By definition, pet emergencies are critical health crises which require immediate medical intervention. Creating an emergency first aid kit is recommended for all pet parents and may buy your pet critical time until veterinary care can be sought through a pet hospital. Many of the supplies you will be using to create your pet first aid kit will also be handy in case of human first aid needs. A first aid kit for dogs and people is a vital component in an emergency disaster preparedness plan as well.
You can purchase pet first aid kits or make your own. A plastic tote or a large book bag is good for storing your kit. It is advised that you make not one but two kits, one that will be in your house and one that can travel in your car at all times.
Whenever possible, a cell phone with service that can reach 911 in case of emergencies with the phone number of the nearest emergency vet programmed is a great addition to your emergency first aid kit. Check your batteries periodically to make sure that they are ready to go when you need them in an emergency.
If you have a dog that is prone to bloating or of a breed prone to bloating, your kit may require additional components. If you suspect your dog is bloating, it is imperative that you seek medical assistance immediately, but knowing how to provide bloat first aid and being prepared to do so can literally save your dog’s life. Here is a great website discussing first aid for bloat which recommends the following additional first aid kit items for bloat prone dogs:
1. 1/2 inch (inside diameter) x 6 feet, clear, non-toxic, vinyl tube (outside diameter = 5/8 inch). 1.25 cm x 182 cm (outside diameter = 1.6 cm)
2. 1/4 inch (inside diameter) x 6 feet, clear, non-toxic, vinyl tube (outside diameter = 3/8 inch). .60 cm x 182 cm (outside diameter = .95 cm)
3. 2×2 wood block, 8 inches long with 3/4 inch diameter hole in center. 5 cm x 5 cm x 20 cm (1.90 cm diameter hole)
4. Water-soluble lubricating jelly, such as K-Y jelly.
5. 2 feet of soft nylon cord, or an old soft nylon leash. 61 cm of cord
6. Electrical tape to mark tubing
Now that you’ve created your emergency first aid kit, what will you do with these supplies in case of an emergency? Some pet hospitals offer courses in pet first aid as do many branches of the Red Cross (www.redcross.org – search by zipcode for a class in your area) and an organization called PetTech. Courses are usually fairly inexpensive (often less than $50) and are typically only one or two days long. Many courses will include a pet first aid book – if yours does, keep it with your first aid kit. If your course does not offer a pet first aid book, ask your instructor for recommendations on one you can purchase or pick up a copy of “Pet First Aid – Cats and Dogs” from the Red Cross.
Just as your pet first aid kit will contain many items which are valuable in human medical emergencies, many of the topics covered in a pet first aid class will mirror those taught in a human first aid class, like performing CPR, helping an animal who is choking, recognizing and responding to signs of shock, cleaning and bandaging wounds, splinting, assessing vital signs, insect and snake bites, etc. Your course should also cover pet-specific topics like restraining and muzzling, bloat, taking your dog’s temperature, and dealing with bloat, etc. Here is a great collection of “Quick Tips” from the Red Cross on pet first aid.
The time and expense invested in creating a first aid kit and learning how to use it effectively in medical emergencies can very well save the life of a lived one, two or four-legged. You do not need to create separate first aid kits for the pets and people, although separate first aid training is advocated for human and pet first aid emergencies. Recertification is critical and recommended at least every two years.
Get certified in pet first aid and create your emergency first aid kit today. Your family will thank you for it!