In the event of an emergency, knowing pet first aid basics could help save or stablize your pet until professional veterinary care is provided. If you and your dog enjoy visiting the dog park, strolling through town, or hiking together along the trails, it’s a good idea to have a basic pet first aid kit as well as important information and numbers available in case of an emergency.
Whether it’s in your wallet or on your smartphone, be sure to have this information readily available:
- Phone number of your veterinary practice
- Phone number of an emergency hospital/clinic
- ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center: 888-426-4435
- Online access to your veterinary practice with login to a pet portal for your pet’s health information
It’s easy to assemble your own pet first aid kit with items readily available at your local pharmacy, grocery store or superstore retailer. Fill a tote bag, plastic container or pet carrier with the following items for convenient transportation between home and car:
- Absorbent gauze pads, gauze roll and cotton balls
- Adhesive tape
- Antiseptic wipes or spray
- Small blanket, towel and/or pillowcase (to confine a cat for treatment)
- Instant cold packs
- Blunt-end scissors, tweezers and nail clipper
- Sterile saline solution
- OTC antibiotic ointment
- Splints or tongue depressors
- Expired/sample credit card (to scrape away insect stingers)
- Plastic eyedropper or syringe
You may also consider having a gallon of water, soft/inflatable e-collar, extra collar and leash, and Benadryl on hand.
Handling Common Emergencies
Understanding pet first aid basics for common emergency situations is a good idea.
Bites and Cuts: Wash the wound and apply absorbent gauze with light pressure to stop the bleeding. Cover and wrap lightly with gauze roll. Call your veterinarian if the bleeding doesn’t stop or the wound is deeper than a surface scrape to determine of further treatment is necessary. For severe bleeding, apply a tourniquet and pressure to the wound and seek medical attention immediately.
Bee Sting: Remove the stinger with the edge of a plastic card or tweezer and apply an instant cold pack. Call the veterinarian if there’s increased swelling or an adverse reaction like difficulty breathing or vomiting.
Accidental Poisoning: Call pet poison control or your emergency veterinary hospital immediately. If you know what the animal ingested, keep the item/container/label on hand so you can provide the veterinary professional with as much information as possible.
Burns: Flush the area with a lot of water and, if available, apply an ice water compress to the burn. Seek immediate veterinary care.
Heatstroke: Remove the pet from the situation to a cooler, shaded area. Never leave your pet in a vehicle on warm days—even with the windows cracked open—or confined to a space located in direct sunlight with no access to water or shade. The temperature inside the vehicle can rise quickly. Place cold, wet towels on the body or rinse with cool water to help lower the body temperature. Do not cover the animal’s face/nose. Seek immediate medical attention.