Laurie Anne Walden, DVM
Prepare for pet injuries and emergencies by collecting first aid supplies in advance. You can purchase a pet first aid kit or make your own. Some of the items in a family first aid kit can also be used for animals.
Emergency clinic contact information
Keep a list of phone numbers of emergency clinics in your area and at travel destinations. Include animal poison control phone numbers in your list. Emergency clinics can be very busy, so if possible have contact information for multiple clinics in case the nearest one has a long wait. Call the clinic before you arrive if your pet’s condition allows time for this.
Vaccination records and medical history
The most important vaccination record for an emergency clinic to have is the rabies vaccination. A list of current medications and medical conditions will also be helpful, especially if someone who is less familiar with your pet’s medical history (like a pet sitter) might be taking your pet for treatment. Your primary care veterinary clinic might be closed when your pet needs emergency treatment, so have written medical records available for the emergency service.
Animals in pain can bite even if they are friendly at other times. A muzzle will help you transport your dog safely. The best type of muzzle for a dog is a basket muzzle that allows the dog to pant. You can find inexpensive basket muzzles at pet stores and online. If you plan in advance, you can reduce your dog’s anxiety about using a muzzle during an emergency by training your dog to like wearing a muzzle. See the Muzzle Up Project for tips on muzzle training. (Short version: muzzles are treat baskets!) Don’t try to put a muzzle on a dog if you would be bitten in the attempt.
Emergency muzzle alternatives include a leash, rope, necktie, or bandage material wrapped around the mouth. Items that hold the mouth completely closed should never cover the nostrils, should be used only for a very short time (just to get the animal into the car), and should not be used for animals that are vomiting. Another option is to cover the animal’s head with a towel or blanket, but take extra care—animals can bite through cloth, especially if they’re frightened or in pain.
Leash or pet carrier
A slip leash might be easier than a clip leash to put on a scared dog. For cats, consider keeping a hard plastic carrier with a top that can be removed. If you’ve picked up your cat with a towel, you can bundle both the cat and the towel into the bottom half of the carrier and then reattach the top half.
Gauze sponges and nonstick pads
Plain gauze squares are used to absorb blood and drainage but are uncomfortable if they stick to a wound. If you’re bandaging a wound, use a nonstick pad as the inner layer (touching the wound) and add layers of plain gauze over the nonstick pad as needed for absorption.
Self-adherent bandage wrap (Vet Wrap or similar)
Flexible self-adherent wrap is used as the outer layer of a bandage. This material bonds to itself but doesn’t stick to fur. It’s stretchy, so it can cut off circulation if it’s applied tightly. Don’t stretch it while you’re applying it; just lay it over the top of the gauze and press gently to adhere it to itself.
Adhesive bandage tape
If you have self-adherent wrap, you might not need adhesive bandage tape. Adhesive tape is used to hold a bandage together. For a first aid bandage, try to avoid sticking tape to the fur. If a pet needs a bandage that’s more secure than just self-adherent wrap over gauze, the pet needs to be seen at a veterinary clinic and someone there will be taking your bandage off anyway. Don’t use Band-Aids or other adhesive bandages meant for humans.
Tweezers (for removing ticks)
Eye wash or sterile saline is good to have on hand if a potentially damaging liquid gets splashed into an animal’s eyes. Use care when working around an injured animal’s face, though.
Towels are handy for mopping up messes, creating an impromptu stretcher, or soaking in water to cool an overheated animal.
Medications and other remedies
Medications like pain relievers and antihistamines should only be used if a veterinarian has specifically recommended them. Many pain relievers for humans, including common nonprescription pain relievers, are not safe for pets.
Some pet first aid supply lists include products to induce vomiting or poison remedies like activated charcoal. Never use products like these without consulting a veterinarian first. Inducing vomiting can be harmful. For example, caustic substances and foreign objects can damage the esophagus on the way down and again on the way back up.
Photo by Alvan Nee on Unsplash
Laurie Anne Walden, DVM
The contents of this blog are for information only and should not substitute for advice from a veterinarian who has examined the animal. All blog content is copyrighted by Mallard Creek Animal Hospital and may not be copied, reproduced, transmitted, or distributed without permission.