No one likes to think about their beloved pet getting injured, but accidents sometimes happen. If you are lucky, you will live within easy traveling distance of a 24-hour veterinary clinic where the staff can tackle any problem that comes through their door.
However, what steps can you take if you live in an area that isn’t served by a 24-hour clinic? Or if you lack a vehicle that can safely transport your pet to the clinic? What if your pet is too badly injured and requires stabilization before they can be moved? What if there’s a natural disaster and no veterinary clinics are open? And that’s not even getting into the minor bumps and knocks that can befall them. All of these are excellent reasons to start assembling a first aid kit for your pet.
The best news is that it’s not very hard to assemble a pet first aid kit. Often, you can buy a small human first aid kit and modify it with a few pet specific supplies.
Don’t forget – if you have multiple pets, or pets that come in different sizes and species, then it would be best to assemble more than one specialized kit.
Emergency Contact Numbers
One thing to consider when putting this kit together is that you may not always be the one treating your pet when he or she is injured. The person using this kit could be your partner, your children, or even a pet sitter who has no access to your phone.
In your kit, always have a written hard copy of the numbers of your pet’s regular vet, an emergency vet, poison control such as the ASCPA, as well as the number of a trusted neighbor or friend who can come help you treat your pet if you are alone. Sure, all those numbers could be stored with your phone, but it’s always good to have them on hand to be safe.
Useful Items For All Species
Whether you need something clean for a dog to lay on, to immobilize a cat with or burrito a bird with, an old towel is always handy in a first aid situation.
Needle nose tweezers
Tweezers are endlessly useful, but please remember not to use them to remove anything near your pet’s eyes. A cotton q-tip soaked in saline is a slower, but much safer solution for this.
Most medical supplies are difficult to tear by hand and require scissors. They also come in handy for cutting away fur or other debris that might be blocking your access to the wound.
Absorbent sterile gauze bandages (size appropriate)
Stock up on both non-adherent and adherent types of sterile gauze bandages. The former is placed directly adjacent to the wound, whereas the latter is layered on top of the wound (depending on the heaviness of the bleeding). The main difference is that the non-adherent gauze can be pulled off a partially clotted wound by a veterinarian with a much lower chance of tearing the clots and restarting the bleed. By comparison, normal gauze will absorb much more blood and can be wrapped and compressed.
Micro pore tape
Micro pore tape is non-toxic and has a light adhesive that sticks well to itself. It’s great because it does not damage or irritate the skin. This tape is one of the most diverse and useful medical tapes out there and one that pet first aid attendants use weekly in their jobs. Micro pore tape is well worth the slightly steep price tag (about $6-11/roll, depending on the width and brand). The size you need to buy will depend on your pet. For birds the 1/4” works well. If you have a Labrador or other similarly sized dog, 1” or 2” width will be far more handy.
With smaller animals, the tape itself can be used as a bandage. Cut a small section, fold it so that no adhesive can touch the wound, and secure with another strip of tape over top.
Using antiseptic wipes on pets is rarely a good idea as you can inadvertently push debris further into a wound and the sting from the chemicals will agitate your pet even more. Instead, flush the wound out with several tubes of saline. If you don’t have saline and the wound is not catastrophic, allowing it to bleed out freely for a few moments can also help clean it.
Pure aloe vera
Aloe vera is useful for pets for many of the same reasons it is for humans – it can sooth burns and itching. Aloe vera can also be used, whether on its own or mixed into a paste with corn starch, as an effective means of stopping bleeding for small animals. This works particularly well for birds and rodents.
Latex or polyurethane gloves
These gloves will help prevent any contamination of your pet’s wounds and any infection of zoological illnesses.
This is a stretchy, somewhat water resistant material used to wrap bandages to keep them clean.
Small container of cornstarch or flour
Many small or awkwardly places wounds (toenail injuries in particular!) can be “plugged” with cornstarch or a mixture of cornstarch and aloe vera. Always clean the wound before plugging it though!
Small plastic droppers or needle-less syringes
Most saline comes in ready to dispense containers, but there are always times they’re just not quite enough. This is where small plastic droppers and needle-less syringes come in handy. Having a dropper or mini-syringe is good for liquid medication too.
Mostly, tongue depressors serve as effective splints for small animals when used in combination with the micro pore tape. They are also good for mixing and slathering on your aloe/cornstarch paste on wounds or checking your dog’s throat.
Cotton swabs or q-tips
Cotton swabs and q-tips make for great applicators in emergency situations, so it’s always nice to have a few around.
Pet appropriate carrier
Just in case of emergencies and the necessity to transport your pet, make sure to have a pet appropriate carrier on hand and ready to go.
Rectal thermometer and small container of Vaseline
A rectal thermometer and Vaseline (for application of the thermometer) is recommended for dogs, cats and other mammals.
A cone that fits your pet is one of those things where it is much better to have it and never need it than to be stuck with a pet who worries an injury every time you turn away.
Specific to Birds and Reptiles
Plastic terrarium with adequate ventilation
All injured and ill birds and reptiles should be confined to a small area for the duration of their recovery. Particularly with birds, the heart rate and blood pressure of the animal can sky rocket when stressed. When this happens, and especially if you have a bird that is attempting to fly around, bleeding can reoccur. Confining the animal and giving it privacy will calm it down and keep its blood pressure at a manageable level. Check your pet frequently, and monitor for signs of bleeding or overheating.
Heating pad or small heat lamp
Birds have a very fast metabolism and expend a lot of energy maintaining their body temperature. Placing half of the plastic terrarium above a heating pad (make sure to always use a low setting and NEVER put it on a high setting) will allow your bird to pull resources away from maintaining their body heat and instead have their metabolism focus on speeding up healing. Always have half of the terrarium off the heating pad so the bird has a cooler place to escape to if needed.
If you opt for a heat lamp instead of a heating pad, make sure you test it with the terrarium beforehand to ensure it will not melt the terrarium’s plastic.
Old pillowcases are useful to create softness on the bottom of the terrarium. You can either rotate between several and wash them after use or use a single paper towel to reduce the amount of droppings on the pillowcase.
Small free-standing dishes for food and water
Having an extra feeding dish around in case of unplanned emergency transport is always important.
Human supplies that should NEVER be used on pets
Band-aids – the adhesive on band-aids is not designed with fur or feathers in mind. It can irritate your pet’s skin and it is likely that they will tear it off. In some scenarios, they may even eat or lick it.
Alcohol based sanitizers – Not only will the burning sensation agitate your pet, the high alcohol content could put your pet in danger if it is absorbed into the bloodstream.
Aspirin and other painkillers – most of these medicines are made in human sized doses and will poison your pet. If your pet needs a painkiller, talk to your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Keeping an eye on your pet
While having a first aid kit is so important, especially if you are having someone babysit your pet, having a Petzi Treat Cam so you can check up on the health of your pet at any time will give you a peaceful mind when you’re away. Using a Petzi Treat Cam to monitor your pet while you’re at work and he or she is sick can make a huge difference as well.
We hope these tips help you keep your pet safer, and help you build your first pet first aid kit!
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