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Pet First Aid: What to have on hand



Spring is in the air! With it, I hope you are spending more time outside in this beautiful weather. I know I am enjoying my hammock, my kids are enjoying the park, my cat is enjoying the garden, and my dogs are getting more play time. Unfortunately, the more time we spend outdoors, the more accidents we can get into. This time of year, in addition to foxtails, I see pets for rattlesnake bites, bee stings, cuts, scrapes, and various other wounds/injuries. As you may know, I am big on prevention and being prepared (but also in having fun and getting outside). As such, it can come in handy to have a basic understanding of pet first aid and to have a first aid kit prepared for use at home or to take with you when traveling.



PLEASE NOTE: I do not see rattlesnakes bite patients through my mobile practice. If you suspect that your pet was bitten by a rattlesnake, please take your pet to your local emergency hospital for immediate treatment. For Rattlesnake avoidance training classes, check out Natural Solutions or another class near you.


To get some training on how to handle a veterinary emergency, consider getting some training.

If you are interested in taking a pet first aid course, there a few options:

- San Diego Humane Society (limited space) May 26th 2019

- American Red Cross online course

- Pet4CPR evening and weekend classes in San Diego


As for having your own first aid kit, there are many commercially available pre-made kits for purchase or you can make your own. I recommend that your first aid kit contain the items listed below. The goal of a first aid kit is to be able to stabilize and assist in injury management while seeking professional help. A first aid kit does not replace a trip to the veterinarian, but can reduce how much your vet needs to do and promote a better outcome.


First Aid Kit Items:

  • Name, number & address of your veterinarian, local veterinary emergency hospital(s), and poison control. Know who to call when there is an emergency.

  • Alcohol wipes. For cleaning wounds, or removing debris.

  • Artificial tear gel/Eye lubricant gel. For eye support.

  • Bandage material: non-stick pads, absorbant gauze pads, adhesive tape/porous tape, & ace bandage. If your pet has a broken limb or the area is too painful to bandage, then it is best to leave it while getting your pet to the veterinarian.

  • Cotton balls & swabs. For cleaning debris, wounds, eye discharge, or holding to a small scratch or torn nail.

  • Disposable gloves. Some things you don't want to touch. You can also put a dog foot into a glove if their paw pad is torn, while you are on your way to the vet.

  • Ice pack. Don't apply an ice pack directly to the skin, but wrap in a light towel first. Holding a cold pack to an injured area can provide pain relief and slow down bleeding.

  • Leash. Make sure you have control of your pet in an emergency.

  • Liquid dish soap. Use for bathing, cleaning up, or removing oil substances

  • Medications: Benadryl (diphenhydramine), extra of your pet's medication. Oral Benadryl can be used in allergic reactions. Also, don't get caught without your pet's chronic medication.

  • OTC antibiotic ointment. Apply to an open wound to keep bacteria out. This is not a substitute for oral antibiotics.

  • Saline eye wash. Useful for flushing eyes/wounds, or cleaning torn paw pads.

  • Scissors with blunt end. Use for removing bandages or trimming hair. Always use caution not to cut skin, especially around the ears, armpits, and leg-pits.

  • Thermometer (normal cat/dog: 99.5-102.5). Dedicate one thermometer for rectal use only. Using a cover slip or saran-wrap to cover the thermometer makes it easy to clean after rectal use. Vaseline, aquaphore, or even coconut oil can be used to lubricate the thermometer.

  • Towels/Blankets. Useful for transporting, either wrapping up or using a sling gurney.

  • Treats - something small and tasty for distraction

  • Tweezers. Pulling thorns or foxtails. Still have the vet check out a wound, even if you are able to remove the foreign material.

  • Small flashlight.

  • Styptic powder or corn starch. Use for broken nails. Caution with open wounds.


To summarize- have fun out there, but stay safe and avoid trouble when you can (prevent foxtails in the yard, take rattlesnake avoidance training, etc) and be prepared for unforeseen accidents by taking a first aid class and having a first aid kit.



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©2019 by Dr. Laura Halsey Veterinary Care.