DIY Dog First Aid Kit (Pets)
Life is a BIG unknown. You never know what is going to happen and where. Always prepare for the unexpected. For example, my younger brother and sister (Kaos and Dutchess) are constantly roughhousing, playing hard, and running around like maniacs. They don’t realize what dangers are lurking out there. My baby sister ripped her one nail right off! Then a few days later she cracked a molar and was bleeding in her mouth! So, mom has prepared a Dog First Aid Kit for us.
Now there are many different types of First Aid kits you can have. A basic kit that carries the more widely used essentials or a poison first aid kit. Mom started out with the basic kit and adds on as needed.
So, we shall start out with the basics, and mention other essentials after.
Basic Supplies for Pets First Aid Kit
Gauze for wrapping open wounds or to use as a muzzle for painful pets
Non-stick bandages and adhesive tape (self-adhering water-repellent bandages work well on dogs without sticking to their fur.)
Styptic powder or cornstarch
Tweezers and tick removal tool.
Tweezers can be used to remove a tick or foreign object from a paw and to flush wounds
Keeping drinking water on hand can be used to clean wounds, as well as to help rehydrate an animal or cool a pet suffering from heatstroke. Pedialyte or another electrolyte solution will replace salts and minerals that are important for proper hydration. Honey or maple syrup can be rubbed on the gums of dogs given too much insulin, having a seizure due to low sugar, or puppies that may have a difficult time maintaining blood sugar due to illness or stress and are lethargic.
Scissors with the blunt end
Saline solution or eyewash
Antibiotic Spray/Ointment (Vetericyn Wound and Skin Care Hydrogel)
Wound cleaner, antiseptic rinse, saline solution. The first step in treating most wounds is removing dust, sand, gravel, mud, or other debris. Rinse the wound with plain water or a saline solution, especially if you can apply it with a hose, syringe, turkey baster, or squeeze bottle. Medical-grade saline solution, which is sold in pharmacies, has many first-aid uses, including rinsing the eyes. Scissors or clippers can be used to remove hair around the wound, if necessary.
Once the wound is rinsed, blot it with a clean towel, gauze, or cotton balls. For minor wounds, apply a non-stinging antiseptic rinse or spray.
An injured pet can often react out of fear and pain towards a caregiver, no matter how loving and gentle they may be. Using a muzzle when handling pets (except for those that are vomiting) is always prudent. An improvised muzzle can be created using gauze, a necktie, or strips of fabric and should be considered when assembling your dog’s emergency kit. Towels or blankets can help to restrain a pet comfortably. You can only help your pet by staying healthy, calm, and safe.
3% hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting.
Vomiting is not appropriate for all toxic exposures, so be sure to follow the advice of your veterinarian, poison control center, or first-aid handbook.
When vomiting is recommended, the usual dose is 1 teaspoon of 3% hydrogen peroxide (widely available in grocery and drug stores) per 5 pounds of body weight with a maximum dose of 3 tablespoons for dogs who weigh more than 45 pounds (there are three teaspoons in a tablespoon).
Lift your dog’s chin and squirt the hydrogen peroxide into the side of your dog’s mouth with a syringe or eyedropper. Some foaming at the mouth may occur. If vomiting doesn’t begin within 15 minutes, the treatment can be repeated once.
To be sure hydrogen peroxide is effective when you need it, purchase small rather than large bottles and keep track of expiration dates. Hydrogen peroxide loses its effectiveness with age and after opening.
Clean towels, washcloths, or rags
Oral Syringes or eyedroppers to flush wounds or to give oral medications to your dog
Adult or children’s Benadryl for allergies (diphenhydramine)
Leash and collar - In an accident or other emergency, your dog’s collar may come off or the leash may snap, it’s always good to have an extra on hand.
Keeping a copy of your dog’s license, vaccination records, medical records, currently administered medications, and veterinarian contact information along with your own contact information can help in an emergency, especially when the details are up to date and in one place. Your phone may be a convenient storage location, but if it isn’t accessible or if internet service is interrupted, you’ll want those hard-copy backups.
Remember to check your kit every few months to make sure nothing has expired or needs to be replaced. And of course, keep your kit out of the reach of children.
Some additions to your kit if you should so choose to add can also be helpful depending on the emergency:
Hot and cold packs. Cold packs can help cool sprains, bruises, and other injuries and reduce inflammation and swelling. Hot packs can increase circulation, help the dog feel warm and comfortable, support a dog recovering from shock or injury, and speed healing.
Flexible digital thermometer
Wet wipes or grooming wipes. Keep a supply of pet grooming wipes; they come in handy for many purposes. Don’t use alcohol-based disinfecting wipes because alcohol stings and can damage injured tissue. Instead, look for products that soothe while they clean. We like the Earth-Rated Dog Wipes, which are plant-based, compostable, and unscented.
Liquid dishwashing detergent (for bathing)
Activated charcoal for absorbing toxins or Milk of Magnesia - Milk of Magnesia and charcoal can be used to absorb and counteract poisons, but be sure to consult with a veterinarian first to determine what size dose may be safe for your dog
Blanket or large towel or thermal blanket as well as a rigid board or stretcher for transporting an injured pet. An injured or panicking dog can be soothed and calmed by being gently wrapped in a soft blanket or thick towel, which can also protect a dog lying on a hot or cold, hard, or rocky surface.
Keeping an injured animal warm is important to prevent the life-threatening effects of shock, a state in which the animal becomes hypothermic, and his blood flow is severely impaired. Low blood flow can lead to damage of the vital organs like the brain and the heart. On any but very hot days, use a thermal blanket (also known as emergency, rescue, or space blanket) to keep the injured dog warm. These blankets are waterproof, lightweight, and take up very little room in first-aid kits.
A pet first-aid guide or handbook. First-aid references will help you make right decisions when the unexpected happens.
Your kit Should also include a list of important phone numbers. Your regular veterinarian, a local 24/7 emergency clinic, and the ASPCA’s Poison Control Center (1-800-426-4435) or the National Animal Poison Control Center at 888-4ANI-HELP (888-426-4435), the Emergency Disaster Information Line (1-800-227-4645), and the Pet Travel Hotline 1-800-545-USDA before traveling across state lines.
Always remember that any first aid administered to your pet should be followed by immediate veterinary care. A portable carrier for smaller dogs will aid in safe transportation. First aid care is not a substitute for veterinary care, but it may save your pet’s life until it receives veterinary treatment.
NORMAL VITAL SIGNS IN DOGS AND CATS
Most people don’t think about what normal vital signs are for their dog or cat. It is good to have it written down and placed in your first aid kit for your pet or somewhere with easy access in case of an emergency. There is three important vital signs to check: temperature, heart rate, and respiratory rate. Vital signs in our dogs and cats are affected by their state of anxiety, life stage, and activity as well as external factors such as room temperature. These reference numbers are to serve as a general guide.
For small and medium-sized dogs, normal vitals are:
Pulse: 70-140 beats per minute
Respiratory rate: 15-30 breaths per minute
Temperature: 100-102.5° F
For larger dogs, normal vitals are:
Pulse: 50-120 beats per minute
Respiratory rate: 15-30 breaths per minute
Temperature: 100-102.5° F
And finally, for cats, normal vitals are:
Pulse: 140-200 beats per minute
Respiratory rate: 15-30 breaths per minute
Temperature: 100-102.5° F
Make sure to practice assessing your pet’s heart rate in a non-emergency setting. This will help you feel comfortable locating the pulse when an emergency does arise.
HOW TO TAKE YOUR PETS PULSE
The average heart rate of dogs and cats may vary according to breed and size, so it is important to know what is normal for your dog and cat when they are relaxed and at rest.
Small dogs generally have faster heart rates while large dogs and those in good physical condition have slower rates. Heart rates may also be higher when your pets are in the clinics or at events, due to anxiety and excitement.
1. Use a timer (or a watch with a second hand).
2. Find the pulse or heartbeat in one of two ways:
Place your hands on both sides of the chest cavity (just behind the elbows).
Place two fingers inside your pet’s thigh, near where the leg and body meet (dogs only)
3. Count the beats for 15 seconds, then multiply by four. This gives you the number of beats per minute (bpm).
4. Note: Cats are very difficult to get a heart rate on!
HOW TO MEASURE RESPIRATORY RATE
The chest rises with inspiration and falls with expiration. One cycle of inspiration and expiration equals one breath. When your dogs or cats are at rest, check their respiratory rate by counting the number of breaths for 1 minute or the number of full breaths in 15 seconds. Then multiply by four to get the number of breaths per minute.
HOW TO CHECK TEMPERATURE
The most accurate way to take our dog’s or cat’s temperature is with a digital thermometer inserted rectally. Lubricate the thermometer with a water-based lubricant like KY jelly. Insert the thermometer gently into the rectum, located just below the base of the tail, and leave it in place until it beeps.
To get the most accurate temperature reading for your dog, you must take do it rectally. Invest in a traditional glass or digital thermometer and water-based lubricant. Have someone hold your dog still while you put the lubricated thermometer 1″ to 2″ inside your dog’s rectum. Do not force the thermometer further than it will go easily.
Leave the thermometer in place for 2 minutes. Record this temperature. Thoroughly clean the thermometer and label it “For Dog”. Track your pet’s temperature at the same time of day for a few days to get an average normal body temperature reading.
90˚F to 99˚F – use warm blankets, body heat, a covered heating pad, a hot water bottle, or warm drinking fluids to increase body temperature. Retake your dog’s temperature every 10 minutes until it comes up to 100˚F.
82˚F to 90˚F – Go to the vet or emergency vet immediately.
Below 82˚F – URGENT care required.
Hyperthermia in dogs (high body temperature) should not be confused with a fever. A fever in dogs is their body's natural immune response to eliminate bacteria or viruses. Hyperthermia is not caused by such a natural response and is often the result of a dog's inability to thermoregulate.
Hyperthermia is classified when body temperature reaches or exceeds 103˚F due to thermoregulation issues. A fever is classified at 103˚F when the cause of temperature increase is due to immune response.
At 106˚F body temperature your dog is very likely to die.
In both types of overheating, it’s crucial to seek veterinary care. On the way to the vet, you can assist your dog by:
soaking a clean towel in cool (not cold) water and laying it on your dog’s underbelly and inner thighs
offer cool fluids – water, Pedialyte, electrolyte solution, etc…
travel with the air conditioning on or windows open
call ahead to let the vet know that you are coming
massage your dog’s legs to assist circulation
monitor your dog for signs of shock
So, now that you know how to check vitals, what do you do if you can’t feel a heartbeat?
Before starting chest compressions, be certain that there is no heartbeat. Performing chest compressions while the heart is still beating can cause extreme harm to your pet. Signs of cardiopulmonary arrest include:
You should also simultaneously check to see if your pet is breathing. You can do this by one of three ways:
1. Place your ear next to your pet’s nose and mouth and listen for breathing
2. Place your hand on the side of your pet’s chest to see if it rises with breath.
3. Feel for air movement out of your pet’s nostrils.
If you confirmed that there’s no heartbeat or that your pet isn’t breathing, follow these steps as demonstrated here:
1. Open your pet’s airway by gently extending his neck and clearing any obstructions.
2. Check for a heartbeat by placing your hands on both sides of your pet’s chest, right behind the elbow/armpit area. Feel for a beat for 10 seconds before moving to step 3.
3. If there is no heartbeat, begin chest compressions and mouth-to-muzzle breathing.
To start chest compressions, follow these steps:
1. Put your dog or cat on their side.
2. Interlock your fingers with both palms facing down to administer compressions. Give 1-2 compressions per second (100-120 beats per minute) for 30 seconds.
If your dog is < 30 pounds, make sure to do the chest compressions directly over the area of his heart.
If your dog is > 30 pounds, do the chest compressions on the widest part of his chest cavity as demonstrated here.
3. Next, you need to give a “mouth-to-snout” breath. Do this by wrapping both of your hands tightly around your dog’s muzzle so no air can escape. Give five breaths of five seconds each by blowing directly and steadily into his nose.
4. Repeat steps 1 and 2 until your pet’s heart starts beating on its own.
5. Most importantly, get to a veterinarian right way. Ideally, have someone drive you so you can continue CPR.
6. Ideally, call ahead on your cell phone to the veterinary hospital, so they’re prepared for your arrival.
Hopefully, by knowing how to perform, you can help save your pet’s life. Keep in mind that the likelihood of getting a pet back with CPR is < 10% - even if a veterinary specialist in emergency critical care does it. When in doubt, note the warning signs that warrant an immediate trip to the vet to avoid having to do CPR to begin with.