Just like it isn't wise to leave home without basic first aid supplies for your family, it's always a good idea to make sure you have a few essentials for your pup. Whether it's a splinter or broken bone, you'll want to be prepared with the appropriate supplies (and it's never a bad idea to take a pet first aid class).
While there are many pre-made first aid kits for dogs available to purchase, it's generally best to customize your own kit based on your pet's unique lifestyle and individual needs. Better yet, many of the items that you should include in your pet's first aid kit can also helpful for humans. Keep in mind that your pet's first aid needs will largely depend on their breed, age, and lifestyle. So never hesitate to consult your veterinarian to help you customize a first aid kit to meet your pet's medical needs while you're out and about.
For example, if your dog happens to be diabetic, their pet first aid kit can include honey to address a low blood sugar episode, while active and outdoorsy dogs may require supplies like splints in case of an injury. Dogs who already take medications should always be well-stocked (at least for a few days), and you'll want to be sure to rotate them out so they don't expire.
Purchasing or building a first aid kit for your pup is a great first step, but it won't be of much help if you don't know how to appropriately use the items in an emergency situation.
That's why it's always a great idea to take a pet first aid class—you should be able to find one via your veterinarian, community college, or the Red Cross. You can also visit the local library or book store to check out some pet first aid or animal health books (they even make handy pocket-sized ones that can fit in your first aid kit).
Always be sure to familiarize yourself with pet emergency clinics in your area (and anywhere you frequently travel), and identify apps or websites you can consult in case of an emergency.
Ready to get started? Here are 10 items you might want to start with when assembling a first aid kit for your four-legged friend.
Tweezers are a must, especially if you spend a lot of time outdoors. They can be used to remove splinters or any other foreign materials from wounds, and they're also a good first defense against ticks.
Scissors come in handy in both human and canine first-aid kits. They can be used for everything from cutting out an item that's trapped in your dog's fur or freeing them from something they may have gotten tangled in to cutting gauze or preparing a splint.
The ability to provide your pup with ice and/or heat therapy in the event of an injury can be crucial. That way, if your dog seems to have suffered an acute injury or seems sore after strenuous exercise, you can start with ice and then switch to heat. Just be sure to always use a cloth between the pack and your dog's skin, and monitor frequently for redness or irritation.
Cold therapy can help reduce swelling and inflammation in your dog while relieving pain (as it helps reduce the damage to muscles). It can also decrease muscle spasms and promote faster healing.
Your hot pack can come in handy if your dog is dealing with certain conditions, such as arthritis, as heat therapy can quicken the length of recovery due to the increase of blood flow caused by the heat.
You'll always want to be sure to have a list of phone numbers handy, and your first aid kit is a great place to keep them. Be sure your list includes your regular veterinarian, an emergency vet, animal control, and animal poison control numbers. It's also a good idea to have these numbers saved in your cell phone.
There are moldable, foam-covered splint rolls that are perfect for pooches. If you suspect your dog may have broken a bone in his or her lower leg (or torn a ligament), a splint can help minimize movement and keep your dog as comfortable as possible while you seek emergency care.
Blood Clotting Powder
If your dog is bleeding from an injury, it's all too easy to panic. Whether it's from an animal bite, a gash from playing a little too rough outside, or a torn toenail, the good news is that there's something that can help stop the flow of blood until the wound can be treated.
Blood clotting powder formulated for dogs can help keep bandages from getting soaked with blood (and of course protect the interior of your car on the way to the vet or animal hospital). But even more importantly, it can also help prevent dangerous and even life-threatening blood loss if your pup has experienced significant blood vessel damage.
Hydrogen peroxide can be a powerful tool in your pup's first aid arsenal because it can be used to induce vomiting in certain situations (provided you have the OK from your veterinarian). Better yet, it can also be used as part of a pet deskunking recipe if your dog has a run-in with one of the stinky critters while hiking in the woods (or playing in the backyard). Just be sure not to exercise caution when using it to disinfect wounds—it will have to be diluted (your vet can help).
Gauze (or Vet Wrap)
A roll of gauze can be used as bandages in both human and canine first aid kits, as well as a tool to help stop bleeding and as padding for splints. Vet Wrap is a great option for your four-legged friend, since it clings to itself.
Antibiotic ointment can be used to treat minor wounds for your dog. Most over-the-counter options can be used for pets, but you should try to prevent your dog from licking it (and be sure to keep it away from their eyes).
Better yet, there are pet-friendly fast-acting ointments that can be used to treat minor injuries, including rashes and cuts, sores, dry skin, and even allergies—and they won't harm your pet if accidentally ingested.
Nobody loves the idea of having to put a muzzle on their four-legged friend, but many dogs tend to become frantic and even aggressive when they've suffered an injury. A breathable basket muzzle that can be adjusted to any size can be helpful for certain breeds (not brachycephalic dogs). It's good to have on hand just in case your dog requires emergency medical attention and is being less-than-friendly to the veterinarian.