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If your dog ever has a health crisis, your first move should always be to contact your veterinarian. But if your vet tells you it's not necessary to come in or if you're waiting for your dog to be seen by a vet, a dog first-aid kit can be indispensable. In fact, early intervention has the potential to make a big difference in your dog's outcome.
Review the checklist below to learn what essential items you should keep on hand to help manage any canine emergency that comes your way. Then find out how to put together a dog emergency kit so that you're prepared in case of a natural disaster.
Dog First-Aid Kit Checklist: The Essentials
Depending on your pet's activity level, lifestyle and behavior, some items on this list will be more important to have than others. A comprehensive dog first-aid kit should include the following:
- Tweezers: To remove insect stingers, ticks or splinters
- Gauze sponges: To clean wounds or put pressure on small bleeding areas
- Tourniquet: To control bleeding from a wound
- Bulb syringe: For suctioning nostrils clean
- Clean kitchen or hand towels: For cool compresses and cleaning larger messes
- Epsom salts: When mixed with warm water, fundamental for managing simple swellings or paw injuries
- Baking soda: When mixed with water into a paste, neutralizes skunk smell and acidic insect venom
- Bandage materials: Includes non-adherent bandage pads, cotton wrap, gauze wrap and self-adherent wrap
- Protective cone: Also called an "Elizabethan collar" or "E-collar" — vital for keeping bandages on and reducing the risk of self-trauma
- Antiseptic: For simple wound cleaning and disinfection
- Hydrogen peroxide: For cleaning blood off an injury to make it easier to see
- Syringes: To accurately measure medicines
- Eyewash: To rinse eyes in case of a chemical burn
- Hot water bottle: To help keep small dogs warm, should they suffer hypothermia; also great for soothing muscles after exertion or injury
- Thermometer: To take your dog's temperature
- Alcohol-free wound spray: To treat simple scrapes, burns and superficial wounds
- An antibiotic or a soothing ointment: Invaluable for treating simple injuries
- Ice pack: Helpful for nosebleeds, among other little injuries
Put all your first-aid items into a large box with a list of important telephone numbers taped to the top. Include contact information for your vet, your nearest emergency animal hospital, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, your emergency contacts and any other relevant numbers.
Always talk to a veterinary professional before employing your dog first-aid kit, and never give your dog medicine without first discussing their condition with a vet. In many cases, the kit will be most useful when you're on your way to the vet or once you've been advised that at-home care is okay. It's also wise to talk to your veterinarian before purchasing some of the above, as you'll want dog-specific items — for instance, a thermometer.
What to Put in a Dog Emergency Kit
If you live in an area that's prone to hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, tornadoes or any other kind of natural disaster, a dog emergency kit is a must. But even if you don't expect a natural catastrophe of some sort, it's always best to be prepared.
Here's what you should include in your dog emergency kit:
- Your dog first-aid kit
- A month's worth of any medicines your dog takes. Remember to replace any medicine before it expires if you don't use the kit.
- A list of important telephone numbers
- Your dog's microchip information, if applicable
- Vaccination records and other relevant medical information
- At least a few days worth of food and treats, but a month is a better option in case you get displaced from your home. Remember to replace the food before it expires if you don't use the kit.
- An extra leash and collar
- A crate
While you'll hopefully never need to use a first-aid kit or an emergency kit, it's a pet parent's job to look out for their furry friend. Being prepared for a crisis is just one way you can show your dog how much you care.
Dr. Patty Khuly
Dr. Patty Khuly is an honors graduate of both Wellesley College and the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. She received her MBA at The Wharton School of Business as part of the prestigious VMD/MBA dual-degree program. She's now the proud owner of Sunset Animal Clinic in Miami, Florida. But that's not all. Dr. K is a nerdy reader, avid knitter, hot yoga fanatic, music geek, struggling runner, and indefatigable foodie. She lives in South Miami with three dogs, countless cats, two rescued goats and a hilarious flock of hens.
You can follow her writing at DrPattyKhuly.com and at SunsetVets.com.