The Trupanion blog
How to Make a Pet First Aid Kit: A Packing List for Pet Owners
By: Brianna Gunter
Unexpected things happen, especially when it comes to pets. Whether you’re out snow-shoeing with your dog in winter, introducing a new cat tree to your kitty in summer, or just romping around with your pal any time of the year, pet safety should be a top priority. And since accidents can happen anytime and anywhere, it’s important to be prepared. That’s why a keeping a pet first aid kit on hand is a must for everyone with a four-legged family member.
Yes, the thought of your pet getting hurt is scary. While it won’t replace trips to the vet, stocking your first aid kit properly (and knowing how to administer basic pet first aid care) will help you tackle simple scrapes and prevent adverse reactions.
Pet first aid kit essentials to pack
The exact items you need in your pet first aid kit will depend on the activities you do with your dog or cat, but there are some things every pet owner should readily have on hand. We connected with Trupanion veterinary technician, Aubrey Halvorsen, to curate this list of pet first aid essentials.
Pet bandages and gauze
Items like gauze squares and other bandage material can come in handy to contain some injuries while you transport your pet to the veterinarian. Applied properly, they will help keep wounds from bleeding further and getting dirty until your pal can receive proper professional care.
“Bandaging material with telfa pads (or some kind of non-stick pad) would be ideal for wounds, as they do not stick,” Halvorsen says. “An extra box of bandages could also be beneficial for humans and pets alike.”
Don’t wait until your pet gets an injury. Ask your pet’s veterinarian for advice ahead of time on how to apply a bandage properly to your pet as well as what kinds of wounds should be wrapped up. It’s important for all pet owners to know that some types of injuries should be handled entirely by a professional and should never be bandaged up or touched prior to treatment.
Pet tweezers and scissors
All pet first aid kits should include a good pair of tweezers. Try looking for a larger pair with a curved tip, as these can make it easier to remove splinters and other debris from your pet.
You'll also want to have a pair of bandage scissors in your pet first aid kit. Depending on the situation, they can be used to cut gauze and other bandage material, or even cut through a leash if your pet is trapped somewhere.
Saline solution for pet wounds
If your pet sustains a minor (superficial) scrape or abrasion, you may be able to clean it yourself to flush away debris (after consulting with your veterinarian). Hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol, and scented soaps are not recommended as they can irritate your pet’s skin and mucous membranes. Warm water with a mild, non-toxic soap or saline solution is preferable, though Halvorsen also recommends chlorhexidine solution for animals if it is diluted. Rinse gently with warm water, and dry by patting with a clean cloth.
Remember to consult with your veterinarian prior to cleaning any type of wound, no matter how small. Puncture wounds, cuts, or anything actively bleeding should be cleaned and treated by a professional.
Enjoy going on outdoor adventures with your dog? Do you let your pet outside in the snow, ice, or rain? It’s time to snag some paw protection items. Just as you put on appropriate footwear to keep your feet from getting cold and wet, weather protection booties for dogs can help protect Fido’s paws on walks in winter or other times of inclement weather. If your dog won’t tolerate footwear, you can also use paw balm for protection and damage prevention.
While you’re taking steps to protect your pet’s paws, be sure to check their paws regularly for signs of wear, injury, or stuck debris. Keep in mind that even indoor-only pets can still sustain paw damage.
Benadryl is considered safe for both dogs and cats when given in small, appropriate doses. When used correctly, the medication can help reduce the effects of allergic reactions in pets.
Before administering any Benadryl to your cat or dog, however, make sure you’re only giving your pet the original or generic version (diphenhydramine) that does not contain any other active ingredients. Never give your pet an “enhanced” version like Benadryl Allergy Plus. It’s also crucial to talk with your veterinarian ahead of time about what a safe dosage is for your particular pet’s size and breed. As Halvorsen recommends, “keep that information written down in the first aid kit for easy reference.”
Even if the medication appears to have little effect on your pet, it’s important to never go over your veterinarian’s recommended dose in order to prevent overdose. Remember, you should always consult with your veterinarian before giving your pet any new medication, even an over-the-counter one like Benadryl.
Other pet first aid care accessories
When providing pet first aid care, additional tools might be needed to help patch your furry friend’s wounds. Consider including the following accessories in your pet first aid kit:
- Over the counter antibiotic ointment
- Eyedropper or oral syringe (to give your pet certain oral medications)
- Disposable gloves
- Muzzle (Even the calmest, friendliest pets can get aggressive if they are injured and scared)
- A small towel or two
- Pet thermometer (ask your veterinarian how to use one properly first)
- Bandage tape
- Extra leash and/or harness
Additional first aid tips every pet owner should know
Nobody likes to see their pet get hurt. The more prepared you are for a pet emergency or accident, the better off both of you will be. In addition to putting together your own pet first aid kit, there are several other things you can do to make your pet’s health a priority:
- Even if it’s not your pet’s primary veterinarian, keep the location and phone number the nearest veterinary clinic or pet emergency hospital in your phone for easy access.
- Call your pet’s veterinarian when you’re unsure of how to care for an injury or its severity. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!
- Follow up any at-home first aid care with a veterinary call or visit.
- Be in tune with your pet’s behavior and temperament. Any unusual changes could indicate an injury or other health issue.
- Make sure your pet is microchipped with their current information on file.
- Download a pet emergency app for your phone (found on both the App Store and Google Play).
- Keep your pet insurance information up-to-date.
Keep in mind that even the best first aid kits aren’t a substitute for veterinary care. It’s important to always follow up any treatment your give your pet yourself with a visit to an animal hospital or their primary veterinarian. Still, with proper precautions and your pet first aid kit packed and ready to go, you’ll be prepared for fun and adventures with your furry friends for years to come.
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A WORD FROM TRUPANION
We’re the official blog of Trupanion—chosen by veterinarians as the #1 pet insurance in America. Here you’ll find useful dog and cat care tips, interesting veterinary insights, and fun pet topics galore.
While you’re browsing our pet blog, please note that the views expressed here are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect those of Trupanion. Our articles are reviewed by veterinarians for accuracy, but they are not a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. Always consult with your own pet’s veterinarian for advice.