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- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
Using common-sense safety measures around your pets can go a long way toward preventing injuries. But even with lots of training and precautions, accidents happen: scrapes, upset stomachs, and runny noses are all part of dog life. Being prepared for them with a dog first-aid kit can take the panic out of accidents—and in some cases, having the right tools on hand can even save your dog’s life.
Why Do You Need a Dog First Aid Kit?
Accidents can happen when you least expect them, even in the safety of your own home. While we hope you never need it, a pet first aid kit can keep your pooch healthy and safe—while easing your own nerves, too.
A pet-friendly first aid kit is a major asset in the following scenarios:
- Accidental ingestion of toxic materials, such as plants, foods, or household chemicals
- Treating scrapes, cuts, or bites from other animals
- Treating a dog at risk of overheating or heatstroke
- Camping and traveling—if you’re somewhere remote, a first aid kit can keep your dog comfortable until you can get veterinary help
- Natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, floods, and storms
- Emergency evacuations
Dog First Aid Kit Checklist
Step 1: Gather Your Dog’s Information
First, gather copies of important phone numbers, paperwork, and pet health records and put them in a safe place known to your household. These include things such as:
- Your vet’s phone number and the number for your closest 24-hour emergency vet
- Your pet’s vaccination history
- A recent photo (in case your pet gets lost)
- The ASPCA Poison Control hotline (888) 426-4435 for emergency poisoning information and support
While it’s great to have all of these contacts stored digitally on your phone, it’s also important to have a physical copy stored somewhere in your house (ideally collected in a waterproof envelope or sleeve like this). After all, you might not be with your dog when disaster strikes. This way, everyone in your household will have access to life-saving information.
Step 2: Consider Investing in a Pet First Aid Guidebook
The internet is undoubtedly a handy resource—but it’s also full of conflicting or non-expert advice. (Plus it can be problematic during emergencies or natural disasters when internet service is disconnected.)
A guidebook like the First Aid Companion has information that has been thoroughly vetted by veterinarians, so you know you can trust it. This particular book:
- Is organized alphabetically by each injury/illness so you can quickly flip to the right section
- Includes a helpful list of human medicines that are OK to administer to pets
- Also contains charts for temperature, heart rate, and responsiveness to help you gauge your pet’s condition
There are also 24/7 telehealth services that offer an alternative to using questionable search engine results for pet care. While most of these services aren’t able to diagnose or prescribe meds, they can point you in the right direction for proper pet care. And even though they can’t take the place of an in-person vet visit, telehealth services can save you time and worry on issues that don’t require immediate veterinary care—and help you know which ones do.
Chewy’s telehealth service is available to subscribers of their autoship program. Once enrolled, you can speak with licensed veterinarians who will answer your general questions and pet-related concerns. Pawp is also worth checking out. For $24 per month, you’ll have access to trusted experts, as well as a $3000 emergency fund that covers unexpected vet bills. We’ve tried Pawp ourselves and been impressed with the results.
Step 3: Gather and Organize Your Dog First-Aid Kit Supplies
First you’ll want to find a place to store your first aid supplies. Keep everything organized and handy in a waterproof organizer such as this toolkit with a removable top tray, or this heavy-duty locking style case that keeps curious pets and children out.
- Vet wrap
- Blunt-end scissors
- An accurate digital thermometer like the iProven Pet Thermometer
- An instant cold pack
- Cotton balls and swabs
- A penlight or flashlight
- Nail clippers
- A soft, inflatable recovery collar (to keep them from licking or chewing wounds)
- Veterinary antibiotic ointment (human options aren’t always dog-safe)
- Vetericyn (for ouch-free wound cleaning and to help with skin irritations)
- Activated charcoal (which can save your dog’s life in the event of accidental poisoning)
- Hydrogen peroxide (used to induce vomiting in dogs in an emergency)
As you stock your kit, remember that a few of these supplies (especially activated charcoal and hydrogen peroxide) are best applied only at your vet’s direction. It’s still important to have them in your stock, since using them early can save a dog’s life—but you’ll want to be in communication with a professional while you work.
Step 4: Build a Pet Go-Bag for Emergencies
Since emergencies like earthquakes, floods, and sudden evacuations can strike at any moment, it’s important to be prepared at all times. Having these essentials will put you in a much better position to safely transport or comfort a sick or injured pet—even in the worst scenarios.
Not all of these things will fit in a dog first aid kit, but they’re still an essential part of your collection. It’s worth putting them in a designated spot (like these giant Rubbermaid bins) so you can grab them all at a moment’s notice and hit the road.
Do you have the following pet emergency items in your home?
1. A Pet Carrier
If you have to peel out fast—or if you just need a secure place for Fido while you sort things out—a pet carrier is critical. When we’re in crisis mode, even the most ordinary tasks can become a challenge. That’s why the CDC encourages pet parents to practice loading and transporting dog carriers before disaster hits.
2. A Spare Leash
Since you’ll want to keep your dog close to you during an emergency, an affordable back-up leash is always a good idea. Bonus points if it’s a reflective leash, which makes it easier to see your dog during times of low visibility. This Coolrunner slip rope also functions as a collar, so you can quickly secure any dog in a pinch.
3. Collapsible Food Bowls
Your pet’s tummy doesn’t care if you’re far away from home: they still need to be fed! A set of collapsible bowls can hold food and water in whatever circumstances you find yourself.
4. An Extra Bag of Dog Food (and water!)
Getting to the store during a natural disaster may be impossible—which is another reason it’s important to have that dog first-aid kit put together ahead of time. To ensure your dog remains well-fed in an emergency situation, try to store several cans of wet food or a large bag of your dog’s favorite kibble. Treats make tasty morale boosters, and you can never have too much water.
Aim for a food supply of 1 to 2 weeks, and keep on top of expiration dates, rotating old food with a fresh bag every several months.
5. A Spare Favorite Toy
This minor detail can get lost in the noise, but a favorite toy will provide comfort during what may be an otherwise stressful time. Whether your dog likes a good chew toy or prefers a cuddly plushie, you’ll be happy to have their favorite plaything when they need it most.
The video below walks you through some of the items we suggest should go in an emergency kit for your dog.
Keeping a fully-stocked first aid kit on hand for your dog can prevent minor injuries from escalating to a situation that requires a trip to the pet hospital at 2 a.m., and having an emergency go-bag can make it possible to get your pet out of a sticky situation safely—with no one left behind.
To learn more about disaster preparedness and dog first-aid, read on!