7 min read

How To Assemble A Pet First Aid Kit At Home

Your pup will thank you 🙏

The last thing devoted pet parents want to think about is their dog or cat suffering an injury — but what do you do if your pup eats a bag of chocolate chips? Or your cat accidentally burns her paw?

No matter how vigilant we are, the world is unpredictable, and knowing how to react in these scenarios can go a long way. Not only does being prepared in a medical emergency help you avoid the stress and panic that often accompanies these delicate situations — it may even save your pet’s life.

Should your pet get injured, having cat and dog first aid supplies on hand and some basic know-how can buy you important time on the way to the vet, explains Andrea Arnold, program director of Lifesaving Enterprises LLC, who leads both pet and human first aid and emergency care workshops in New York City.

“We find that the most commonly asked questions have to do with, ‘When should I go to the vet?’ and there’s a big distinction between first aid and veterinary care, because we’re not teaching people how to be vet techs, we’re telling them how to recognize and minimize damage to their animal,” Andrea Arnold tells The Dodo. “A simple cut or a bite from another animal can be taken care of at home, but at the point where you notice an infection happening you really need to take advantage of veterinary care for medications that you can’t buy over the counter.”

Pet first aid classes cover a variety of worst-case scenarios, including what to do when a pet is choking, resuscitation and CPR techniques, how to staunch bleeding, soft tissue issues such as burns, proper tick removal and insect sting treatment, as well as what to do when a pet has ingested a toxin.

While the scenarios and techniques may be similar, pet first aid differs from human first aid in one very important way. “The biggest difference you have between human and canine, feline, equine, bovine first aid is that the animal’s responses will not be on a logical platform,” Arnold explains. “Human beings, if they are damaged, are at least communicative — whereas if a dog is damaged, its entire behavioral response will be instinctive, not logical.”

When performing first aid treatments on an injured animal, aggression may be an issue, even if the pet does not display these tendencies in his everyday life. “When people go to help people, they’re generally worried about disease transmission and they’re not with animals, but they often fail to take into account this instinctive response which will not allow them to approach their pet as they would ordinarily do.”

An important part of any pet first aid kit is a muzzle, and pet first aid classes can teach you how to fashion one out of what you have on-hand — be it a triangular bandage, a bandana or a leash. “Your priority should be your own sweet self,” Arnold notes.

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So, what do you need to have to make your own pet first aid kit at home? Here are the basics:

1. Gloves for first aid (made out of nitrile, vinyl or latex)
2. Leather gloves and muzzle for bite and scratch protection
3. Sterile gauze pads and roller bandages
4. A flexible wrap or blanket
5. Elastic non-stick bandages and adhesive tape
6. Scissors (Arnold recommends EMT Shears with blunted ends to avoid skin injury)
7. Pointed tip tweezers (for splinter and tick removal)
8. Nail clippers and nail file
9. Phone numbers and addresses for your local vet and emergency veterinary clinic

Pet owners can also include cotton swabs or pads, cold packs, a medication syringe or dropper to give oral treatments and hydrogen peroxide (3%) to induce vomiting. In cases of suspected poisoning, Arnold strongly recommends calling the ASPCA Poison Control helpline for further instructions before attempting treatment at home.

As with any first aid kit, you want to regularly make sure it is fully stocked and check expiration dates on medications. While first aid treatment is by no means a replacement for veterinary care, pet parents can sleep a little easier knowing they’re prepared.