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First Aid for Pets – How Prepared Should You Be?

April is the American Red Cross's National Pet First Aid Awareness Month. What a mouthful! How many pet owners out there would know what to do if your pet was involved in an accident at home or at the park? Would you know what to do if your dog had a seizure? What if your cat came home dragging one rear leg? Maybe your dog ate some quantity of oh-so-toxic slug bait? What if your pet was choking?

The immediate reaction in these situations is to call for help and bundle the pet off to the vet clinic or the after hours emergency clinic. That's an appropriate reaction. A pet who has suffered trauma or injury should be seen immediately by your veterinarian. But sometimes home first aid can stabilize your pet so it can safely be transported to a veterinarian. First aid is not a substitute for veterinary care, but it may help to save your pet's life until you can get the veterinary care you need.

All pet owners should stock some basic first aid supplies, as well as an easily accessed first aid manual. To help you set up your pet first aid kit, here's a list of basic first aid supplies:

  • gauze (1” and 2” rolls)

  • non stick bandages and strips of cloth for bandaging

  • adhesive bandage tape

  • Milk of Magnesia or activated charcoal

  • hydrogen peroxide 3%

  • Benadryl (diphenhydramine)

  • eye dropper or large syringe without needle

  • eye wash solution

  • digital thermometer and petroleum jelly

The American Red Cross publishes first aid manuals for both dogs and cats. Both are available for purchase online. If you prefer a paperless option, the American Red Cross offers a Pet First Aid app for both iPhone and Android.

You should also include a small list of the emergency numbers you will need in the event of an accident. These numbers include your veterinarian, the local emergency vet clinic, and the Animal Poison Control Center (1.888.426.4435). Keep this list with your first aid kit. During an emergency you won't have to waste precious time searching for important numbers.