Pet First Aid Basics: The First Aid Kit

Accidents and injuries may occur at any moment for pets, just like humans. Having a first aid kit can be vital to your pet’s survival in the case of an injury or accident and may even be lifesaving. Early and prompt first aid may also lessen the consequences of an injury and possibly help shorten the recovery period. As with any emergency, being prepared is one of the most important things you can do to help reduce the complications that could arise because of a delay in treatment.


Many of the same things we would find in a human first aid kit can also be found in a well stocked pet first aid kit. Although you will need to include special items for exotic animals or breeds that have special needs, the basic items will still work for most domestic pets, whether canine or feline. Here are some important items to include and their uses:

  1. Emergency phone numbers – this should include your veterinarian’s business hours, as well as his emergency phone number for nights, holidays and weekends, should an emergency arise. Some veterinarians may also provide a personal number to clients; keep that number in the first aid kit if you have it. You should also include the number of your local ASPCA poison control center, which will be able to provide vital information 24-hours a day on emergency conditions and what you will need to do before you arrive at an clinic or can get the animal professional help.
  2. Handbook – which can be purchased at local ASPCA centers or stores, from your veterinarian or local bookstore. You may also find valuable information at your local library which you can take home and read, to familiarize and educate yourself what to do in the case of a pet emergency and how to deal with them calmly and effectively.
  3. Photocopy of your pet’s medical history – include any medications the pet is currently receiving, conditions which may be chronic and shots and checkup record, in case you have to take your pet to a facility that does not have this information (for instance, if you are on vacation away from home).
  4. Bottled water – which may be necessary to treat a dehydrated animal, flush a wound or eye, and also cleanse your hands before you handle the injured area.
  5. Blanket – to help keep an animal warm and calm if he goes into shock after a trauma. A blanket will also help to swaddle and immobilize a frightened animal, or secure a limb which has become broken or damaged. The familiar scent of the blanket from home will also help to reassure the animal in unfamiliar surroundings, when he is frightened. For exotic pets such as a snake, or other reptile, a pillowcase can be utilized the same way and also be useful for transporting the animal safely.
  6. Disposable garbage bag – for cleaning up the area where your pet is injured. If you are unable to move the animal, it will be important to remove nearby debris that may cause further harm or injury.
  7. Scissors – for cutting bandages, clean cloth strips or removing matted fur in order to administer medical treatment. Scissors will also come in handy for cutting lose a smaller animal such as a cat or other tiny breed that may have become tangled in foliage, rope or some other material. Pet clippers or a sharp, clean toenail clipper may be handy for an injured claw.
  8. Tweezers or tic removal tool – particularly important if you live in a wooded area, or camp often with a pet who may be ill due to a tic bite, or other poisonous insect that requires you remove it or its stinger from your pet’s skin.
  9. Gauze – sterile packages, or a roll which can be used both for bandaging a wound as well as securing other bandages over a wound. Gauze is a great aid in stopping bleeding and also padding an injured area until proper coverage and bandaging can be applied.
  10. Antiseptic wipes and ointment – which can be utilized on skin and topical wounds will be sufficient until professional medical treatment can be administered. Make sure you do not use this for eyes, and that it is non-alcohol so as not to sting and cause further discomfort to your hurting pet. You will want to make sure your pet stays calm, so your first aid should not cause more pain.
  11. Plastic gloves – to help ensure you do not further infect an open wound, as well as for your own protection.
  12. Muzzle or leash – may be needed to secure the animal from further injuring himself, or those administering first aid to him. You may know your pet, but be prepared for him to exhibit aggressive, defensive and unusual behavior when he is in pain or frightened. Always err on the side of caution to make sure both you and your pet are safe and that he can be treated quickly and safely without worry from additional injuries to both the handler and your pet as he reacts while traumatized.
  13. Digital pet thermometer – to help you monitor your pet’s vital signs until professional medical treatment can be administered.
  14. Syringe or eye dropper – useful for flushing wounds, and also giving water to a weak pet. Can also be used for cleaning out ears or eyes with an approved solution. Your veterinarian will be able to provide this for you.
  15. Special medications – if your pet has a chronic condition, it will be helpful to have medications that treat his condition handy, in case you are not able to get home and retrieve those items if needed. Make sure you store the first aid kit properly so that medications do not become damaged or spoiled.
  16. Special treatments – including the proper items to induce vomiting, handle diarrhea, counteract ingested poison or treat allergic reactions to insect bites will be important in preventing further complications from these conditions.
  17. Hot and cold packs – for treating swollen limbs or other injuries and conditions
  18. Compact, sturdy container with a handle – which will keep your first aid kit contents clean, dry and easy to retrieve quickly and carry to your injured pet. Plastic or canvas is a good choice. Choose a container that will not become too hot in high temperatures, and should be sufficient for keeping contents dry and protected.


Check your first aid kit regularly to make sure it is complete. Sometimes small incidents and injuries occur which will require use of some of the contents. Checking regularly will ensure that you have replaced used items and be completely prepared for an emergency. Check expiration dates on medications to ensure they can be used if needed.
Take a pet first aid class – having experience in a training class will help you in an emergency, as well as providing confidence you will need during a stressful situation. A calm owner will help the injured pet to remain calm, as well as reassure him while he is scared and in pain.

Do you have a pet first aid kit prepared? What do you keep inside? Tell us in the comments!

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