A First-aid Kit for Pets: What You Need to Have

by Morieka Johnson, Mother Nature Network

Dog with cone on head
Dog with cone on head

Q: My dog got into a fight with a neighbor's dog. I spent about $500 and half a day at the emergency clinic one Saturday. Lesson learned - it's time to have a better emergency plan. What first aid items do I need in case there is another dog emergency?

A: My dog Lulu has amassed quite a few vet bills over the years for ailments ranging from allergies to tummy disorders, so I feel your pain. Fortunately, a well-stocked pet first aid kit can go a long way toward helping your pooch and lowering your bill at an emergency vet clinic. Most items will be familiar because they typically come in a standard first aid kit. (You do have a first aid kit, right?) You can buy a pet first aid kit with all the essentials or assemble your own. Here are a few essentials for a good kit, along with some items I recommend based on trial and error.

[ Related: 7 foods pets should never eat ]

Bandages, cotton balls and rubbing alcohol: All that fur gets in the way of cute cartoon-covered Band-Aids, so it's best to have gauze, cotton swabs and adhesive tape on hand to cover up doggie boo-boos.

Latex-free gloves and tweezers: Dogs can get into some pretty precarious situations. Gloves help reduce the risk of spreading infection and just generally keep you from touching yuck, which is always a good thing. Since ticks are a common problem, make sure you also have a pair of tweezers on hand to remove them. ASPCA.org offers tips on effective tick removal. There are times when tweezers should not be used, so bookmark their site for quick reference if you live in an area where ticks are prevalent.

Muzzle and leash: While cloth will work in a pinch, consider investing in an inexpensive muzzle for emergency transport, along with a leash.

Digital thermometer: Invest in a separate thermometer for your pet. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recommends using a "fever" thermometer, which tracks higher temperatures than typical versions. Instant ear thermometers get the job done, but the AVMA advises getting a rectal reading for the best results. PetPlace.com offers tips for taking a dog's temperature using both methods. (By now, I'm sure you understand why that emergency muzzle is a must-have.)

Activated charcoal: Readily available in most drugstores, activated charcoal helps prevent poison from being absorbed and is often used to help induce vomiting. However, the AVMA warns that you should consult a professional before taking this route.

Benadryl: Bug bites happen, so do bee stings and other incidents that require a quick dose of diphenhydramine, otherwise known as good, old-fashioned Benadryl. I buy it in bulk because Lulu needs it for frequent allergy flare-ups, and I don't get along with red ants.

Clean cloths: If you have a pet, there already should be plenty of old towels and T-shirts on hand for occasional accidents. Keep a stash near your kit in case you need to absorb bleeding or cover wounds. A thick blanket also makes it easier to pick up and move an injured pet.

Emergency phone list: Now that your little bruiser has seen an emergency vet, I'm sure the clinic name has been burned into your memory bank. Write that number down next to the contact info for your veterinarian. I also suggest adding the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center hotline, 1-888-426-4435. A $65 consultation fee may be applied, but that is still cheaper than some emergency clinics, which charge twice that amount before they even look at the animal. Plus, the hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Remember that if your pet overdoses on the family's Thanksgiving Day feast, or a new pair of shoes, the ASPCA also has great information about potentially dangerous household products. (I never knew avocadoes were a no-no.)

Cone of shame: If you've seen the hilarious film "Up" then you will understand my reference to Elizabethan collars (E-collars) as the ultimate torture device for pets. These collars do a great job preventing pets from licking or irritating wounds, but plastic E-collars also limit peripheral vision. Thanks to the E Collar, Lulu has knocked over glasses of water, figurines and anything else in her path. A nasty paw infection required an extended tour of duty in the E-collar, so I broke down and invested in a Comfy Cone. It's a soft, fabric E-collar that causes less doggie destruction. Velcro closures make it easier to remove when I give in to Lulu's sad puppy dog eyes. This more tolerable option comes in four sizes that range from 25 centimeters to 30 centimeters.

If you're ready to take your emergency preparedness to the next level, consider a pet CPR class so that you can master mouth-to-snout resuscitation. The American Red Cross offers classes across the country. Visit RedCross.org to locate a local chapter. Also, make sure to include your pets in disaster plans. The Red Cross offers a thorough checklist that includes many items from your pet first aid kit, along with recent pet photos, food and water bowls and medical records.

Hopefully your pet has reached its lifetime maximum on emergencies, but better safe than sorry!

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