Pet Care Basics
What to Put in a Pet First Aid Kit
November 29, 2022
What to Put in a Pet First Aid Kit
Last updated: August 17, 2022 by Marty Greer, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine
Every pet owner should have a pet first aid kit on hand. If you're prepared for an emergency, the solution to most problems is only a few steps away. Here are a few essentials to include in your pet's first aid kit:
- Pet Emergency Kit Antihistamines
- What Antibiotics to Include in Your Cat or Dog Emergency Kit
Antihistamines for dogs and cats can be used for a variety of problems, including vaccine reactions, treating the “lethargic” post-vaccine feeling and bee sting reactions. Antihistamines are good for solving reaction problems quickly and effectively. The minimum you need is Benadryl (diphenhydramine) liquid at 1 mg/lb – it's a high dose that you can repeat in 30 minutes if needed. This also comes in capsule form for larger dogs. Injectable antihistamines of any type are faster and more effective. With the injection, you can be assured that the drug is in the dog, and it will begin working almost immediately. Epinephrine is the drug of choice in life-threatening reactions and must be given by a veterinarian.
Antibiotics for dogs and cats are ideal for diarrhea and respiratory issues. It never fails—you come home from a Friday night game or Saturday evening dinner, and a litter has a problem. With the right antibiotics, kennels can usually have the issue resolved before the veterinary clinic opens the next day.
- Sulfamethoxazole-trimethoprim helps with Coccidia and is good for diarrhea and other gastrointestinal bugs. It can also be used for respiratory issues. Sulfa-Trimeth only needs to be given once a day, which makes medicating easier. The dose is 25 mg/pound. Give twice the first day to load the antibiotic, then you can give daily until it's resolved.
- Doxycycline (5 mg/kg) is also helpful for respiratory problems.
- If puppies are still nursing, use Amoxicillin/Clavamox until they are over four weeks old, as the kidneys and liver are not developed enough to eliminate other antibiotics.
Electrolytes in water treat a number of dog needs. In litters with diarrhea, the puppies need electrolytes to keep them from dehydrating. Puppies probably won't die from the virus or bacteria, but they can die from the resulting dehydration. Electrolytes also have enough sugar to keep puppies from becoming hypoglycemic. They are also helpful for “slow to wean” puppies, helping with the stress of weaning. On hot days, electrolytes can be life-saving.
Vetericyn is excellent for cleaning wounds and as topical treatments. It can also be used to disinfect umbilical cords on newborns since iodine can be difficult to find. Chlorhexidine is an effective antibacterial scrub for wounds (just be sure to avoid the area around the eyes).
Wraps and bandages are essential for bleeding cuts. Use the wraps that stick only to themselves and not to the dog's skin, like Co-flex bandages. Don't apply too tightly. You should be able to fit a finger under easily. You will also need gauze to put on the wound—2 x 2″ pads for smaller breeds and 4 x 4″ pads for larger breeds. When wrapping a leg, wrap from the toes up and beyond the wound. If the toes are left exposed, they will swell. To keep bandages clean and accessible, store them in Ziploc bags.
Tissue adhesives like Vetbond are helpful for cut ears, dewclaws, tail docks and any place you need to hold a wound together. Briefly apply a tourniquet with a hemostat and rubber band to stop bleeding, dry the tissue with gauze and apply the tissue glue in small amounts. Give it a few seconds and remove the tourniquet.
Suture/Needle Combos are great for tying off arteries and umbilicals, or stitching a gaping wound. Talk to your veterinarian to check your skill level and learn how to use them.
Instruments can be endless, but the minimum you should have on hand includes two hemostats and a bandage scissors. Hemostats can be used to clamp a bleeding artery or remove dewclaws, while the bandage scissors safely fits under wraps and other materials without cutting the skin.
Terramycin or Vetericyn eye solutions are helpful for treating eye injuries. First flush the eye with saline, then apply either one. Terramycin is good for minor infections and also for preventing irritation during baths. A puncture wound or foreign body in the eye, squinting, a color change or a bulging red eye requires immediate veterinary intervention.
- Exam Gloves should be used to protect your hands during cleaning, repro exams or delivery. They will also protect your pet from bacteria on your hands.
- Clotisol is used to stop bleeding in minor cuts or nail trim bleeding.
- Syringes/Needles are a must in an emergency situation. Smaller (20 or 22) gauge needles are great for giving injectable antibiotics, while larger syringes are helpful for dosing fluids, electrolytes or oral medications.
All these items will fit into a small tool box or tote. With the right preparation, you can be ready to solve the next emergency before it becomes life-threatening!
If you need help with putting together your cat or dog first aid kit, call us at 800.786.4751
Donald Bramlage, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Former Director of Veterinary Services at Revival Animal Health
Donald Bramlage, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, practiced veterinary medicine for 30+ years and is known for his work in managing parvovirus. He received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Kansas State University in 1985. He served as Revival's Director of Veterinary Services from 2011 until his retirement in 2019.