Does your pet have a nose for trouble? As much as we love our pets’ natural curiosity, it sometimes leads them into urgent or emergency situations. Instead of panicking, know how to react when your furry friend is injured, ingests a  toxic substance, or has a seizure. Being prepared with a first aid kit and knowing how to administer first aid to your pet can make the difference between life and death in some situations.

What should my pet first aid kit contain?

Your personal first aid kit likely has many supplies you can also use for your pet, but your furry friend requires a few items solely for pet emergencies. Be prepared for any situation by stocking your pet’s first aid kit with the following supplies:

  • Gauze wrap, to wrap wounds, or to muzzle an injured pet
  • Nonstick bandages, to control bleeding, or protect wounds
  • Adhesive tape, to secure gauze wrap
  • Activated charcoal, to absorb toxins
  • Fresh 3% hydrogen peroxide, to induce vomiting in dogs
  • Digital thermometer
  • Blunt scissors
  • Antibiotic cream
  • Hydrocortisone cream
  • Cotton swabs
  • Styptic powder
  • Tweezers
  • Saline eye wash
  • Rubber gloves
  • Mild soap
  • Benadryl
  • Large syringes without needles, to give oral medications, or flush wounds
  • Your pet’s medical records
  • Contact information for emergency veterinary services

Many of these items can be used without veterinary guidance, but a few should be used only under your veterinarian’s direction. For example, if your pet ingests something toxic, contact our team, or an animal poison control hotline, to see if you should induce vomiting. In some instances, vomiting can do more harm than good.

How should I perform basic first aid care on my pet?

Ideally, purchase a comprehensive pet first aid guide that provides step-by-step instructions on a variety of urgent care situations, and keep it with your first aid kit. 

Following are instructions for common first aid procedures:

  • Poisoning or toxin exposure — If your pet’s skin or eyes are exposed to a toxic substance, follow the package’s directions for people to thoroughly flush your pet’s affected area. For toxin ingestion, contact an animal poison control hotline, such as the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center, for advice on inducing vomiting. Seek veterinary care as soon as possible.
  • Seizures — Ensure you document any seizure activity in your pet, whether it’s a small, focal seizure, or a grand mal event. During an active seizure, try to keep your pet away from stairs, and prevent her from falling off furniture. If your pet cannot recognize you, take precautions to prevent her from biting. Do not try to restrain your pet, as close contact can lead to a bite. After a seizure, keep your pet calm, quiet, and warm.
  • Fractures — Your pet will be painful as you manipulate her, so apply a muzzle before moving her. Gently lay your pet on a flat surface, such as a sturdy board or stretcher, to transport her. You may need to secure her to the stretcher, to ensure she does not try to move—a blanket wrap will work well. Avoid splinting a fractured limb, as a poorly placed splint can do more harm than good. Seek veterinary care as soon as possible.
  • Bleeding — Wounds are also painful, so muzzle your pet before performing first aid care. Apply steady, firm pressure for at least three minutes before checking for clot formation. If you check too soon, or too often, the wound will take much longer to clot. Seek veterinary care as soon as possible.
  • Burns — Before beginning first aid care, muzzle your pet. For chemical burns, flush the area well with large quantities of water. For severe burns, apply an ice water compress to the burn. Seek veterinary care as soon as possible.

For a step-by-step guide to performing CPR on your pet, follow the American Veterinary Medical Association’s tips. 

What should I do after performing first aid care on my pet?

Keep in mind that any first aid you administer to your pet must be followed by immediate veterinary care. First aid is not meant to replace veterinary care, but to potentially save your pet’s life, until she receives emergency veterinary care. 

If your pet is experiencing an emergency situation, contact us immediately for assistance. For after-hours emergencies, contact your nearest emergency veterinary hospital, or an animal poison control hotline.