and flu combinations or any others with added ingredients. Do not use medications that include Xylitol as these can be toxic for pets. Also, calculate the dose for your pet carefully and if you’re unsure, contact your vet before administering.
Extra Supply of Your Pet’s Medications – Keep your pet’s meds up to date, checking the “best-before,” date before using.
Digital Thermometer – Use to check your pet’s temperature if you suspect heat stroke. The normal temperature range for cats and dogs is higher than for humans and is typically between 100 – 102.5F (37.8-39.2C). The most reliable way to get your pet’s temperature is rectally. It will be helpful to have a water-based lubricant available for this purpose to minimize risk of tearing in the lining of the rectum.
Emergency Warming Blanket – Use if your pet gets injured in the cold or rain.
Instant Cold Packs – Use to decrease inflammation after injuries including bee or wasp sting, sprain, strain or other injury. *Caution: Do not apply the cold pack directly to your pet’s skin. Use a towel or make sure there is enough fur between the pack and your pet’s skin to avoid cold-induced skin damage. Do not leave packs within reach of unattended pets as they may chew on these, causing additional harm.
Muzzle – Use to eliminate risk of biting while still allowing your pet to breath. When animals are injured, they are not themselves and might instinctually bite at humans who are handling them for transport or administering first aid. To prevent this, a basket muzzle works best for dogs, while a nylon cat muzzle is best for felines.
Tick Remover – Use to safely remove a tick from your pet’s skin. Be careful not to crush the tick body and if possible, place the tick in a jar or other container to present to your vet for identification. You should also contact your vet to have your pet tested for Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever or other illnesses transmitted through tick bites.
Exam Gloves, Flashlight, Towels/Rags, First Aid Manual – These miscellaneous items will also be helpful in examining injuries and administering care for your pet.
Once you have assessed your pet’s injuries, administered emergency care to the best of your ability, and your pet is out of immediate danger, it’s best to consult your veterinarian for any additional treatment or follow up that may be required.