A good first-aid kit for dogs is like a car. It doesn’t need to be expensive, nor to have all the bells and whistles; if it can hold you over until you can get to the nearest animal hospital in a critical situation, that’s more than sufficient. April is National Pet First-Aid Awareness Month, making it the perfect time to stock up on the crucial supplies you may need should some sudden incident endanger your dog’s health or well-being.
There are plenty of pre-stocked first-aid supply kits available in stores, some of which have over 20 items, and others with upward of 50. A homemade first-aid kit for your dog can be just as useful. Whether housed in a shiny red case with a first-aid symbol emblazoned upon it or in a thrift-store handbag, here are the 15 essential items any first-aid kit for your canine should contain.
1. Scissors: Blunt- or round-edge scissors can come in handy in a number of situations. You may need to remove excess fur to clean a wound, and certainly to trim a roll of gauze after dressing a wound. Blunt- or round-edged scissors are best, because an injured dog may be jumpy or reactive.
2. Tweezers: For splinters, bee or wasp stings, or to remove a freshly attached tick, tweezers can also serve a variety of purposes in a tough situation. Depending on how exacting you want your dog first-aid kit to be, you may want to invest in a specially designed tick-removal tool.
3. Turkey baster or eyedropper: You should certainly have an instrument for precisely administering liquid relief to your dog. Whether it is for flushing out a deep wound, rinsing out eyes or ears, or providing fluids, a baster or dropper of some sort is a fine thing to have in a pinch.
4. Rectal thermometer and petroleum jelly: A rectal thermometer designed for use in dogs, along with a lubricant for proper application, may be necessary in extreme situations. If you are alone and do not have assistance in securing your dog, it may be best to proceed to a vet or animal hospital instead of attempting to use a rectal thermometer yourself.
5. Flashlight or penlight: Has the power gone out? Are you camping with your dogs? Having a source of light can be critical to determining the nature of the problem.
6. Latex gloves: Does the emergency involve excess blood, urine, or feces? The last thing you need is to get your hands covered in bodily fluids while you’re trying to provide emergency triage. Make sure the gloves are large enough to fit your hands and small enough to give your fingers room to move nimbly.
7. Hydrogen peroxide: Some sites list hydrogen peroxide for dog first-aid kits as a way to induce vomiting under a vet’s explicit direction. You may also find hydrogen peroxide useful for preliminary wound cleaning.
8. Antibiotic ointment / antibacterial wipes: Before dressing an open wound, particularly if you are at a distance from the vet’s office, a dog-safe antibiotic salve may come in handy. If you don’t have a tube in your kit, single-use antiseptic or antibacterial wipes will serve the same purpose.
9. Cotton balls: These can come in handy if an injury is small. Otherwise, spare towels (see below) may do just as well.
10. Gauze: Unless you have a hairless dog, the kinds of self-adhesive bandages we use for cuts and scrapes will have little function on a dog. Keep a couple of rolls of gauze or a package of gauze pads in your first-aid kit for dressing.
11. Medical adhesive tape: Use strong medical adhesive tape to secure bandages after they’ve been wrapped.
12. Muzzle: Wounded or otherwise inconvenienced dogs may lash out, even against their beloved owners. A muzzle that fits your dog can give you the opportunity to treat the major issue or get her to a vet without the dog lashing out and biting in fear or pain.
13. Leash: A spare leash can help you lead your dog to a place of safety so she can receive first aid or to the car so that you can get her to the animal hospital. Most veterinarians require all dogs to be on-leash when they enter the office as well.
14. Towels: As above, a major wound may be too severe for cotton balls to adequately address. Further, a large enough towel can serve as a makeshift stretcher for a dog who cannot walk.
15. Blanket: A blanket can provide swaddling for a frightened dog, keep her warm, or keep the car clean from excess bodily fluids.
16. Pet carrier: If your dog stays mostly at home and is unaccustomed to car travel, a dog carrier or pet crate appropriate to her size may help you get to the veterinarian more easily and avoid her panicking en route.
Many sources I consulted note that you should keep a pet first-aid book handy as well. If the situation is urgent, however, especially if you are by yourself, it may be impossible to clean and dress a wound, get the dog ready to go to the animal hospital, and consult the index of a book for proper procedures. Where documents are concerned, particularly if you are out of town and away from your dog’s vet, the most vital thing to have in your first aid kit is a copy of your dog’s current vaccination records.
Emergencies can happen anywhere and at any time. With that in mind, we recommend doubling up on your supplies and splitting the contents between two canine first-aid kits, keeping one readily accessible in the home and one in the car. Do you know where the closest 24-hour animal hospitals are in your area? Ask your dog’s veterinarian if they can recommend a couple within a 30-minute drive of your home. Have their phone numbers handy in your first-aid kits and in your cell phones.
What other items not listed here do you keep in your dog’s first-aid kit? Let us know in the comments.
Read more on being prepared for emergencies with your dog:
About the author: Melvin Peña trained as a scholar and teacher of 18th-century British literature before turning his research and writing skills to puppies and kittens. He enjoys making art, hiking, and concert-going, as well as dazzling crowds with operatic karaoke performances. He has a one-year-old female Bluetick Coonhound mix named Idris, and his online life is conveniently encapsulated here.