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Is Your Dog’s First Aid Kit Complete?
By Dr. Tracy Dewhirst
The Boy Scout motto “Be prepared” is quite
true for animals as well as people. Accidents
never occur just after you’ve read the CPR
handout or reviewed the pamphlet on
hemostasis (stopping bleeding). Having a
properly stocked first aid kit, along with
mental preparedness to make split-second
decisions, can definitely change the overall
outcome if your dog has an emergency.
Understanding how and when to use each item in a first aid kit is just as important as the kit itself. Here’s
my list of must-have items, along with some tips:
•Wound cleanser. Use mild soap and warm water, or cleansers such as Betadine and chlorhexidine rinse.
Hydrogen peroxide is fine for the initial cleaning but not for repeated use. Avoid alcohol because it burns.
•Antibiotic ointment. Use on a cleaned wound before bandaging.
•Small and large gauze pads. Necessary for applying pressure to a bleeding wound. Also used as the
primary layer of a bandage.
•Elastikon. The outer layer of the bandage that keeps the gauze in place. Do not wrap bandages tightly.
Instinct tells us to wrap a bandage snugly to reduce further bleeding or prevent slipping, but a tight
bandage can actually cut off the blood supply. Make sure you can comfortably slide your pinky finger under
•Long strips of old T-shirt or cotton dressings. These come in handy as bandage material or as an
emergency muzzle. The temperament of your dog can change when she is in pain or feels threatened.
Before attempting to move or touch an injured animal, make sure the dog is not displaying signs of
aggression, such as snarling or growling. Use a muzzle if there is any chance the injured dog might snap.
To make a muzzle, tie a loop in the cotton strip, place it over your dog’s snout with the knot on the
upper side, tighten, wrap the strap around the snout again (ending on the underside) and then tie behind
the ears. Here’s a good demonstration of emergency muzzling:
•Hydrogen peroxide. Use to induce vomiting. Contact your veterinarian before doing this; some materials
are more harmful if vomited.
•Phone numbers. Keep a record of your veterinarian’s or emergency clinic’s contact information, as well as
the animal poison control hotline number at 888-426-4435.
•Scissors, sunscreen, eyewash, snakebite kit and cold packs. These should be included in a complete
•Duct tape. Useful for protecting footpads and covering gauze on minor lacerations if a cotton wrap won’t
•Benadryl. Useful for motion sickness and insect bites. Ask your veterinarian for an appropriate dose for your
Never use acetaminophen or ibuprofen. For minor pain relief only, use drugs that are prescribed by a
Prepared first aid kits are also available in pet stores and online if you don’t want to assemble your own.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to use caution when giving first aid to your pet. Have someone
restrain your dog to avoid bites and scratches. Even a gentle dog can nip when in pain, or if he’s feeling
frightened or traumatized. Muzzles and restraint help prevent accidents that might require your own first aid
Dr. Tracy Dewhirst, a graduate from the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, practices
small-animal and equine medicine in Knoxville, Tenn. She is a long-time columnist for the Knoxville News
Sentinel. Dewhirst also sits on the East Tennessee Peer Review Board. Dr. Dewhirst blogs frequently for