Article By Dr. Stan Kunin
Murphy's Law states that if anything that can go wrong, it will go wrong. It is this reason why so many of us feel the need to be prepared and have a first aid kit for ourselves at home and in our cars. Yet, many dog owners are not as prepared for emergency situations.
One could go 'hog wild' and turn their home into a hospital with every conceivable emergency item and have it on hand for those rare occasions. However, this article will give you some basic materials to have on hand in order to help make your dog as comfortable as possible, during some of those unpredictable occasions.
Keep in mind that this emergency kit list does not replace a visit to your veterinarian. So, it is important that you make sure to have the phone number and address to your veterinarian and the nearby emergency veterinary hospital included in this kit, as well placed near your phone and/or on your refrigerator.
There are some on line and in-store pre-prepared first aid kits available for purchase, or you may choose to customize your own kit. Listed below are some suggested items that can be organized and put into a water proof container for storage in your home and/or in your car:
- A digital, non mercury, rectal thermometer is a must, and should be used with a lubricant such as K-Y jelly or Vaseline. The normal temperature for a dog is 100-102.5. A temperature reading above normal should be seen as a red flag, and the dog should be taken to your animal clinic as soon as possible. A temperature of over 105 is considered an emergency situation. A cold water bath and the use of a soaking wet sponge or wash cloth, rubbing especially around the head will help to cool your dog down, and will give you a little more time to get the animal to the hospital.
- A thumb forceps can be helpful in order to remove a bee stinger, splinter or other small protruding foreign body.
- Sterile gauze pads (4" by 4"), a roll of gauze, white tape or self adhering bandage tape, and bandage scissors are helpful for covering small wounds on the body.
- An antibiotic ointment such as Neosporin can be used on the gauze to cover a wound.
- Hydrogen peroxide can be used both as a disinfectant for wounds and also for inducing vomiting when early detection of a poison has been ingested.
- Including a 6cc, 12cc, or 20cc syringe (no needles) should be put in the kit as well. These are perfect for measuring the proper dose of hydrogen peroxide. Always know what your dog has swallowed before inducing vomiting. Check with your veterinary office to find out if it's safe to induce vomiting. Induced vomiting is not always the right thing to do if poisons have been consumed. If the dog has swallowing dark chocolate, inducing vomiting quickly, would be a good idea. However, if bleach has been ingested, inducing vomiting would be the wrong thing to do. The dosage of hydrogen peroxide is usually about 1 cc per pound, every 10-15 minutes until vomiting begins. If rat bait has been consumed, induce vomiting but transport the dog to the clinic as soon as possible. If your pet doesn't vomit, your veterinarian can induce, using an emetic or vomiting drug, but try to induce before you get there, because the faster the animal rids itself of the toxins, the better the dog's chance of survival.
- Rubber or exam gloves should be part of the kit. These gloves can keep your hands from being contaminated while you clean the wounds. Check to make sure you are not allergic to latex, if you decide to use latex gloves.
- Cotton balls and Q-tip cotton swabs should be in the kit, as they also help with cleaning small wounds.
- Over the counter eye washes are helpful for cleaning goop out of the eyes. Put eye wash on a cotton ball then squeeze the contents into the eyes, as this will help clean them out. Gently pat dry around and below the eyes.
- For those with dogs who have chronic ear problems, a veterinary-recommended ear wash should be part of the kit.
- A bottle of mineral oil can be helpful in those cases where foxtails find their way into the dog's ear. Mineral oil can soften the foxtails which will make it less uncomfortable for your dog while it's being taken to the clinic.
- For those who trim their own dogs' nails, you should have either a styptic pencil (which can sting a bit) or a small bottle of ferric sulfate powder (AKA, Kwik Stop which can be found at your local market or pet store). If you trim too close to the quick and it begins to bleed, then pack the nails with this powder and it can help stop the bleeding.
- A tick remover is good to have and makes it much easier to remove an embedded tick. Too often people pull or burn ticks off, which leaves the head inside the animal's skin.
- A muzzle is highly recommended even for most docile dogs. Sometimes, when in pain, even the most well behaved dog may react with a snap when handled.
- On that note, an old towel or blanket should be packed in the kit to help, not only to keep them warm, but also to wrap them up and carry them into the clinic.
- A pen light or small flash light is a good thing to have, especially when good lighting is unavailable and a closer look is necessary.
- It's always a good plan to have medications nearby such as aspirin and Benadryl. Aspirin comes in 81mg and 325mg. The dose for dogs is about 81mg per 10-20 pounds or 325mg per 40-50 pound. However, give no more than twice a day until you talk to your veterinarian. Benadryl is an over the counter medication that comes in a 25mg tablet or capsule. This may be good for dogs with allergies or for instances when they have a reaction to an insect bite. In this case the dose is 25mg per 25 pounds, up to a maximum of 3 times a day. There can be some side effects with Benadryl which may include sedation or, rarely, hyper-excitability. Pepto-Bismol can be given to a dog with diarrhea, administering one dose of 1cc per pound up to 2-3 times a day. Be aware that this can cause dark colored stools, however, this is harmless. Hydrocortisone cream can be used for small areas of itchy skin, allergic reactions or insect bites. If your dog has allergies and has been treated with a steroid before, it is always a good idea to have some extra medication like Prednisone or Medrol on hand in case of an allergic outbreak after hospital hours. In addition, keeping antibiotics on hand for those dogs who seem to get into trouble, for example, by injuring themselves, or by getting into dog fights, is not a bad idea. These drugs will usually stay potent for a few years, if stored in a cool place. In addition, for those dogs who become frightened during the 4th of July or any other noisy event, check with your veterinarian to see if they recommend having a few tranquilizers on hand.
Again, these are only first aid suggestions and are not a substitute for bringing your dog to your veterinarian due to any of these aforementioned scenarios. Always check with your veterinary office with any questions or concerns.
About Dr. Stan Kunin
Stan Kunin DVM graduated from UC Davis in 1978 and has had his own practice in Woodland Hills, California since 1986. Dr. Kunin is a special veterinarian who was born 80% deaf, but the weakness in his hearing has helped to give him a 6th sense about animal care and the wellbeing of his patients.
In a regular series of articles for the Jason Debus Heigl Foundation, Dr. Kunin shares his thoughts, opinions and advice on animal matters.